We brought in several candidates for interviews, but offensive line coach Bill Callahan strongly recommended someone who had just taken a job at the University of Maryland and whose furniture was headed for College Park. The minor detail of moving didn't stop Sean Payton from driving to Philadelphia, interviewing with the Eagles and accepting his first professional football coaching position, which required a rerouting of his furniture.
Unconventional thinking allowed Payton to chase his dream of being in the NFL. Instead of worrying about the details of his furniture, he saw the opportunity to do "mighty things" and jumped at the chance to be the Eagles' quarterbacks coach.
Payton has never been conventional when it comes to football. He played for the Chicago Bears as a strike player in 1987 after a great college career at Eastern Illinois. He spent time in the Arena League, playing because he loved the game, and went into coaching because he loved the game. Still, he has never lost sight of what he is -- an unconventional problem solver.
Working in the basement of the old and cramped Veterans Stadium, Payton didn't have a formal office. All he had was a cell phone, a briefcase he moved from place to place and an insatiable appetite to learn football from both Gruden and Callahan.
When Gruden left for Oakland in 1998, Payton stayed on with Philadelphia, but not in the offensive coordinator role, rather remaining quarterbacks coach. Payton kept learning his craft, kept smiling and kept building his resume, which today places him in history among the greatest coaches in the NFL with that one special title -- a Super Bowl winner.
Payton learned his craft from Gruden, Callahan, Bill Parcells and many others, but he never tried to copy their approach or methods, as he was his own man. That uniqueness is rare today in coaching, where some believe they must be a carbon copy of successful coaches. However, for Payton, keeping his own identity is what made him a Super Bowl winner with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Payton knew it would take unconventional thinking to achieve greatness and was willing to follow Teddy Roosevelt's advice from a speech called The Strenuous Life: "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
Payton dared to be great Sunday, and he was great.
Super Bowl edition of weekend's best
» It was going to take a Peyton Manning-like performance to beat Peyton Manning, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees saved his best for the last game. Brees was magnificent once he got comfortable with the speed of the Indianapolis Colts' defense. His accuracy was amazing, and his patience was even better.
» Saints cornerback Tracy Porter has a lifetime meal ticket in the Big Easy. His incredible play on the 74-yard interception return for a touchdown was the product of preparation, timing and knowing when to take a chance. Porter made game-altering plays in two consecutive games. He picked off a Brett Favre pass to force overtime in the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago.
» Kicker Garrett Hartley got the Saints to the Super Bowl with his winning kick in the NFC title game, but his three field goals Sunday were as important. Three conversions from 40-plus yards were huge, because had he missed, he would have given the Colts great field position. Hartley was the unsung hero of the game.
» Indianapolis allowed just 32 yards and one first down in the first quarter. It also forced two punts. Then for the next three quarters, it allowed 19 first downs, 300 yards and never forced another punt. More importantly, the Colts allowed 31 points over the last three quarters.
» The Colts had 13 third downs in the game and converted six of them, but they failed to move the chains on a third-and-1 play late in the second quarter, which allowed the Saints to kick a field goal before the half. Porter's interception return for a touchdown came on a third-and-5 play in the fourth quarter. The Colts were tied for the best third-down percentage in the NFL during the regular season, but their misses cost them Sunday.
We might have seen the last of …
» Matt Stover kicking.
» The salary-cap era in the NFL. In the next few weeks, the landscape of free agency is about to change. Dramatically.
If I were …
» Any team picking in the top 10 of the draft and needing a quarterback, I would be worried about the current college crop. What makes it hard for those teams to reach the Super Bowl in the pass-friendly NFL is the need for a top-flight passer, and this draft might not provide one.
The advertising age
The hardest thing about attending a Super Bowl is you miss all the commercials. I have often thought that fans at the game should be entertained during breaks in the action with commercials, but stadium rules prohibit it because of infringement rights. Nonetheless, my favorite was the E-Trade babies.
Three-step dots ...
» If you have business with anyone from New Orleans, it might be best to wait until the end of the week to call. The town that knows how to celebrate better than any other will be busy for the next few days. ...
» I don't know much about ratings, but Super Bowl XLIV was the most-watched program in television history. I can't wait to watch it again on NFL Network on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. It was a great game that will get even better with time. ...
» What makes me laugh and really think before we get ready to evaluate the next crop of college prospects is that both Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice were once thought to be too slow to play in the league, and their draft stock dropped. Smith slid to 17th in 1990 and was the second running back picked. Rice fell to 16th in 1985 and was the third receiver taken. ...
» I already miss football.