Sean Payton

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Sean Payton
refer to caption
Payton in 2021
New Orleans Saints
Position:Head coach
Personal information
Born: (1963-12-29) December 29, 1963 (age 57)
San Mateo, California
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:200 lb (91 kg)
Career information
High school:Naperville Central (Naperville, Illinois)
College:Eastern Illinois
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Passing yards:79
Completion percentage:34.8
Career Arena statistics
Passing yards:47
Completion percentage:35.7
Head coaching record
Regular season:146–83 (.638)
Postseason:9–8 (.529)
Career:155–91 (.630)
Player stats at · PFR ·
Coaching stats at PFR

Patrick Sean Payton (born December 29, 1963) is an American football coach and former player who is the head coach of the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL). Payton was a quarterback at Naperville Central High School and Eastern Illinois University and played professionally in 1987 with Chicago Bears and 1988 overseas in Britain. He began his coaching career as offensive assistant for San Diego State University and had several assistant coaching positions on college and NFL teams before being named as the tenth full-time coach in Saints history in 2006. Payton has always been known for his offensive prowess, having scored more points (2,804) and gained more yards (40,158) than any other team in a coach's first 100 games in NFL history.[1] Payton has the second-longest NFL tenure among active head coaches, behind New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who has coached the Patriots since the 2000 season.

Under Payton's leadership, the Saints made the 2006 NFL playoffs after a 3–13 season in 2005 and advanced to their first NFC Championship appearance in franchise history. Because of this effort, Payton won the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award. Following the 2009 season, the Saints won their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history. Since joining the Saints as head coach, he has helped guide the team to three NFC Championship games (2006, 2009, and 2018), an appearance in Super Bowl XLIV, and nine total playoff berths with seven division titles, making him the most successful coach in Saints franchise history.

In April 2012 Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 NFL season as a result of his alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, under which "bounties" were allegedly paid for contact that would try to injure players on opposing teams.[2] Payton filed an appeal but was denied, with him remaining suspended until being reinstated in January 2013.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Payton was born in San Mateo, California, and raised in Naperville, Illinois, by parents Thomas and Jeanne Payton.[5] Payton's parents were originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania; Thomas worked in the insurance industry.[6] Sean Payton lived in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, during his grade school and middle school years (1970–1978).[5] Sean attended Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois, starting as quarterback his senior year before graduating in 1982. Winning a football scholarship, Payton had a successful career playing quarterback at Eastern Illinois University, leading the Panthers to an 11–2 record and the quarter-finals of the Division I-AA Playoffs in 1986; while at EIU, he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity with his close friend, Rick Henghold.[7][8] Under coach Al Molde, Payton's Eastern Illinois teams were known as "Eastern Airlines" due to their prolific passing attack that frequently topped 300 yards per game (and had 509 passing yards in one game, still a school record).[9]

Playing career[edit]

Although he was not drafted in the 1987 NFL Draft, Payton tried out for the Kansas City Chiefs for one day. In 1987, he played quarterback for the Chicago Bruisers and Pittsburgh Gladiators during the inaugural season of the Arena Football League, before his rights were sold for $1,000.00 to the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. He was also a member of the Chicago Bears squad of strikebreaking replacement players, known as the "Spare Bears", during the 1987 NFL players strike.[10] In 3 games he completed 8 of 23 passes (34.8%), for 79 yards, no TDs, and 1 INT, a passer rating of 27.3. He was also sacked 7 times for 47 yards and had one rush attempt for 28 yards. Coincidentally, his one interception came against the New Orleans Saints, the team he would later go on to coach to a Super Bowl victory.

