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Saints introduce Payton as new coach

NEW ORLEANS -- The latest Bill Parcells protege to get an
NFL head coaching job is Sean Payton. The New Orleans Saints are
hoping he can be as good a turnaround specialist as his mentor.

Payton, a Dallas Cowboys assistant the past three seasons, was
introduced Wednesday as the Saints' new head coach, inheriting a
team that won three times last season and played all its games on
the road because of Hurricane Katrina.

Payton, 42, is taking on his first head coaching job. In Dallas,
he worked with quarterbacks and held the title of assistant head
coach. Before that, he was a New York Giants assistant, a stint
that included that team's NFC championship in 2000.

Payton succeeds Jim Haslett, whose tenure lasted six years. The
Saints went 3-13 in 2005, but were a .500 team during Haslett's
first five seasons combined. The victories include the team's only
playoff win.

Payton, the Saints' 14th head coach, acknowledged the problems
caused by Katrina -- for the team and the New Orleans area.

"Obviously 2005 was a traumatic year for this area, it was a
tough time for this team. I hope that in some small way the effort
of this team in 2006 and beyond will represent this city and this
region well," Payton said.

"Some people would say: 'Stay in Dallas. The situation there is
good.' We're three-quarters of the way through building a brand new
house in Dallas," Payton said. "Hopefully I'm not viewed as a
young, naive coach coming into a situation here. I'm excited about
this opportunity. I know it's a challenge and we're going to roll
our sleeves up."

Payton said being a part of the region's recovery from Katrina
was more of a draw than a drawback, making the opportunity with the
Saints "unique."

"We can impact people's lives in a positive way as they go
through this transition," Payton said. "I think this area, this
community, this region is tough, and our team better reflect that,
too."

In addition to coaching quarterbacks, Payton had a very brief
pro playing career at that position in the CFL and as a Chicago
Bears replacement player during the 1987 strike.

Aaron Brooks, the Saints' starter for most of the past six
seasons, had his worst season in 2005 and was benched for the final
three games. If the Saints keep Brooks they would owe him about
$6.5 million in salary next season.

Payton declined to comment on whether he thought Brooks should
stay, saying it would be unfair to any players on the roster to
decide their fate without studying more film of them.

He added he would not let go of any of Haslett's assistants
without meeting with them first, but expected to bring in some of
his own people.

This is the first coach hired by general manager Mickey Loomis,
who was promoted after team owner Tom Benson fired Randy Mueller in
2002. Mueller, now the Miami Dolphins' general manager, hired
Haslett.

"I believe we've hired a head coach that has what it takes to
bring a championship to this city," Loomis said.

Payton is also the second straight coach hired by the Saints
with no head coaching experience. It worked well early for Haslett,
who took the Saints to the franchise's first playoff victory in his
first season. That was one season, incidentally, after the Saints
had gone 3-13 under Mike Ditka. But New Orleans has missed the
playoffs in the five seasons since.

Loomis made a point of talking about Payton's "pedigree." In
addition to his time with Parcells, Payton has worked with Tampa
Bay coach Jon Gruden (then in Philadelphia) and Carolina coach John
Fox (with the New York Giants), both of whom have been highly
complimentary of the Saints' choice.

"I get nervous when these guys all over the [NFC South]
division are paying me compliments, but they're guys that have an
impact, certainly, in my life," Payton said.

Four other coaches interviewed in New Orleans last week: Jets
defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, Cleveland Browns offensive
coordinator Maurice Carthon, former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman,
and former St. Louis coach Mike Martz.

Payton said he'll be much like Parcells in terms of attention to
detail and discipline.

"There's too many games each weekend that are won in the last
two minutes, less than seven points, and I think the teams that win
those games on a consistent basis are the teams that ... do all the
small things well in the offseason," Payton said. "It's not OK to
be offsides. It's not OK to be late."

He added that he would be "the most selfish guy" when it comes
to which players get on the field.

"I just want to win. So we're going to play the best players
and we'll see what happens," he said.