The New Orleans Saints’ onside kick to open the second half has been the most talked-about decision of Super Bowl XLIV. But one detail deserves to be talked about a little more: Payton didn’t just discuss the play with his players, he also discussed it with the officials.
“We felt real good, to the point where we actually talked about it with the officials,” Payton said. “They said, ‘If you do it, what’s it going to look like?’ I said, ‘It’s not if, we’re gonna.’”
It’s not unusual for coaches to discuss trick plays with the officials, but it usually happens in a case where the coach wants to make sure there’s no potential penalty on the play. For instance, if a team is planning to throw a pass to an offensive tackle, the coach might discuss the formation of the play with the referee before the game to make sure the tackle will be an eligible receiver.
The onside kick — which was run out of a standard kickoff formation — doesn’t seem to be the type of play that would have a coach worried about a potential penalty. But Payton’s decision to discuss the onside kick with the officials shows that he wanted to be absolutely certain he had everything in order on the play that will be remembered as one of the gutsiest in Super Bowl history.