In 1988, he played for the Leicester Panthers of the professional UK Budweiser National League. Payton landed the starting quarterback role for the Panthers. Payton led the Panthers to a touchdown on their first possession. That same season saw the Panthers go to the Quarterfinals of the British League, eventually losing to the London Olympians after Payton returned to the US to take up a coaching position.[11]

Coaching career[edit]

Early coaching career[edit]

Payton began his coaching career in 1988 as an offensive assistant at San Diego State University. He made a series of assistant coaching positions at Indiana State University, Miami University (offensive coordinator), Illinois, and again at San Diego State (running backs coach), before landing a job as the quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997.[12]

He coached Marshall Faulk from 1992 to 1993[13] while serving at San Diego State.

As OC at Miami University, he helped RB Deland McCullough run for over 1,100 yards.[14] In 1995, the team scored the most points in a season (326) since 1986 and finished 8–2–1.[15] RB Deland McCullough ran for over 1,600 yards with 14 TD and QB Sam Ricketts also threw 14 TD.

At the University of Illinois in 1996,[16] he coached QB Scott Weaver, who completed 56% of his passes for over 1,700 yards and 7 TD.

Philadelphia Eagles[edit]

From 1997 to 1998, Payton was quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and worked with offensive coordinator Jon Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Callahan. In 1998, Gruden and Callahan left for the Oakland Raiders, and Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes and Payton were fired.[17] The Eagles' quarterbacks passed for 4,009 yards in 1997.[18]

New York Giants[edit]

In 1999, Payton was hired as the quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants and was promoted to the role of offensive coordinator in 2000. Under his guidance, the Giants would go on to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXXV.[19] During this time, he was known to lock himself in the stadium and sleep on the couches while studying plays during off-days.

At around 6:45 a.m. on September 11, 2001, the New York Giants' flight from Denver, where the Giants played the Denver Broncos for the first Monday Night Football game of 2001, landed at the gate of Newark Liberty International Airport next to United Airlines Flight 93, the flight that was hijacked and eventually crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Payton recalls this moment in his autobiography Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life.[20] During the 2002 season, after several poor showings by the Giants' offense, Payton's role in play-calling was taken over by then head coach Jim Fassel. Under Fassel the offense improved and propelled the team to a wild-card playoff berth.

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Payton joined Bill Parcells and the Cowboys as an assistant head coach and a quarterbacks coach in 2003, where he helped coach Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, and Drew Bledsoe to 3,000-yard seasons. He was a primary factor for the team to sign UDFA Tony Romo.

In 2005, he was promoted by Parcells to assistant head coach/passing game coordinator.

New Orleans Saints[edit]

Payton with the Lombardi Trophy after the Saints victory in Super Bowl XLIV

Payton received his first head coaching job in 2006 with the New Orleans Saints. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in the 2005 season the Saints had finished with a 3–13 record, ranking as the second worst team in the league. However, Payton turned the struggling team around, and, with newly acquired free agent quarterback Drew Brees, led them to their first playoff appearance in 6 years. The team had one of the league's most productive offenses, ranking first in passing,[21] and fifth in points scored.[22] The Saints won the NFC South with a 10–6 record, had a first round playoff bye and notched only the second playoff win in franchise history, giving them a berth in the NFC Championship Game against the top-seeded Chicago Bears. The Saints out-gained the Bears in total yards of offense, but lost the game by the lopsided score of 39–14. Receiving 44 out of 50 votes from a panel of sports journalists and broadcasters, Payton won the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award in January 2007.[23]

In the 2007 season, the Saints tried to improve upon their 10–6 record from the previous season. They and the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the NFL preseason, playing the Hall of Fame Game on August 5, 2007. The Saints were 3–2 in the pre-season. The Saints also had the honor of opening the season against the defending champion Indianapolis Colts. The Saints finished the 2007 season 7–9.

