Sean Payton may have a locker-room issue to address


After reporting last week that Saints coach Sean Payton testified in the Jimmy Graham grievance hearing, we caught wind of at least one member of the media having one or more players (it’s unclear whether they play for the Saints) ready to provide strong to quite strong on-the-record criticism of Payton for his role in the process.

Regardless of whether Payton gets called out for serving as a witness in determining how Graham is used (really, it would have been odd not to hear from Graham’s head coach on the issue), Payton will be facing at a minimum some awkwardness when it’s time to interact again with the team.  Some will view his testimony as taking $5.3 million out of Graham’s pockets — even if that’s not what Payton wanted to do.  He’ll need to make sure the players understand why he did what he did, without painting Graham as greedy or inappropriate.

Indeed, despite characterizations of the effort as a “naked cash grab,” Graham had every right to make his argument.  Arbitrator Stephen Burbank determined the operative language of the labor deal to be ambiguous, which means that the language fairly can be interpreted in different ways.  Which means that Graham’s way could have been (and still could be, on appeal) the right way.

Graham lost in part because Payton’s testimony helped persuade Burbank to pull out a yardstick and draw a line in the slot.  The coach is quoted multiple times in the 14-page ruling, explaining for example that “[w]hen our receivers are lined up widest in formations, they are never covered by safeties or linebackers ever,” and that “[n]ever ever ever ever ever does a linebacker match up with a wide receiver ever.”

The extra “evers” could create the impression that Payton was extra forceful in his testimony, which would make it a little harder for him to unruffle feathers in the locker room.  Regardless, he’s more than smart enough to know that he’ll have some fences to mend, and he’s more than smart enough to figure out how to do it.

40 responses to “Sean Payton may have a locker-room issue to address

  1. If there IS an actual locker-room issue that needs to be addressed, it will be put into the rear-view mirror in no time. The collective effort to succeed and win games in New Orleans will trump any perceived rift within the organization, especially when you have a leader like Drew Brees who will encourage his teammates to sustain their focus on what is most important.

  2. “My bosses said I better knock this one out of the park. I love you guys, but I have a job to do just like everybody else.” – Shouldn’t be hard to explain at all.

  3. O’RLY? Head coach having an awkward moment with his player? He’s not much of a head coach if there’s an awkward moment. He’s the unequivocal leader of the team. He tells them what to do and they respond in kind.

    If he’s any kind of head coach, there won’t be any fallout from him testifying.

  4. The idea that he’s a tight end because that’s what he went to the pro bowl as is stupid on it’s face. Who ever heard of a blocking tight end getting to the pro bowl?

  5. Just because Jimmy can’t block worth manure doesn’t negate the fact he is a TE. Time to bury this ridiculousness.

  6. The Saints should let their internal grievance mediation system handle this, by which I mean crowbar fights in an alley.

  7. Hope the “locker room” players that might be upset about Payton’s testimony realize some of themselves might be cut if there’s suddenly 5.3mil less salary cap $$.

  8. Just like the players, Mr. Benson signs his checks, but has no union to fight for him. What impact would it have been if he testified for Graham as a wide out? He did what was interest of team and organization as far as money goes. To expect him to do any different is not rational or in his best interest.

  9. Sometimes witnesses can be compelled to testify in proceedings via subpoena. Not sure of that’s the case here, but Peyton may not have had a choice as to whether to testify.

  10. Graham calls himself a TE in public then whines he’s a WR when he can grab extra cash. He needs to take his TE 10 Million and go learn how to take a hit not like in the Seattle game when the DB’s air feathers tackled him

  11. Dollars to doughnuts that member of the media is Jeff Duncan, and we all know how very little credibility he has left.

    Graham will sign long-term and the Saints will have another great year. This is all manufactured drama that amounts to nothing once training camp opens.

  12. .
    When the Patriots played the Saints last season, Graham was covered exclusively by CB Aqib Talib.

  13. Enough of this “the sky is falling” nonsense. Payton has said repeatedly even reported by PFT, that this is an antiquated system and needs to be revised. The Saints have offered JG a $10mm per year contract which demonstrates their appreciation for JG’s talent.

  14. Graham needs to come out right now, say that he is a wide receiver and won’t line up closer than 4 yards to the tackle this year. They can either not play him, or play him wherever he lines up. But next year they’ll pay.

