Saints coach Payton gets extension
Sean Payton has a new contract that gives him a chance to make his first NFL head coaching job a decade-long gig.
The Saints announced on Monday that Payton, who coached New Orleans to its first Super Bowl championship two seasons ago, has agreed to an extension through 2015.
The deal carries Payton through what would be his 10th season since he joined the Saints in 2006, shortly after the team's miserable 3-13 2005 campaign that was defined in large part by displacement to San Antonio because of Hurricane Katrina.
''It is good news, and I would start ... by recognizing the significant role that (general manager) Mickey Loomis and (owner)Tom Benson have had in not just this contract for me, but the stability and the success we've had as an organization,'' Payton said. ''I'm very thankful to have that opportunity here for another five years.''
Including three trips to the postseason in his first five seasons, Payton has a 53-33 record with New Orleans. In his first season, he coached the Saints to their first NFC title game. In his fourth season, the Saints made the only Super Bowl appearance in the franchise's 44-year history, beating the Indianapolis Colts.
''Our goal is to continue to build a tradition of winning here in New Orleans and Sean represents that tradition,'' Benson said.
Payton's previous contract was due to expire after the 2012 season.
Last winter, Saints fans became nervous that Payton may have designs on coaching elsewhere when he chose to move his family's permanent home from suburban New Orleans to Dallas, where he had been an assistant for three years before taking the New Orleans job.
Payton insisted he was happy with the Saints and that moving his family was a personal decision. After the new contract was announced, Loomis said the front office was confident Payton preferred to maintain what he has helped build in New Orleans rather than start over somewhere else.
''I don't think going to another team is part of the consideration here at all,'' Loomis said. ''Sean clearly wanted to remain the head coach of the New Orleans Saints. We clearly wanted him to remain. ... It was just a matter of working out details.
''The relationship Sean and I have is pretty strong and I value it,'' Loomis added. ''Obviously, I'm happy for the success that we've had here, really happy with the job that he's done. ... I'm just hoping it continues for a long, long time - not just this extension, but for years beyond it.''
The terms of the contract were not released. Loomis would say only that it was ''a good deal for Sean, a good deal for the club.''
Payton also has a tight relationship with quarterback Drew Brees, who is in the final season of a six-year deal he signed only months after Payton took over in New Orleans. While Loomis dismissed the notion that Payton's extension hinged on the prospects of a parallel extension for Brees, he added, ''Clearly we're in discussions with Drew and his guy (agent Tom Condon). I think I'll just leave it at that.''
Payton also said his new contract ''wasn't tied'' to an extension for Brees, but added that he has ''full confidence'' the Saints and Brees will eventually reach a new deal.
The Saints open the regular season Thursday night at Green Bay. Players learned of their coach's new contract as they went into the locker room at team headquarters following Monday's practice.
Starting right tackle Zach Strief, part of Payton's first draft class in 2006, said the timing of the new deal made sense.
''There's kind of a cycle in professional sports, and certainly in football, there's times when it's really like your opportunity to win,'' Strief said. ''Having Drew here, having the defense set up like it is, the guys that are in the locker room, this is kind of our opportunity to be successful, and he built that from literally the ground up. And I think he certainly wants to be a part of seeing it out.''
Strief said it was also gratifying to see Payton rewarded for the courage he showed in coming to New Orleans less than six months after Katrina left much of the city in ruins. Plus for taking on a turnaround project that held the potential to drastically improve the morale of residents struggling with the early stages of the recovery from the storm.
''The situation he chose to come into says a lot about him,'' Strief said. ''Getting somebody like him that was able to turn this organization in the right direction - it's certainly been fun to be a part of.''
Notes: TE John Gilmore formally joined the Saints for practice a day after Payton said he had agreed to terms with the club. To make room for Gilmore on the 53-man active roster, the Saints released reserve LB Ramon Humber. ... New Orleans added WR Montez Billings and offensive linemen Dennis Landholt and Will Robinson to their practice squad, and made room for them by releasing LS Kyle Nelson, C Cecil Newton and QB Sean Canfield.