The news that Sean Payton plans to stay in New Orleans as long as the Saints will have him hit his players like sweet music to their ears.
Before Payton’s hour-long news conference even hit the halfway point Wednesday, Saints players, scattered for the start of the offseason, had already begun to weigh in on social media.
Michael Mauti and Cameron Jordan posted celebratory pictures of themselves with Payton on Instagram and Twitter. Jahri Evans turned to emoticons, tweeting a series of praying hands that signify a man thanking God.
Drew Brees took the news in stride. Payton texted the quarterback right before he walked into his news conference, confirming what Brees has believed all along.
“Obviously, I’m very excited that he’s back,” Brees said. “Honestly, I had a good feeling about it.”
Brees, always optimistic, had been telling reporters for weeks he expected to be back with Payton, continuing a partnership that will go down as one of the best coach-passer tandems in NFL history.
“I know the vision that’s been laid out,” Brees said. “I think we all ended this season very excited about our future, a lot of the young players we have, the character, the leadership and the foundation that’s been built for moving forward.”
Publicly, though, Brees had backed off his certainty amid the furor of speculation that hit the Saints with the season finale, saying he hoped Payton would return.
Brees mirrored the rest of the locker room. Veterans like Thomas Morstead, Zach Strief and Jahri Evans have heard speculation about Payton’s future before. But this was a little different.
“I tell people all the time: I’m a fan that happens to punt. I love this team and I love this city,” Morstead said Monday, before Payton addressed the team at all. “Obviously, it seems like there’s more rumors swirling this year than normal, but whatever happens is going to happen.”
With all the rumors swirling, the Saints found themselves facing some uncertainty, but the players all agreed on one thing.
The Saints wanted Payton to stay in New Orleans.
“He’s a brilliant coach,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said Sunday, echoing what the rest of the Saints said. “We need him here.”
Payton isn’t going anywhere, in part energized by a roster that has been cleansed of bad apples that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth after the 2014 season and prompted a drastic roster overhaul.
New Orleans’ coach said he is happy with his younger players, encouraged by their promise and the camaraderie of a team that fought together all season, winning three of its final four games.
A young roster seems to have promise to set a foundation for the future.
“All we need is stability,” cornerback Delvin Breaux said.
Now the Saints have exactly what they wanted.