Sean Payton estimates that for the first 24 hours, he was filled with anger. After that, the New Orleans head coach said, he was filled with disappointment – and ice cream, with hours logged in front of the television.
It’s been a week and a half since the Saints lost the NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, a game that was overshadowed by a controversial no-call from the officiating crew that’s still being talked about with Super Bowl LIII just a few days away.
“I would say honestly after the game for two to three days, much like normal people, I sat, probably didn’t come out of my room, I ate Jeni’s ice cream, and watched Netflix for three straight days,” Payton said Wednesday. “There are certain vices you gravitate to. For me, it’s probably sugar.”
The source of the anger came late in the fourth quarter, when a Saints-led Drew Brees drive stalled with a controversial no-call from officials on an incomplete pass to Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. The crowd wanted a flag for either pass interference or helmet-to-helmet contact on a defenseless receiver by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. It wasn’t thrown.
Instant replay doesn’t cover judgment calls. The Rams went on to win in overtime.
Payton says the first time he spoke with anyone was in the locker room right after the game, and to Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating.
“He was brutally honest (about the blown call),” Payton said. “That came from him directly and then after that briefly on Monday, and Tuesday I spoke with Troy (Vincent) and Roger (Goodell) and it was just brief.”
Payton said he came to the realization early on that nothing was going to change.
“My discussions briefly on Monday and Tuesday with the commissioner and with Troy were relative to just not any type of reversal or anything like that,” Payton said. “It was just simply the play and any statement. There’s tons of people that reach out to you. You receive a ton of text messages and emails. You’re appreciative of all that and then you just want to disappear into your cave for a while.”
On Wednesday, most of the questions at Goodell’s press conference focused on the no-call. Goodell said it was not under consideration by him to overturn the game and have it replayed.
“We understand the frustration of the fans,” Goodell said. “Talked to coach (Sean) Payton, the team, the players. We understand the frustration that they feel right now, and we certainly want to address that.
“Whenever officiating is a part of any kind of discussion post-game, it’s never a good outcome for us,” Goodell continued. “We know that. Our clubs know that. Our officials know that. But we also know our officials are human. We also know that they’re officiating a game where they very quickly have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances. And they’re not going to get it right every time. As I said, they’re human.”
When asked if a public statement from the league – which Goodell has since made – would make any difference at this point, Payton said, “Again, I’m back to the ice cream and the Netflix. There is a point where you know that things are not changing and then you get wrapped up in a new series, a new episode, and then it comes back again and then you get wrapped up in a new series, a new episode, so.”
Asked what he watched, Payton said, “Listen, you watch the Ted Bundy tapes, then all of a sudden you watch a series called ‘You’ and it’s like when Ted Bundy met Dawson’s Creek. It’s brutal.”
Payton is part of the competition committee, which Goodell said will discuss any possible changes to instant replay rules. As of now, Payton said he doesn’t have a solution he’ll try to advance.
“Certainly there’ll be topics like this that are brought up,” Payton said. “The topic is one thing; the solution is the more challenging thing that we’re all looking for.”
As for getting over it?
“We have to be able to get past that, and we will,” Payton said. “We have good leadership on this team and I don’t know that you ever completely get over it, but I think you do get past it. There’s enough resolve I think that this time away is healthy and when it starts back up again in the spring and we’ll look at that calendar, you get back at it again.”