Although New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton may be suspended for the entire season, his spirit and presence was felt in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last night in the 27-24 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fans brought Payton to the game in a variety of ways with t-shirts screaming the phrase “Free Sean Payton” to handheld masks bearing the coach’s trademark “you just screwed up your assignment” pursed-lip scowl.
During one break in the action, the video boards showed Saints Super Fan “Whistle Monster” going over a play calling sheet with a fan dressed up to look like Payton but wearing a Groucho Marx mask with eyeglasses and mustache as a disguise
One fan went through my area in Section 141 waving a huge sign entirely of Payton’s face, prompting the entire section to begin chanting, “Free Sean Payton” so loud, players like offensive tackle Zach Strief turned around and grinned with approval.
Strief has been vocal in his thoughts that the suspension of Payton as well as the dark cloud of the bounty investigation has created an “us against the world” mentality, bringing the players as well the fans closer together than ever before.
Interim head coach Joe Vitt disagreed with the concept though in a press conference and stated that the team will follow a simple phrase uttered by Payton the day he left to begin his suspension which has also become a battle cry for Saints fans: “DO YOUR JOB”.
If last night’s meager crowd for a preseason game is any indication of how the fan’s feel about their beloved head coach, the opening home game against the Washington Redskins on September 9th will prompt NFL security investigators to respond to thousands of Payton sightings.