The New Orleans Saints certainly miss their head coach and could use some of his offensive genius to help turn their season around, but Payton is finding that it is easier to cope with his NFL withdrawals by focusing on his family.
No longer does Payton spend his nights dissecting NFL game film, as he instead spends them preparing his son, Connor, for his middle school football games. Payton has curved some of his coaching cravings by volunteering as an offensive assistant for his son’s sixth-grade football team. He also gets to see his daughter, Meghan, cheerlead on Friday nights.
It took the coach some time to adjust to life away from football, but Payton has found the silver lining to his suspension.
“The first three or four days I found myself bitter and angry. At some point, it was clear I didn’t want to spend six months feeling this way,” Payton said while speaking at the PwC-SMU Athletic Forum on Tuesday, according to ESPN.com.
It would seem the Saints miss Payton more than he misses them.
Through the first four games of the season, New Orleans is winless and has been upset by Washington, Carolina and Kansas City. The record-setting offense from 2011 has not been able to fire on all cylinders this season, and the strong defense from a season ago is giving away points like it is Halloween candy.
The one bright spot for the Saints has been quarterback Drew Brees, who looks to break Johnny Unitas‘ record of consecutive games with a passing touchdown on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Brees has actually requested that the NFL allow Payton to be present for the game.
For a team that went 13-3 in 2011 and was picked by many to be a Super Bowl contender in 2012 despite the recent bounty scandal, things are quickly heading south. Payton sits down to watch his team every Sunday, and feels they have what it takes to make a comeback.
“I do think they’ll turn this thing around. I think they have the right people in that locker room and the right assistant coaches,” Payton reportedly said. “Granted, I know it’s a tough challenge, but I just know how that team is made up.”
That assistant coaching staff is without interim head coach Joe Vitt, who was suspended for the first six weeks of the season for his involvement in the bounty scandal.
If the Saints want to make the playoffs, they will have to do so without Payton. For now, the suspended head coach is focusing on some younger players who need his help — his children. Maybe the suspension was a blessing in disguise for Payton, as he gets to spend valuable time with his son and daughter.
“The time I’m getting to spend with my son and daughter has been invaluable,” Payton said. “All these things were pictures and phone calls. It has really been unique and special. It’s hard to explain.”
The man who led the Saints to a Super Bowl in 2010 has traded his clipboard for a minivan full of pom-poms and football pads.
And for now, that is perfectly fine with him.