METAIRIE — They got a taste of it — a taste of an appetizer of it to be more exacting.
The New Orleans Saints won their first playoff game since Jan. 4, 2014, on Jan. 7, 2017, and were so close to reaching the NFC title game before a miraculous 29-24 loss at Minnesota last Sunday, they could smell it.
They were that close to being a win away from the Super Bowl and two wins away from winning it all as the Saints and coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees did on Feb. 7, 2010, when they won Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17, over Indianapolis.
"You know how sometimes you've seen something or eaten somewhere, but you want to take a friend," Payton explained Tuesday during an obituary press conference for the 2017-18 Saints' season. "And you get as much enjoyment watching them either eat that meal or watch this show. I think that's one of the things that I look forward to. Just for so many of these players, you try to describe it, and it's hard to. It's one of those where, you want to be in a position to allow others to experience it."
Coming off his best draft since 2006 with All-Pro rookie first pick cornerback Marshon Lattimore along with top contributors such as likely rookie of the year running back Alvin Kamara in the third round and safety Marcus Williams and offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk in the second round, Payton sounded positive about the future after an 11-5 NFC South title season and 1-1 playoff run.
"Obviously, it's disappointing that the season ended the way it did, and yet a lot of things to build on with this young group going forward," he said. "I was encouraged with this class we drafted, and I was encouraged with the process in how we did it."
The Saints have clearly improved on the drafting and free agency selections over the post-Super Bowl years that led them to four 7-9 seasons from 2012 through 2016.
"We need to be on top of things in free agency and in our evaluations during the draft," said Payton, who became the Saints' coach before the 2006 season. "We can't make the mistakes we've made in the prior seven years and then come up short and wonder why. We've got to be more on point. We've got to be better that way, and that's a challenge we'll have this off-season."
One off-season job in front of Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis is re-signing 17-year veteran quarterback Drew Brees, a Saint since 2006 who is a free agent without a contract and coming off one of his better seasons.
"I'll be here as long as they'll have me, hopefully," Brees said Tuesday at his locker. "I know where my mindset's been the whole time, and that's that I'll be here."
Payton deferred questions about Brees, however.
"Not right now," he said.
Asked again about Brees, Payton said, "Like I just finished saying, I'll say it to you: We'll get to you when it's time, and I'm sure that we'll go through the process. But today's not the time."
But Payton did mention Brees, who turned 39 Monday, by name while discussing sharing another Super Bowl with current Saints as if it was that special New Orleans restaurant.
"I think for every one of us, it's not about the ring," Payton said when asked if he and the team are motivated to win another ring for Brees. "It's about our championship itself, and I think every one of us has that drive to get back. I mean, it's why you play, right? To win and to win everything. I think Drew would say the same thing."
Brees liked what he saw out of a young 2017 Saints team and what it could possibly do in the future.
"Do I feel like this team has what it takes? Yes, I do," he said. "So, I do feel like that there is a window of opportunity there."
But Brees and Payton and the Saints will have to watch — or not watch — Minnesota play Philadelphia Sunday for the right to go to the next Super Bowl.
"Difficult. You go through a lot of things — the challenges of losing, and the finality of it I think more than anything else," Payton said.
"The sting of that loss is still pretty fresh for us all," Brees said. "And I know that we would all say that we thought we'd still be playing right now. But I think when we look back on the season, we had a lot to be proud of."