Sean Payton has been one of the most successful coaches of his generation. He’s been to a Super Bowl, won a Super Bowl, and came close to reaching a few others.
Bill Parcells had a lot to do with that.
“I can remember when Bill Parcells hired me . . . we didn’t really discuss what the title was going to be,” Payton recalled on The DA Show. “You were just coming to work as an assistant, and you are comfortable with that. In other words, he’ll figure that out.”
Parcells hired Payton in 2003 after becoming head coach of the Cowboys.
“I can recall in one discussion he said, ‘Well, how much do you want to get paid and how many years do you want in your contract?’” Payton said. “It was in such a manner like you and I asking, ‘What do you want in your coffee?’ So when the discussion ended, you thought, ‘Did I think long and hard about that answer?’ He just viewed it as, ‘Let’s go.’”
Parcells’ philosophy was simple: collect talented people and figure out the rest later.
“When we had hired me, we had never met,” Payton said. “This was over four or three phone conversations. I had never met him.”
Payton met Parcells at Republic Airport in Long Island in 2003. Payton had just taken a cab from Wayne, New Jersey.
“I remember pulling up at Republic – it was about a $160 cab ride – and getting out and there was Bill and there was Jerry’s plane,” Payton said. “Bill had his garment bags, and he had told me, ‘Pack for two months.’ I said, ‘All right.’ And the two of us got on the plane and flew to Dallas. True story. First time I ever met him.”
Payton, then 39, and Parcells, then 61, spent the flight talking football and drawing up plays and philosophies on napkins.
“As a young coach, you are taking it all in,” said Payton, 54. “It’s one of those flights that you want to last forever. It seems like on the fourth napkin we’re landing in Dallas and you’re like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute.’ But he’s been great. He’s been a tremendous influence on my career. We get to stay in touch.”
Payton coached under Parcells for three seasons before becoming head coach of the Saints. He adopted Parcells’ aggressive style – like when he successfully called an onside kick to begin the third quarter of Super Bowl XLIV.
“Part of it’s learned,” Payton said of his aggressive style. “Having coached with Parcells and knowing back in the Super Bowl against the Colts, you got to find a way to steal a possession. If you just go with the conventional thinking and try to shorten the game, Manning’s too good. (Parcells) thought that way. It was a little outside the box. I think it’s just too easy to go the other direction.
“Now it’s a lot easier when you have job security and it’s a lot easier when you make enough money and you’re (comfortable),” Payton continued. “But I think it’s this (mindset of) ‘Let’s go win a game.’ . . . I think it’s important the players see that. I think there’s something that’s contagious with confidence, and sometimes just the idea, that message to your team – ‘Hey, we’re doing this. It’s not a matter of whether we are or not. It’s just a question of when.’ – that kind of can permeate through your team.”