2009 Season: Super Bowl Champs[edit]

In 2009, Payton aggressively coached the Saints to their most successful season, with a 13–3 regular season, and a 31–17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

In June 2010, Payton published a book (written with journalist Ellis Henican) entitled Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life.[24] The book opened at number 8 on the non-fiction bestseller list of The New York Times.[25] Payton described the concept of Home Team: "I didn't want to write another winning-on-the-field book or about modern-day leadership...I wanted to write a book about the stories, ones that you sit around and tell your friends."[26]

On October 16, 2011, while coaching against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Payton broke his tibia and tore his MCL in a collision with tight end Jimmy Graham's helmet after Graham was tackled on the sideline. Unable to stand on the sidelines, Payton coached from the booth during rehabilitation. In a memorable moment the week after, Payton was spotted eating a hot dog in a relaxed state while the Saints blew out the Indianapolis Colts 62–7.[27]

Payton has agreed to a new multi-year contract extension as head coach of the Saints beginning in 2013.[28] On January 6, 2016, he announced that he would stay with the Saints despite interest from other teams that had led to speculation that he would be traded.[29]

Payton agreed to a new 5-year contract extension as head coach of the Saints on March 23, 2016.[30] On Christmas Eve 2016, Payton notched his 94th victory as Saints head coach, passing Jim E. Mora as the winningest coach in franchise history.

Payton and the Saints would endure some eventful seasons over the next three years. The 2017 season would see the Saints achieve their first winning season since 2013 with an 11–5 record. In the Wild Card round of the postseason, New Orleans defeated the division rival Carolina Panthers 31–26 to advance to the Divisional round against the second-seeded Minnesota Vikings. Against the Vikings, after falling behind 17–0, the Saints were able to crawl back and hold a 24–23 advantage in the final minute of the fourth quarter. On the last play of the game, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum threw a 27-yard pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who evaded Saints safety Marcus Williams and ran to the end zone to complete a 61-yard touchdown pass as time expired to award Minnesota a 29–24 victory. This game was the first in NFL playoff history to end in a touchdown as time expired. The play would later be known as the Minneapolis Miracle.

Recent years and Drew Brees retirement[edit]

In the 2018 season, the Saints attained the top-seed in the NFC after finishing with a 13–3 record. Upon eliminating the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles 20–14 in the Divisional round, the team advanced to the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams for the right to represent the conference in Super Bowl LIII. The game was marred with controversy after the referees missed a pass interference call of Nickell Robey-Coleman's hit on Tommylee Lewis on 3rd-and-10 with 1:45 remaining in the 4th quarter. The Saints would go on to lose 26–23 in overtime. Some fans, players, and analysts believe the missed call is among the worst in NFL history. The NFL admitted to missing the call soon after the game was over, but did not apologize for the situation until a week and a half later. The fallout from the missed call was a factor in the NFL's decision to expand instant replay, making pass interference (including non-calls) reviewable.

On September 15, 2019, the Saints and Payton agreed to a 5-year contract extension.[31] The Saints once again finished 13–3 in 2019. However, they would be upset in the Wild Card round by the Minnesota Vikings in overtime 26–20, a third consecutive disappointing playoff finish for the Saints.

Payton was fined US$100,000 by the NFL for not properly wearing a face mask, as required for coaches during the COVID-19 pandemic, during a week 2 game in the 2020 NFL season on September 22, 2020.[32]

Bounty scandal[edit]

On March 2, 2012, the NFL concluded after a thorough investigation that from 2009 to 2011, the Saints implemented a bounty program that rewarded players for deliberately attempting to knock opposing players out of games. The slush fund was determined to be administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who joined the team in 2009. An extensive league investigation found that Payton was implicated in the Bounty Scandal. The league determined Payton went as far as to orchestrate a cover-up when the league first investigated it in the 2009-10 offseason. When informed that the league was investigating reports of a bounty program, Payton met with Williams and assistant head coach Joe Vitt and told them, "Let's make sure our ducks are in a row."[33]

According to a league memo, the NFL reopened its investigation late in the 2011 season. Just before the Saints' playoff game against the Detroit Lions, league officials alerted Saints owner Tom Benson that they had found irrefutable evidence of the Saints' bounty program.[34][35] When general manager Mickey Loomis informed Payton that the league had reopened its investigation, Payton failed to shut the alleged program down.[33]

