“Are there times we have to look at things? Are there times when I get involved? Absolutely. I’m the head coach.” — Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints coach
“I got a business to run. I gotta kick asses sometimes to make it run right. We had a little argument, so I had to straighten him out.” — Moe Greene, a gangster from “The Godfather”
So does that mean Rob Ryan is Fredo — a family member in the mob saga who betrays the family and gets killed while fishing — in all of this?
Well, not unless Payton asks his defensive coordinator to go fishing with him if the Saints lose to Carolina on Sunday.
Talk about your big Sunday splash.
But after last week’s sideline exchange between the two, menacing thoughts can’t be avoided. Imagine if Gregg Williams was still with the team.
But this is football — not “The Godfather.” And coaches and coaches, coaches and players and coaches and, yes, even reporters at all levels have been saying impolite things to each other since Walter Camp first told Amos Alonzo Stagg to shove it.
But we love it anyway.
How many of you were secretly hoping Rob Ryan would pull a Buddy Ryan and go after Payton like his old man did with Kevin Gilbride that day on the Houston Oilers sideline?
“My father is not any cupcake,” Rob said during this season’s funniest interview session Friday. “He was fighting in the Korean War and leading men into battle at 19 or 20.
“When I first got into football, I’d seen nothing like it. The things he would say to people was unbelievable. I thought he just told me and Rex that stuff.”
So Ryan, like anyone else who ever put on a helmet — and kept it on — learned to take it and give it back, although his players swear that the opposite is true.
“Rob would never do anything to bring you down or embarrass you in front of your peers,” defensive end Junior Galette said. “He motivates you in different ways.”
Maybe that’s because Ryan is a self-described “sensitive guy” who bawls with his wife while watching Lifetime movies.
But not everyone in his profession is so mindful of the feelings of others.
Payton, whose game-day intensity makes him someone you don’t want to cross on Sundays, learned from the master of the cutting remark: Bill Parcells.
“They weren’t exchanges,” Payton said of his sideline conversations with Parcells when they were in Dallas together. “I’m not going to turn around and show you my rear end, but there a lot of scars — good ones.
“You would get your share at staff meetings, during a practice or a game, but you need a short memory and you don’t let it burst your energy or enthusiasm. You take it in stride and go on.”
And sometimes you learn.
When safety Kenny Vaccaro was a freshman at Texas, Longhorns defensive coordinator Duane Akina called him “a waste of tape and ice” because Vaccaro wasn’t going to class regularly. Was he right?
“On that day, yeah,” Vaccaro said. “But he was the best DB coach in the country, and I wound up being a first-rounder.”
That’s the point.
There’s not a player in the NFL who can’t point to someone whose biting words aren’t at least partially responsible for his becoming better.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson played under legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews at Florida State and recalled being stunned at some of the things said to him.
“Sometimes, I wondered, ‘Is he serious?’” Robinson said. “But coach Andrews was a serious guy. Then, he’d be totally different off the field and would come up to you before a game and tell how much he needed you. And you wanted to do it for him.”
Running back Travaris Cadet to points to Daryl Heidelberg, offensive coordinator at Miami Central High, for impressing on him the importance of leadership.
“I was a quarterback, and he was harder on me than anybody else, because the quarterback had to be strongest person on the team mentally,” Cadet said. “I didn’t much appreciate it then, but I do now. When you come into this league, you worry about what the coaches think of you, but you’ve got to learn to take their criticism and use it.”
Defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker goes all the way back to Anderson Middle School in New Iberia, where Glenn Fondal was and still is the coach.
“He was the hardest coach I ever had,” Walker said. “He was strict about everything. But he definitely helped me get to the NFL.”
Which is the idea.
“What we tell guys is, ‘Look, we’re not attacking you,’ ” special teams coordinator Greg McMahon said of what’s said in the heat of battle. “ ‘We have to get this right, and we don’t have time to coach it off the film tomorrow.’ It’s not a personal thing; it really isn’t. Now, I’ve never talked to my wife like that because I promise you I would get a kick in the butt.”
At least that’s better than a bullet in the eye.