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Saints coach Sean Payton of post-Drew Brees era: 'Approach is still the same'

Though New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was on the links Tuesday for a charity golf event, the onus turned to an upcoming season for his team that will be unlike any in the previous 15 years.

Following Drew Brees' retirement announcement in March, a new era has started for the Saints.

Though it's clear the franchise will be altered immensely with a future Hall of Famer having hung up his cleats, Payton -- speaking to reporters Tuesday at TPC Louisiana -- painted a picture of things remaining tantamount.

"The approach is still the same though," Payton said, via NOLA.com's Luke Johnson. "We've got a good core group of young, talented players that have won a lot of games and have experienced that taste of the postseason. I think you build your team around that.

"Is there an elevated level of excitement? I think it's the same. As a coach, you owe it to that roster to work hard and put them in the best position to have success."

Payton's comments along the lines of sameness are to be expected, but things will change hugely and that will begin with a presumed quarterback competition between Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston to determine who will be Brees' immediate successor.

Brees was the face of the Saints franchise from 2006 through 2020, which just so happens to be the exact length of Payton's tenure thus far. So, for the first time as a head coach, Payton will go into a season with another QB1.

Hill was on the course with Payton on Tuesday. And while the versatile quarterback/receiver/special teamer got four starts last season in relief of an injured Brees, he admitted things will be different for him as the new season beckons.

"I would also say I think the mindset is different: Hey, Drew went down, you're called on to step in and do everything you can to not mess it up as a back up," Hill said. "That was my mindset. I think the mindset shifts when you become the guy."

Hill's 3-1 run as the Saints starting signal-caller in 2020 showcased an up-and-down game, but for as much of a sample as it was, Hill realizes it was under circumstances in which Brees was expected back. It was a relief appearance and he and Winston are looking to win the starting job.

"Last year, it was always a means to an end. Hey, when is Drew going to be healthy and when is he going to be ready, because your time is then over," Hill said. "So I think it's a different mindset and something I'm looking forward to."

After re-signing with the squad on a one-year pact, Winston will enter his second season with New Orleans.

"You learn about a person -- his personality, his intelligence, how he is in the locker room, how he interacts with his teammates, all those things," Payton said of Winston. "It was a good process. Watching him come in, obviously he's got a tremendous skill set and he's someone that I think did a good job with his teammates."

While Payton subscribes to building the team around the aforementioned "good core group of young, talented players," all eyes will be on Winston and Hill and who emerges as Brees' successor.

Tuesday was the first time since Brees' retirement that Payton spoke to the press, but it certainly won't be the last time the topic comes up, regardless of the sense of similitude the longtime coach looks to maintain.

Though the Brees era has ended, perhaps it won't ultimately set in until Hill or Winston is announced as the Saints' starting quarterback and New Orleans' first QB1 since Brees said goodbye.

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