METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton stood in front of a banner at the Saints’ indoor practice facility Monday and professed that all talk of records at this point and similarities to 2006 and 2009 is just “noise.”
“Your job is to reference all of those things and for us, it is noise,” the New Orleans’ head coach told assembled reporters.
But other than the CrossFit T-shirt and jeans Payton was wearing this past Monday, reporters might have been forgiven for experiencing a bit of déjà vu.
After three weeks in 2009, the Saints were 3-0 and questions began to pop up about the last time that had happened – ’06, when New Orleans eventually went to the franchise’s first NFC championship game.
On the Monday following New Orleans’ 27-7 win over Buffalo in 2009, Payton was asked about whether he had to discourage his players from listening to comparisons to 2006.
“No. 1, it’s a different team than the ’06 team from a roster standpoint,” Payton said in 2009. “I think what this team accomplishes and what they do will be clearly different than any team that has come before them. I think their expectation level is high for themselves, and yet we’re talking about three weeks into the season so we have a lot of football left.”
That answer could have been used this past Monday, when his Saints were coming off of a 31-7 trouncing of Arizona to move to 3-0 for the first time since the Super Bowl season.
Nearly four years later, Payton once again deflected attention away from the record and start.
“What’s most important really is this is the game that we control this week,” Payton said. “It is not all those other things. The team we just played was 4-0 last year at the start of the season and ended up firing the general manager and head coach. Our game is too difficult each week, and one thing we do a good job of is eliminating the distractions.”
And then there’s this – four years ago, the Saints were preparing for a battle of 3-0 teams, a matchup that began to garner national attention for the teams involved.
Then it was the New York Jets. Now it’s the Miami Dolphins. His message then was similar to what it will be this week.
“This is the fourth game of the season,” Payton said in ’09. “That’s really where the focus has to be in regards to getting ready and the preparation.”
His 2013 team already is mirroring those thoughts.
Center Brian de la Puente, who wasn’t a member of the 2009 team that eventually won the Super Bowl, said Monday that the focus was on Miami and nothing else.
Not the three consecutive games against teams that are 3-0 (Miami, Chicago, New England) or the fact that undefeated starts in 2006 and 2009 led to, at the very least, an NFC championship game appearance.
The players will leave that talk to media and fans.
“We are going to approach this week with Miami as a one-game season and that’s all that’s on our mind,” de la Puente said. “If we can compartmentalize and keep focus on the task at hand, the big picture, ‘the noise’ as Coach Payton calls it, we won’t listen to it.”