On March 22, 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Payton for the entire 2012 season, effective April 1. Payton became the first head coach in modern NFL history to be suspended for any reason. Goodell was particularly upset that Payton and other Saints officials had lied to him about the scheme. For instance, during its investigation, the league uncovered an email that Michael Ornstein, the agent for former Saints running back Reggie Bush, had sent to Payton. In reality, the Ornstein email wasn't directly sent to Payton, instead it came to team spokesman Greg Bensel, who then forwarded it to the coaching staff with this message: "email from Orny (he asked that I send it) the dude is in prison so I told him I would."[36] The email stated "put me down for $5000 on "Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers".[35] "It's a running joke going for three years," Ornstein said. "Ornstein's email is just another example of the speciousness of the quote-unquote evidence that Commissioner (Roger) Goodell claims to have to support his erroneous accusations against Jonathan and the other players," lawyer Peter Ginsberg said. "As more of the evidence is revealed in the media, it is becoming more and more apparent how irresponsible the NFL's actions have been."[37] When confronted with the email, Payton initially claimed he never read it, but subsequently admitted that he had.[34][38] In an interview with ESPN's Adam Schefter, Goodell implied that Payton would have faced significant punishment even if he'd been more forthcoming. In Goodell's view, Payton's contractual obligation to supervise his assistants meant that, at the very least, he should have known about the scheme and shut it down immediately.[39] In the league's announcement of sanctions against the Saints, Payton was faulted for violating a provision of the league constitution that requires coaches to inform their owners about team operations, as well as to "avoid actions that undermine or damage the club's reputation or operating success."[33]

On March 30, 2012, Payton lodged a formal appeal of his suspension. Goodell held an expedited hearing on the matter and was expected to render a decision in "days, not weeks," according to ESPN's Schefter. Payton also used the hearing as a chance to get clarification on the terms of his ban.[40] Goodell turned the appeal down on April 9, meaning that Payton's suspension was set to begin on April 16.[41] He was to remain suspended until the end of Super Bowl XLVII, which was held in New Orleans. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Payton was to forfeit $5.8 million of his $7.1 million salary.[42] He was barred from even casual contact with anyone in the NFL; any such contact would have to be reported to NFL executive Ray Anderson.[43]

Soon after the suspension was announced, Payton began discussions with his mentor, Parcells, about serving as interim coach for the 2012 season.[44]

In September 2011, the Saints and Payton agreed to extend Payton's contract through 2015. However, on November 4, 2012, the NFL revealed that it had disallowed the extension because it contained a clause the NFL deemed to violate its rules, which would have allowed Payton to leave if Saints general manager Mickey Loomis were not with the team. The NFL's action left Payton's contract status in doubt beyond the 2012 season, although Payton said that he intended to return to the Saints.[45]

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated Payton on January 22, 2013.[4]

Liberty Christian Warriors (Argyle, TX)[edit]

During his 2012 suspension from the NFL, Payton served as the offensive coordinator for his son Connor's sixth-grade team in Argyle, Texas.[46] Payton used a simplified version of the Saints playbook, and the team went unbeaten until losing near the end of the regular season to a team that ran the single-wing, which his team was unable to stop. Since he believed he would face that team again in the league's playoffs, he obtained video that the father of one of his players recorded, and then contacted his mentor Parcells to help him break down the opponent's offense. The teams indeed faced one another in the league finals; Payton's team lost a considerably closer game in which they were able to slow down the opposing offense to a Springtown Pee Wee team.[47]

