The fans and media will put plenty of emphasis on the first postseason encounter between the Saints and Vikings since that epic 2009 NFC title game. The coaches and players won’t.
“It’s entirely two different teams,” Saints coach Sean Payton told reporters on Thursday. “Different schemes. Different offenses. I mean there’s nothing.”
There’s something worth pointing out, however. It’s the friendship between Payton and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, dating back to their days together in Dallas.
“He and I have had a great relationship,” Payton said of Zimmer. “We lived I would say probably a mile and a half, two miles from each other there and did a lot of things together. Our families — his daughters babysat my two children. For a period of three years for me, Mike was there longer, all the time I was there we were good friends and still are. We talk all the time about football. There are certain things he might come in and draw up on the board or I might see him about, it’s pretty common. But our families were close and he’s still a good friend.”
They’re particularly connected by their shared time working for Bill Parcells.
“When we were all working there in Dallas under Bill, there’s that feeling as you’re all getting hammered by Bill there is that collective [feeling] that you all have to be close together just for any other reason to survive,” Payton said. “So misery loves company, I guess sometimes. We’d all have our moments. If it was Zim one day, I would probably doodle on [a] pad ‘probably better him than me today,’ and then if it was me, I’m sure Zim would be doodling the same thing. We learned a lot and I think I know Mike still has a good relationship [with Parcells] and stays in touch and I do still. This will probably be a tough game for Bill.”
It will be a tough game for pretty much everyone. The Vikings and Saints have been two of the best teams in the NFL this year, and only one of them will be heading to the NFC title game. Chances are the coach who loses will be rooting next weekend for the coach who wins.