In his first public comments since being reinstated from his season-long suspension for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal, coach Sean Payton hinted that his biggest regret is that he didn’t crack down on his defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, who has been singled out as the mastermind of the bounty program.
Although Payton declined to go into specifics, the one specific matter that he admitted not doing well enough was managing his coaching staff.
“There’s certain things that, you know, as you have a chance to look back on it that I would want to look back on differently and I would want to handle differently, with the challenges of managing a staff,” Payton said.
That strongly suggests that Payton believes the bounty scandal was Williams’ fault, but that Payton himself also acknowledges that he should have prevented Williams from running a bounty program. Williams is still suspended indefinitely and will be permitted to apply for reinstatement only if a team wants to hire him. So far, no team has shown an inclination to do so.
Payton said it was hard to spend a year away from his team, but what was harder than anything was being away from the players he cares about and from co-workers like Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson.
“I think the hardest part, though, was not football,” Payton said. “The hardest part was so many of these people we’re talking about — Mickey Loomis, Mr. Benson, a number of the players — you’re used to talking to them in a regular basis. So the difficult part for me was not having the personal interaction. Not necessarily football related, but just as you would as a friend. That was what I found to be more difficult than football.”
Now Payton is back to work with Loomis, Benson and his players. But not with Williams. Managing Williams again is not something Payton sounds interested in.