  15. The owner of the Saints is Sean Paytons boss who pays his salary. There is no way he would ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever, testify against him costing him $5.3 mill….never ever

  16. “If there IS an actual locker-room issue that needs to be addressed, it will be put into the rear-view mirror in no time. The collective effort to succeed and win games in New Orleans will trump any perceived rift within the organization, especially when you have a leader like Drew Brees who will encourage his teammates to sustain their focus on what is most important.”

    lol wait what? Didn’t Brees demand one of the highest contracts for a QB when he resigned? This is the NFL we’re talking about, and unless you’re a franchise QB, everyone shuffles teams. For the players, winning is secondary to getting paid.

  17. This is some overblown nonsense right here. As has been pointed out by several posters on this site, this issue was never Graham vs. the Saints, but rather Graham’s agent and the NFLPA (with the full support of every other agent) vs. the NFL. There was a loophole that needed to be challenged, and finally, here was the case to do it. Graham’s agent merely pointed out to him that there is a pile of cash laying here, 5.3 million dollars’ worth, and if you fill out some paperwork, they might just let you have it. Strictly business. No hurt feelings, no whining, no locker room drama. Graham and the Saints understand this, even if the media doesn’t.

  18. Jimmy Graham contract paperwork tells the NFL what he are, on his contract he is titled as a TE. This is why Sean Payton the best head coach in the NFL, he know where to line Graham up it in wide out and still be a tight end. All you people’s that what you know football the only time you see Jimmy Graham on the line is when he in a tight end play. When he play wide out he playing off the line as TE, watch a wide receiver he lines up on the line that’s the difference. So Sean Payton did what he had to do as a head coach that knows football, yes the locker room might look at it as wrong as a player you know where you lines up so Sean Payton as a Head Coach let the NFL & the NFLPA know he a true head Coach. What the players in the lock room fail to understand if Jimmy Graham would have win, someone in the locker room maybe without a job. Because some of the players would have been cut, so get over it

  19. People calling for JG to play this year and demand out next year are typical “fans” who call into talk radio and don’t see why their team doesn’t trade for a Manning, Brady or Brees for a backup. The Saints can tag JG again next year and it would carry a number of about $8.4mm based upon today’s ruling. Saints aren’t letting JG walk. No matter how much you wish it would happen.

  20. No one in the Saints organization is going to let this disrupt what they do because they have leaders that guild this team. Brees has proven that he can spread the ball on offense all the way to the superbowl and Graham wasn’t playing for them.. As a Saints fan I feel it’s great having Graham and he adds to the offense but he’s not what this team is about. The Saints didn’t change for success until Sean Payton and Brees came on board and that is the core of this team. The prospect of having an elite defense this year is bigger news.

  21. Jimmy Graham likely had little to do with all of this. That’s not his job. The man behind all of this is Graham’s agent, Jimmy Sexton. He did the right thing because had things gone the other way, then he would have been the man to set a precedent. That’s a big deal when your wooing clients. Graham & his agent were offered contracts reportedly larger than Gronk’s a year ago. That simple fact tells you that Sexton, more than likely, explained the whole sitution to Graham & advised him on the possible risks & rewards. Jimmy Sexton is one of the best in the business. He knew exactly what was at risk. You don’t get to be in his position without taking some risks.

  22. Sean Payton being the great leader his is will only make the team stronger after this. The team is focused on another Superbowl. Lets be honest Jimmy wouldn’t be who he is without SP and Brees and he knows it. Some people just like to stir a pot to create a story instead of using true journalism. No names though.

  23. Were these the same players belly-aching that Payton was suspended for a year?

    C’mon. Business is business. If dude REALLY wanted to be paid like a WR.. he would’ve switched positions in college. Or lined up permanently in another position.

    Go check the tape: What’s the percentage of the time he lined up as a true tight end.

    So (conspiracy theorists), if Jimmy Graham isn’t involved as much in the Saints offense next year.. is it because of this? Hmmm…

  24. the only player with his job safe enough to have issue would be drew brees, any other might lose his starting job to a very capable backup

  25. After what Goodell and his toadies in the media did to Sean Payton over the saints pay for performance program, you think he’s the least bit worried about this teacup storm you working hard to stir up? When Jimmy says it ain’t fair I think Payton can tell him all about fairness in the NFL and the media. And he can show by example how to move forward with grace when you’ve been completely screwed.

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