Saints’ Payton is master motivator

Chicago Tribune

MIAMI — Sean Payton as Bill Belichick?

Yes, picture it.

Hoody with the sleeves cut off. Dour look on his face.

Payton walked into the meeting room a few days prior to the Saints-Patriots game a dead ringer for Belichick. When he talked, it was with the same monotone, same voice inflection. His message was even Belichickian.

The room erupted. “Didn’t know he could act,” Saints wide receiver Lance Moore said.

Whether or not the coach of the Saints has thespian ability still is up for debate, but there is not debating his motivational ability. Payton is a bit of a throwback in that he believes in pushing as many buttons as he can to prepare his team emotionally.

“He has so many stories, so many experiences,” Moore said. “He’s prepared for every situation.”

One day before their divisional playoff game against the Cardinals, Payton was telling his team how the roster would be set that week, as he always does. And he snuck this one in: Deuce McAllister was on the team. McAllister, who had played with the Saints for eight years before being released last February, was back as an honorary captain.

“There are some weeks when your team is going to be ready to play because it’s maybe a Monday night game or a national TV game or a divisional game of importance,” said Payton. “When you play 16, some weeks you have to find something to change it up or bring attention to one specific coaching point you want to get across.”

There is no telling what he’ll pull out of his duffel bag prior to Super Bowl XLIV.

Payton has been convincing his Saints all season that they are a team of destiny, with messages both subtle and overt. Payton has had a parade of outside speakers try to motivate the Saints this year — Ronnie Lott, Jon Gruden, Avery Johnson of NBA fame, Jimmy Johnson and former Indiana and Northern Illinois coach Bill Mallory have been among them.

In preseason, Lott told the Saints he could “smell greatness” in the room.

The night before the team’s NFC championship game against the Vikings, Payton put together a video of motivational images to the backdrop of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” When the video ended and the lights came on, the former 49ers great was standing there again, ready to deliver a similar message.

It was another 49ers legend that Payton borrowed from this week. In 1982, when the 49ers arrived in Pontiac, Mich., for the Super Bowl, head coach Bill Walsh dressed up as a bellman to greet the team as they arrived at their hotel. It was an effective way to break the tension and let his team get a few laughs.

So Monday when the Saints got to town to prepare for their Sunday date with the Colts, Payton dressed as a bellman to greet the team bus. And since his seven Pro Bowl players already were with him, they dressed up as well.

“A guy like Bill Walsh is someone who has his hands all over this league offensively and practice schedule-wise and installation-wise,” Payton said. “He was very successful in the postseason, and if we take a simple play that we like that he had success with, then why wouldn’t we apply that to another aspect of what we’re doing? I mean we flat-out plagiarized (the bellman routine). … The message was, ‘Hey, let’s relax a little bit here. We’ve got a big week in front of us.”’

Payton’s influences include Bill Parcells, Gruden and Mike Ditka. Payton played for Ditka for three games during the 1987 strike, and he came away with more than a 27.3 passer rating.

“Mike was a lot like Bill (Parcells),” Payton said. “He valued confrontation. When you are young and coming out of college, it’s eye opening. It’s not until you get older and wider until you begin to appreciate why.”

And now, Payton said he sometimes finds himself being confrontational with his own players. “You want to be true to who you are, but it is important to address things and not table them, especially in a team environment,” he said.

Payton is prepared to motivate any way he can.

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