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Forecast: Sean Payton understood Saints fans and we loved him for it

"Worry about your own frickin' meat," said Sean Payton

NEW ORLEANS — "Worry about your own frickin' meat."

If there's one quote or story I'd use to sum up how much fun the Sean Payton Era as head coach of the New Orleans Saints was, his "worry about your own frickin' meat" quote would be it. 99 out of 100 NFL head coaches would have described his decision to go for two early in a 2019 game against the San Francisco 49ers in boring, simple coach speak.

"There was a penalty, we got a chance to go for two from the 1-yard line, and we missed. Next question."

Instead, Payton told a story about how he was at Whole Foods getting dinner, and the butcher asks him why he goes for two.

"Anyway, it just got under my skin. I circled my cart back around and kind of called him out. I was kind of sliding down the aisle, got the produce right here to the left, you see the meats, I made a right and I'm heading for the coffee. I thought they were all kind of in jest, and I heard one of them say something about, 'why'd you go for two?' I kept walking toward the dairy and I'm like, 'Ah, I'm not letting this go, I'm turning around. I went back and he was fine, it wasn't negative, he just wanted to know. And I explained it to him. I would never [go for two] that early. But when we get a penalty, now we're on the one-yard line and we're 50 percent closer. He got it. Then I gave him a hard time and said, 'Some of these cuts don't look good to me.' That was what happened. It was in jest. We were having a little fun."

He could have done the Bill Belichick, "It's on to Cincinnati." mumble-mumble bit, or said some condescending coach cliché, like "if you start thinking like fans, pretty soon you will be sitting with them." Instead, he tells a funny shopping tale showcasing how most Saints fans are insane and care a little too much about our team, and Sean helps us move on from a tough loss a little easier.

Sean Payton wasn't just fun because he won 152 regular-season games, 7 division titles, and a Super Bowl. He made Saints football incredible because he understood football was a show, and all it takes is a little wink and nod to the fans acknowledging our crazy to add to the good time.

Even at his 92-minute goodbye press conference, which at times felt like a TED Talk about moving on in life, he mentioned how after the Saints season finale in Atlanta he thought," if this is it, and you beat Atlanta one more time? That's pretty cool."

Sean Payton got one final dig at the Saints fans most hated rival. Sean Payton understood the Saints fan base so thoroughly. Of course he didn't forget to twist the knife in Atlanta's belly one more time on the way out of town.

Just perfect.

As with any big Saints news, I had to talk to my mom. She summed it up exquisitely saying, "with Payton the Saints were good and lucky in 2009, and then it felt like the rest of the time they were good and unlucky. But gosh was it fun."

The Saints might not ever have a coach as great as Sean Payton for the rest of our lives. I'm 100 percent certain they'll never have a head coach make the Superdome PA system play "Circle of Life" after the Saints score a touchdown on a trick play against the defensive coordinator Payton fired and who helped get Payton suspended for a year.

Was playing "Circle of Life" by Elton John while the Saints were destroying ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' and the Los Angeles Rams defense petty? Oh yes. Was it mean? Certainly. Did it make an otherwise forgettable Saints win over a bad team live forever? Yep. The only thing New Orleans does better than king cakes is being petty. Sean Payton got us, and occasionally he WAS us.

Sean Payton looked completely at peace with his decision, and he even joked he googled how not to cry, and that's why he was drinking water.

There will be time another day to discuss the uncertain next chapter of the Saints without Payton. I'd rather not think of the cold dark uncertain football future today anyway. It won't be as good and fun as we just had. 

As we celebrate the fact he helped make all our football dreams come true. I can't help but be a little sad knowing it's the end of the certainty of the Saints every Sunday having the best coach on the field.

It might not feel like it today, but Sean Payton had the perfectly timed exit. He ended up beating Atlanta and wrapped up the most brilliant coaching job I've ever seen in guiding the Saints to a winning season in a year with a hurricane, COVID, and injuries that should have destroyed their 2021 season. 

Short of a Lombardi, we weren't getting a better end to the Payton Era than what we received.

So the Golden Era of Saints football ends with Sean Payton following Drew Brees out the door. It had everything; the highest highs, historic heartbreaks, and a coach who knew Saints fans were a little crazy embraced it and even loved us for it.