When I was a teenager, I would watch football every Sunday with my Dad. Mostly the New Orleans Saints, as they are the team from my home state. In 1980 they lost their first 14 games, prompting a local sportscaster “Buddy D” to influence Saints fans to wear brown paper bags over their heads at home games. We called them the “Aint’s”. And every Sunday, my Dad would turn off the tv and say, “I ain’t never watching the Saints again.” And the very next Sunday we would be watching the Saints again, and the cycle would repeat. We never missed a Sunday of watching the “Aint’s”.
On February 7, 2010, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31 – 17 to win their first ever Super Bowl. No longer the “Aint’s” – they were world champions. The “Aint’s” always had potential. What turned them around?
Sean Payton joined the Saints as head coach in 2006, taking over a team that went 3-13 the previous year. In Payton’s first year, he led the team to a 10-6 record and a divisional title. Sean Peyton is proving to be a great coach in his generation. He’s a team leader who ignites human potential even when the player doesn’t know the potential that lies within him.
Yes, he has an MVP quarterback in Drew Brees whose been out for a few weeks with an injury. It’s how Payton has coached while Brees has been out that’s truly shown him at his best as a leader. They are in a 5-0 winning stretch. Coach Payton isn’t just relying on his MVP quarterback – he can’t right now. He plays to the strengths of who is available – identifying those strengths and fully utilizing them. His ability to diagnose and adapt and put his guys in the best position for their success is second to none.
Coach Payton will often change up his calls or game plan to draw upon the strengths of his players. He can use any third string player to make a big play. He has the uncanny ability to understand his player’s styles; to leverage their strengths and tone down their weaknesses. He designs plays around a skill set rather than designing the play and expecting the player to fit in. By building an ideal environment, Payton’s players are more engaged and more productive.
As a leader, Payton knows when to amp up the energy and when to turn it down. Rumor has it that sometimes he will back off a tough practice if he feels the team is banged up. He is skilled at adapting. He energizes the players to make a difference for their team. His energy sets a tone for how they will play together. So what ultimately turned for the “Aint’s”? Was it one player, a quarterback, a coach? No, not one; But all of them coming together, engaged, productive, and energized — pursing their ideal environment. That’s how you create a winning team!
To do things you’ve never done before, you have to do things you’ve never done before. ~Sean Payton