Saints coach Sean Payton credits former Bucs coach Jon Gruden
Saints coach Sean Payton took a long road to taking over an NFL club.
Along the way, he got a shot to grow under the tutelage of former Bucs coach Jon Gruden while serving as the Eagles' quarterbacks coach. Gruden was the offensive coordinator at the time.
Payton reflected on those days this week as he prepares for the Super Bowl here in South Florida.
"It was my first opportunity in the NFL and it gave me a chance really to learn," Payton said. "Ray Rhodes was the head coach, but Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan were the guys who were responsible for me getting hired there. I learned a lot in a short period of time working with Jon and that offense. It was a foundation for me that I still hold onto.
"It was a little bit like law school. There were a lot of late nights and a lot of early mornings. I learned about preparation. You come out of college and you get into this league, and you realize that there’s a lot of football that you don’t know. It can be humbling, but yet it was important.”
As you might imagine, Payton and Gruden developed a relationship. They remain close to this day.
"He’s been a big part of my development," Payton said of Gruden. "When I got hired (in Philadelphia) in ’97, just for me to really be a blank tape is what they were looking for, for me to study and learn. It afforded me a great opportunity. He’s someone who is a close friend to this day. He spent some time with our players in training camp. He’s got a great mind. He’s a unique guy and he’s very talented. It’s just like the relationship I would have with (Bill) Parcells. There’s a handful of people in this profession that you try to always stay in touch with them and pick their brain.”