Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saints Nation: Review of Sean Payton's Book "Home Team"

I finally had a chance to finish Sean Payton's book "Home Team", and I'd recommend it to any Saints fan as a must read. While the book is not the best written I've ever seen, it seems genuine and informative at it's core. Payton does a great job of showcasing his part arrogant part humble personality, as well as his fears, his hopes, his honesty and his thoughts. I came away from that book having a new found appreciation not just for Payton, but for your average NFL coach. The reality is that all 32 men with jobs like his are brilliant. They wouldn't have gotten that far if they weren't. But, when 32 brilliant men go up against each other, and outside factors like team talent and injuries can effect their performance, some have to fail. That's just the law of averages. But most of all they are all human, and they all have a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed immediately in jobs that are not easy. I've always said that what makes Sean Payton great is less about his football knowledge (which is admittedly advanced, and superior to almost anyone offensively), and more ability his ability to recognize mistakes fast enough to fix them. The problem I had with Jim Haslett was he was too hard headed and he stuck with his decisions no matter what once he made them. You have to have the humility and human understanding to realize that regardless of how smart you are, you're going to be wrong sometimes. It's in our nature as imperfect beings. You see in Payton's book that he recognizes this. He has a nice balance of arrogance to stick to his guns when necessary, which you need to be successful, and humility to admit mistakes when he makes them.

Payton spends a significant amount of time in the book discussing his first season in New Orleans, changing the culture of the team, organization, and foundation. With the amount of work, thought and touches that went into his first year, you can see how they became so successful. They probably got good faster than most of us expected, then it took them a little longer to really be an elite team after that. Payton spends very little time talking about years 2 and 3 in the book. The book mostly focuses on his first year coming to New Orleans right after Katrina, and the championship run this past season. The experience of Sean Payton's first season in New Orleans, post Katrina, was a little haunting. Of course I'll never forget Katrina and the effect it had on me and so many of my family members, but I have to admit I forgot slightly just how hard life was when we got home and the city re-opened. Sean Payton was basically operating out of a third world country, and his description of how things were not only from a business standpoint but personally was a painfully descriptive reminder of what life was like at that time in New Orleans. He had to recruit coaches, players, and build an operation under terrible conditions. How he talked anyone to join him is beyond me. In fact, Payton really wanted no part of that as he had his sights set on the Green Bay Packers job, which he admits he wanted. He was crushed when he didn't get it, but later in the book you'll realize he is ultimately glad for how it played out.

Sean Payton is a sensible and rational guy who cares greatly about people and his relationships. I also got from this book that he likes to drink a fair amount. I definitely get that work hard/play hard approach we all know Jeremy Shockey so well for. Hopefully it's on a lesser scale, though!

I'll save some of the revelations for you to read, and I think there is no question whatsoever that if you're reading this review, there is no excuse for you NOT reading Sean Payton's book "Home Team". The bottom line is the book is very informative and entertaining for any Saints fan, and really any NFL fan. Through reading this I found Payton to be human, which made me appreciate him more. He makes mistakes sometimes, which makes him more likable. He talks about decisions he made that could have had more severe consequences, and his fears that they would blow up into something bigger than they actually did. For example, he allowed his team to compete in water slide distances which ultimately injured his starter Scott Fujita. Ultimately, though, he found success because of his attributes: intelligence, honesty, humility, care, and commitment. The city of New Orleans is lucky to be able to count him as one of our own.