Spark up the grill, throw on your team’s jersey, and brace yourself for what is slated to be one of the more intriguing NFL seasons in recent years. The questions from fans keep coming: “Is Peyton [Manning] going to follow up his 2013-2014 campaign by grabbing ring number two with the Broncos?”. Others ask, “Who really is the best cornerback in the league?”. Everyone around the league inquires, “What in the world is happening in New England?”. There are a lot of questions. There are even more opinions. And while many optimistic fans parade around with premature beliefs that this year could be “IT” for their team, NFL professionals like Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis try to remain mum when asked, “Could this saints team be the best in Saints’ history?”.
There hasn’t been any regular season action yet. Bourbon Street is already packed. Crawfish stew is being prepared. The “Big Easy” is celebrating the Saints. Sean Payton understands the challenges of handling this outside pressure:
“Honestly, one of the challenges as a head coach every year is managing the outside, I don’t want to use the word noise, but managing the outside, when things are going well and managing that and being guarded and when things aren’t going well, managing that and staying focused to not let that derail you if you will. Does that make sense? Look, this team will be measured, not by what people are saying today on talk shows or in the newspapers, it will be measured really at the end of the season.”
Payton’s outlook is one that is often shared around the NFL by fellow coaches. The “outside” which constitutes the fans, newspapers, talk shows, radio hosts, and so much more is a critical aspect for team publicity. However, the wrong type of attention can cause team chemistry to dissipate at times. There cannot be a lack of focus stemming from excessive player involvement in media affairs. Of course the occasional post-game interview may be appropriate, but the Saints’ shouldn’t measure themselves by the elevated opinions of ardent supporters or opposers who aren’t on that 53 man roster.
The outsiders can stay outside because they have failed to grasp that Payton and the Saints aren’t on a mission to accomplish “Best Saints Team Ever” designation. 2014 is about setting the tone for a new seasonal culture; an environment of success (according to Sean Payton):
“But with regards to the beginning of your question, the overall expectation, it is what we wanted, right? It is trying to change a culture to create an environment where you feel like you have a chance to be successful, a chance to win each season and with that comes Sunday night games, Monday night games, flex schedules, some of those challenges scheduling-wise, but that is part of the deal. If you are playing every game at 100% except the one Thursday night game the league gives you, then you are probably not having a lot of success. They go hand in hand.”
This upcoming fall doesn’t rest on one game for the Saints. Every game must be played at an elite level, but within the boundaries of the Saint’s game plan; this is the most important aspect. [Drew] Brees and company can’t follow the media’s playbook or superfluous fan hysteria. When a culture is developed where player’s draw purpose from success, every game becomes that much more meaningful. The aim for the Saints is to win football games NOT like any other team in the NFL nor to satisfy the media. They don’t want to win games by replicating any other team. All these Saints want to do is march to their own boast-less beat.
Executive Vice President and Saint’s General Manager Mickey Loomis knows that calling this Saints team “the best ever seen” before the season has begun, is absurdity. Loomis weighed in on the Saint’s culture, winning mentality, and hyped commentary:
“I don’t pay a lot of attention to that because no one said that in 2009 when we won the Super Bowl (XLIV). They weren’t saying we had the best roster (that year), and yet in my mind, that was the best result the Saints have ever had. That was our best team ever, right? I don’t pay a lot attention to that. You still have to come together as a team, you need to have the right chemistry, you have to have the right things happen for your club. There are just so many variables that your roster on paper is just kind of meaningless to us at this point. We like our team. We like the guys we have in our locker room. We love our coaching staff. I feel like we’ve got a great chance to compete going into this training camp, but there are a lot of variables.”
Loomis’ point is a valid one. The Saints’ shouldn’t care about what people have to say about their roster on paper. A successful New Orleans team thrives off a concerted care for each and every coach as well as team member. The black and gold have each other. So, when people pay exaggerated praise to a Saints’ team, not even with Week 1 in the books, they should realize that this whole “greatest ever” talk is drivel. Loomis isn’t about to step aside and allow the media to become the Saint’s drummer; these Saints’ are quite content operating at their own rhythmic pulse. We’ll have to wait and see if this beat is loud enough to shake the NFL, from coast to coast, in a quest for the Lombardi Trophy.
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