While Sean Payton isn’t around because of his season-long suspension, he apparently left his bag of motivational tricks to his coaching staff before departing the Saints training facility in April.
Known for getting his message across to his players, whether it’s putting an empty gas can in a locker or hanging mouse traps from the ceiling of the meeting rooms, Payton knows how — and exactly when — to push the right buttons when it’s needed.
Having learned at the hand of future Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells has served Payton well.
He’s left gas cans to remind players they have to have something left in the tank and the mouse traps tell players to not reach for the cheese when they think they’re good enough and can’t lose.
If he had been around this week, Payton would certainly have come up with something for the Saints.
Already in an 0-2 hole, Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is huge because they can’t afford to sink deeper into the NFC South cellar.
When the Saints walked into their locker room early Wednesday morning, there was a small, round mirror affixed to each player’s locker.
The message, which was mentioned many times after Sunday’s 35-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers, was to look in the mirror to see what you can do to help change the situation.
Tackle Zach Strief, one of the Saints’ offensive captains, said it certainly was Payton-like.
The message certainly was the same.
“I think it’s a way to remind guys to have them look in the mirror and say, ‘What can I do?’ ” he said. “Because you don’t want guys pointing fingers and you don’t want guys looking around saying, ‘Who’s messing up … who’s not playing well enough?’ ”
Strief said that’s easy enough to do in the meeting rooms early in the week, but the message is reinforced later in the week.
“Maybe after practice on Thursday, you’re not thinking about it until you walk in and see mirror after mirror after mirror after mirror,” he said. “You say, ‘What can I do?’
“Maybe you have an extra 10 minutes and you get a little more film in. You keep trying to get better, and hopefully, that improvement translates into wins.”
The Saints can certainly use it because they need a win in the worst way Sunday with a trip to play the Green Bay Packers next week, which will be followed by a meeting with the 2-0 San Diego Chargers.
“We have to find some positives, and more than anything, we have to put our heads down and try and get better,” Strief said.
A long look in the mirror should tell all about the disappointment they’ve felt so far.
“It’s disappointing,” he said. “Our staff has always stressed to us that last season doesn’t count, reputation doesn’t count. Every year is a new year and a new team, and you have to go out and prove yourself. We really haven’t done that yet.”