Head coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
NO 2006 10 6 0 .625 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Chicago Bears in NFC Championship Game
NO 2007 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC South
NO 2008 8 8 0 .500 4th in NFC South
NO 2009 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC South 3 0 1.000 Super Bowl XLIV champions
NO 2010 11 5 0 .688 2nd in NFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to Seattle Seahawks in NFC Wild Card Game
NO 2011 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Game
NO 2013 11 5 0 .688 2nd in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Seattle Seahawks in NFC Divisional Game
NO 2014 7 9 0 .438 2nd in NFC South
NO 2015 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC South
NO 2016 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC South
NO 2017 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Minnesota Vikings in NFC Divisional Game
NO 2018 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Los Angeles Rams in NFC Championship Game
NO 2019 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to Minnesota Vikings in NFC Wild Card Game
NO 2020 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Tampa Bay Buccaneers in NFC Divisional Game
NO 2021 3 2 0 .600 0 0
Total 146 83 0 .634 9 8 .529

Personal life[edit]

Payton met Beth Shuey, an Indiana State University graduate while coaching there.[48] The couple had two children, daughter Meghan (born 1997) and son Connor (born 2000).[49] Payton is Irish Catholic.[50] Payton and his family moved to a home in Mandeville, Louisiana when he became the Saints' head coach. The home, like many built on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, later turned out to be constructed with defective Chinese drywall, and Payton eventually became a named plaintiff in a widely reported class action lawsuit against the manufacturer, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd.[51]

In the wake of the issues with their home in Mandeville, the Paytons decided to move the family back to the Dallas area in 2011, when they purchased a home in the Vacquero Club, an upscale golf community in Westlake that is home to several PGA Tour professionals, as well as the Jonas Brothers and Josh Hamilton.[52] Rumors swirled over the 2011 Super Bowl weekend that the move would coincide with Payton returning to the Cowboys as the General Manager or in some other executive capacity, but these turned out to be groundless.[53] At the time, he maintained a residence in the New Orleans area during the season, while his family resided full-time in Westlake, a 90-minute trip via a privately chartered flight.[52]

In June 2012, Payton and his wife Beth filed for divorce.[54][55]

In 2014, after his suspension and the finalization of his divorce, he moved from the New Orleans suburbs where he had kept his in-season home to Uptown New Orleans, buying a condo in that neighborhood, and now lives there year-round. Shortly before the 2015 season, which coincided with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he hosted a dinner for the four coaches and four players who had continuously been with the Saints since he became head coach, and presented each of them with a Rolex watch.[47]

In January 2018 New Orleans musician Shamarr Allen dedicated a song to Payton entitled "Hit the Sean Payton"[56] which he composed after watching an Instagram live video of Payton dancing in celebration with the Saints players after defeating the Carolina Panthers for the third time that season.[57][58][59] Saints running back Alvin Kamara had recorded the locker room celebrations for his Instagram live feed and the video went viral on social media.[60] On November 10, 2019, at the end of the Saints vs. Falcons games, it was announced that Payton had gotten engaged two days prior on November 8 to his girlfriend, Skylene Montgomery.[61]

On March 19, 2020, it was reported that Payton had tested positive for COVID-19. Payton became the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the NFL.[62] On March 26, Payton announced that he tested negative and has been cleared from COVID-19.

Honors and awards[edit]

Selected works[edit]

  • Payton, Sean (2010), Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life, New York, New York, U.S.: New American Library, ISBN 978-0-451-23261-8


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  36. ^ League, union at odds over Ornstein email. Retrieved on July 29, 2013.
  37. ^ Mike Ornstein's email saying to put him down for bounty money is questioned. Retrieved on July 29, 2013.
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  42. ^ Mortensen, Chris (March 23, 2012). "Sources: Sean Payton to lose $5.8M". ESPN.
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  47. ^ a b Thompson, Wright (August 24, 2015). "Beyond The Breach". ESPN The Magazine. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
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  50. ^ Payton 2010, p. 74
  51. ^ David Hammer; Katy Reckdahl (June 19, 2010). "Chinese drywall cases settled in Louisiana; big award granted in Florida". The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on November 29, 2019. Retrieved November 29, 2019.
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  58. ^ Hanzus, Dan (January 8, 2018). "NOLA paper declares Saints as Panthers' new owner". National Football League.
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  61. ^ NFL
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External links[edit]