The Saints introduced head coach Sean Payton 10 years ago today, launching the trek to Super Bowl XLIV


The Times-Picayune | Jan. 19, 2006

Sean Payton was 42 years old when he was introduced as the 14th head coach in New Orleans Saints history on Jan. 19, 2006. He was a former offensive coordinator with the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, an up-and-coming assistant who a lot of teams had on their radar.

Despite the city still recovering from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the Saints, 3-13 that season, were able to woo Payton, then quarterback Drew Brees two months later.

“We’re in the win-now business,” Payton said after the team signed Brees. “That hasn’t changed and it won’t change. When you’re looking at your team and you’re identifying areas that you think you can improve and a player such as Drew becomes available, I looked at it as an exciting opportunity.”

Shortly after Brees was brought on board, the Saints drafted running back Reggie Bush from the University of Southern California with the second pick in the NFL draft. The rest of the 2006 draft class was outstanding, arguably the best in franchise history.

The Saints traded their second round pick (#34) to the Cleveland Browns for center Jeff Faine and picked up the Browns’ second round pick (#43) and drafted safety Roman Harper.

In the third round, the Saints nabbed tackle Jammal Brown.

The Saints traded their fourth round pick (#99) to the Eagles for defensive tackle Hollis Thomas and the Eagles’ fourth round pick (#108). With that pick, the Saints drafted guard Jahri Evans.

In the fifth round, the Saints drafted defensive end Rob Ninkovich. In round six, it was wide receiver Mike Hass and cornerback Josh Lay, the only players from that draft class not to make the team.

Then to round out the draft, two seventh round gems — tackle Zach Strief and wide receiver Marques Colston.

Add those names to a few key free agent acquisitions, like linebackers Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle, and the groundwork was already being laid for the magical season of 2009.

The Saints finished 10-6 in 2006 and went to the NFC Championship, losing to Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears, 39-14. That was followed by 7-9 and 8-8, before 13-3 and the Super Bowl season. What a remarkable turnaround. Decades of futility erased in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The Saints’ resurgence matched that of post-Katrina New Orleans.

Since the Super Bowl season, the Saints have gone 11-5, 13-3, 7-9 (bounty season, Payton suspended), 11-5, 7-9 and 7-9.

This offseason, Payton was seemingly courted by every team with a head coach opening. His news conference on Jan. 6 ended all the speculation.

“I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me,” Payton said during an hour-long love letter to New Orleans at the Saints facility on Airline Drive. “This is where I plan on coaching. I don’t envision myself ever coaching for any other club.”

Now 52, Payton has won a Super Bowl and presided over the most successful era in franchise history. He was also suspended a season for his role in the team’s bounty scandal, a ding on an otherwise stellar resume’.

With one more win, Payton will pass former coach Jim Mora on the Saints’ all-time wins list. Payton enters the 2016 season with a career record of 93-61. Mora was 93-74 from 1986-1996.

“There’s more moments, there’s more wins, there’s more playoffs,” Payton said at his news conference. “I promise you there will be. And it will be not a secret formula, it will be the same formula we applied when we first got here.”

Coming off back-to-back 7-9 campaigns, the Saints braintrust certainly hopes their man can turn things around and recapture that 2006 magic.

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