This week at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix team owners, general managers and coaches met to set new policy, vote on new rules and move the Raiders to Las Vegas. And, just like every other NFL Annual Meeting, the coaches all get asked just about every question you could imagine.
At the NFC head coaches media availability on Wednesday, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was asked about his team’s ability to handle problem children and distractions. The question came as a result of Payton’s meeting in Houston last month with embattled quarterback Johnny Manzel.
Payton’s answer was perfect:
"I think I've got a lot of confidence in our locker room, going on 11, 12 years now. It's been real good. It's been real good. So the leadership currently in place, and maybe that's a little bit more of my personality, but we haven't had players come in while we're here and embarrass what we're trying to do or embarrass our sponsors or community. That's a credit to the players in that locker room and the program that we've built."
It’s what we’ve said for years about teams’ ability to “handle” a gay athlete and the “distraction” he may bring. Leadership can handle anything. Smart and strong locker room leaders set a team-oriented tone and get people to buy-in.
If an NFL coach is worried about the impact of having a gay athlete on his team, he should resign.
"This history of our league has had players of every state, every color, every creed," Payton said of Michael Sam when the out gay player was making his NFL preseason debut. "I think the same thing would apply [with Sam]."
Of course we know the hype about the “distraction” of a gay athlete is also totally overblown as it is.
Payton knows something about building a successful team. He lead the Saints to a Super Bowl win, three division titles, and he has an AP Coach of the Year Award on his mantel.