As Payton steps aside, winningest Saints coach reflects on 2006, post-Katrina season
NEW ORLEANS - Saints Head Coach Sean Payton arrived in New Orleans at one of its lowest points, when the city and its residents had been brought to their knees by Hurricane Katrina. In that first season back in the Superdome, Payton slowly learned how crucial the team was to the city’s rebirth.
"I don't think any of us when we started, certainly I didn't when I started, understood the dynamics and what took place post-Katrina," Payton said Tuesday during a press conference announcing his departure. "With that '06 season, I would argue, is every bit as important as any other season that we've had here, relative to where this city was and it became much bigger than football."
Payton was hired roughly five months after Katrina left death and devastation across New Orleans. Recalling that time, Payton spoke about arriving in a city many had fled.
"There's a special spot in my heart for the coaches, the staff, the players, everyone who came when 90% of the cars were leaving," Payton said.
In 2006, Payton's first season on the sideline, the Saints went 10-6, making it to the NFC Championship Game. In the years since, his teams have had even more success, but Payton still holds his first in high regard.
"We've had a lot of teams, probably teams that are better than the '06 team, but none tougher than that '06 team," Payton said. "None tougher than that '06 team."
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