I had the pleasure of having dinner with a group of NFL writers last night which included Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who has been killing it on the Saints beat for a decade now.
There were a lot of great stories told. One that was suitable for print was the subject of Duncan’s column on Thursday morning, detailing Sean Payton’s Saturday evening speech before the NFC Championship. It showed the thoughtful, sometimes salty and engaging side Payton doesn’t often show to the media.
The speech, like the gameplan, focused on Brett Favre.
“When you get older in life, you tend to get very careful, and a little
more fearful,” Payton said, according to accounts of players and staffers. “You start thinking about your own mortality. If it rains outside
you might not go to the store, especially at night. You figure you’ll
just wait it out. You might have somewhere to go and you tell yourself I
don’t want to go there. You don’t want to get in a wreck.”
“If you keep hitting [Favre] he’ll make a mistake. If we keep
putting pressure on him he’ll start being careful, he’ll
start doing anything he can to avoid getting hit and he’ll make a
mistake. I promise you, if we hit him for four quarters, he’ll turn into
that old man who’s scared of the rain.”
Favre played an incredible game; he’ll be remembered for his picks but it was one of the best performances of his career. Still, he threw costly interceptions in Saints territory in the third and fourth quarters after taking a beating.
Speeches don’t win games, but Saints players uniformly told Duncan that it was memorable; one of Payton’s best. It emphasized emotion and the game plan at the same time.
It still holds meaning as we prepare for the season opener tonight. Brett Favre has sounded weary all preseason, unsure if he was making the right decision to return to the Vikings, worried about the mountain his team has to climb.
He sounds like a man who knows too much, and the Saints will do their best to make him look like that “old man in the rain” again Thursday.