So where has this Sean Payton been the past few years?
The animated and emotionally charged coach of the New Orleans Saints who seemed to derive great pleasure in shredding the Los Angeles Rams and outwitting their defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
You know, Boom-Boom Payton, the 52-year-old fist-pumping offensive guru who curiously used “The Lion King” theme song “Circle of Life” to inspire his team in the days before the game against the Rams and Williams, former Saints defensive coordinator under Payton.
Payton provided little insight after the 49-21 smackdown, playing coy with reporters when asked to explain his sideline celebrations and antics after many of the seven touchdowns scored against a Rams defense that had been yielding a meager 18.7 points per game.
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“I was a little excited. Listen, it was an important win for us,” Payton said.
Was it more important than beating San Diego 35-34 in Week 4 and ending a season-opening three-game losing streak? More important than outlasting Carolina 41-38 in Week 6? More important than upsetting Seattle 25-20 in Week 8? Or mauling San Francisco 41-23 in Week 9?
Payton didn’t appear to behave in the manner he exhibited Sunday during any of those wins.
The difference being, perhaps, is the Chargers, Panthers, Seahawks and 49ers don’t employ a coach named Gregg Williams. I wonder if that animated Payton will be present for Sunday’s really important game against the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions (7-4) at the Superdome. No Gregg Williams on the Lions staff, either.
Look, I get it. Williams is the alleged mastermind behind the infamous Bounty scandal first brought to light in 2012. He was a key insider for league officials on the alleged scheme that rewarded Saints players with money for injuring opposing players.
Among the unprecedented sanctions against the Saints organization handed down by the league office were a season-long suspension of Payton in 2012 and an indefinite suspension of Williams later reduced to one season.
Even today, many in Who Dat Nation and inside the Saints organization probably still view Williams as the bad guy, a villain, a rat who sold the Black and Gold down the proverbial river.
By the way, Williams served as Payton’s defensive coordinator during the seasons in question — including the Super Bowl XLIV season of 2009 — before his abrupt dismissal after the 2011 season.
It’s one thing to quibble with the heavy-handedness of the sanctions levied against the Saints organization and team officials by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. But don’t believe for one moment that Williams did whatever he supposedly did without Payton’s knowledge, or that Payton was an innocent bystander in any or all of it.
Payton knows all, sees all.
If it was Payton’s intention to exact a pound or two of flesh Sunday, mission accomplished. Not only did he win the regularly scheduled NFL game but he also won the personal “game within the game” minus the postgame handshake.
Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints offense carved up Williams’ overmatched defense for 515 total yards and a season-high 49 points.
Call it: “Ambush II: The Sequel.”
Brian Allee-Walsh is a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.