Mike TriplettESPN Staff WriterClose
- Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
- Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
- Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate
METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton had quite the display waiting for his players this week when they started preparing for Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Payton brought three armed guards, a stack of more than $200,000 in cash, the Vince Lombardi Trophy and a Super Bowl ring into the team meeting room Monday to give his players added motivation.
The cash represents how much money they stand to make in playoff bonuses if they go all the way — a total of $201,000, according to the collective bargaining agreement.
“Guys make good money here. But not too often you see $250,000 cash right there. So that was very appealing,” Saints running back Mark Ingram said. “The Lombardi sitting right there in front of it, the ring sitting right in front of it, the armed guards. It was pretty dope. But we still gotta go out there and do what we do.”
Payton had used a similar tactic before the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl run — although only three players on the current roster were around for that.
“That’s definitely motivating,” Ingram said. “Of course, everybody’s playing to be champions. But that trophy, that bread, all that’s on the line. It’s just another little way to get us going.
“I told ’em I want my presentation to look just like that. I want ’em to come to my house. Lombardi, the glass box of cash, my ring, all that … armed guards. I want that same presentation. I don’t want no direct deposits coming from the playoffs. I want all my cash coming to the crib looking just like they had it the other day. That was nice.”
Added Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins: “If you saw all that money in front of you, anybody would get excited about that. And I’m right along with them.”
Payton’s motivational tactic was first revealed on social media by a local attorney, then confirmed by players.
“We all know what’s at stake,” defensive end Alex Okafor said. “I think everybody in this locker room wants a Super Bowl. But there’s just seeing something in person that just adds a little bit more motivation. And just seeing that Super Bowl trophy, seeing that cash … I mean, if you ain’t ready to play after that, then we don’t need you.
“Like, ‘It’s legit now. We in this thing now.’ The first-round bye, we were at home watching games, so it’s kind of like we were chilling. We didn’t feel the edge like we needed to, just because we were at home. But now that we came this week and Sean popped it off like that, ‘OK. It’s time.'”
Payton has become known for his creative motivational tactics over the years — putting mouse traps around the facility to warn players against “eating the cheese,” dressing like Patriots coach Bill Belichick to give a mock scouting report on his players, and flying in mascots from their alma maters.
“It was a very Sean type of thing to do, so I thought it was cool,” Saints defensive tackle Tyeler Davison said.
“Sean does a great job of getting us ready,” Rankins said. “He kind of knows what buttons to push and how to pique guys’ interest and get guys even more excited than they already are to go and play a playoff game.”
But players also stressed that Payton is even better at laying out what they need to do to win against the Eagles on Sunday.
“It was just Sean trying to give everybody a vision, especially the young guys, as to what we’re after and the opportunity we have, especially as the No. 1 seed,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “It all comes through this place. But first things first: This game’s the most important game of the season. And I think we’ve taken that approach each and every game this year. So when you do that, and you get to a playoff game and everyone talks about, ‘Now it’s the playoffs,’ well, is the preparation any different?
“No. We’ve been approaching it this way the whole time. We always expect their best. We always expect to go out and execute to perfection. So let’s just go play ball.”