New Orleans introduces Payton as coach

Associated Press
Published January 19, 2006

NEW ORLEANS - The latest Bill Parcells protege to get a coaching job is Sean Payton. The Saints are hoping he can be as good a turnaround specialist as his mentor.

Payton, a Cowboys assistant the past three seasons, was introduced Wednesday as the Saints' coach, inheriting a team that won three times last season and played all its games on the road after Hurricane Katrina.

Payton, 42, is taking on his first coaching job. In Dallas he worked with quarterbacks and also was assistant head coach. Before that he was a Giants assistant, a stint that included that team's NFC championship in 2000.

Payton succeeds Jim Haslett, whose tenure lasted six years. The Saints went 3-13 in 2005 but were a .500 team in Haslett's first five seasons. The victories include the team's only playoff win.

Payton, the Saints' 14th coach, acknowledged the problems caused by Katrina for the team and the New Orleans area.

"Obviously 2005 was a traumatic year for this area, it was a tough time for this team. I hope that in some small way the effort of this team in 2006 and beyond will represent this city and this region well," Payton said.

"Some people would say, "Stay in Dallas. The situation there is good.' We're three-quarters of the way through building a brand new house in Dallas," Payton said. "Hopefully I'm not viewed as a young, naive coach coming into a situation here. I'm excited about this opportunity. I know it's a challenge and we're going to roll our sleeves up."

Payton said being a part of the region's recovery from Katrina was more draw than drawback.

"We can impact people's lives in a positive way as they go through this transition," Payton said. "I think this area, this community, this region is tough, and our team better reflect that, too."

In addition to coaching quarterbacks, Payton had a very brief pro playing career at that position in the CFL and as a Bears replacement player in the 1987 strike.

BILLS: Former Packers coach Mike Sherman interviewed, bringing the team a step closer to hiring a coach. Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold confirmed Sherman met with the team but wouldn't provide details.

Sherman was the third candidate, the second with NFL coaching experience, to interview to replace Mike Mularkey. Lions interim coach Dick Jauron, who had spent five years as head coach of the Bears, interviewed Tuesday.

Jauron and Sherman are considered the front-runners, providing team owner Ralph Wilson and new general manager Marv Levy a clear choice of whether to go with an offensive- or defensive-minded coach. Jauron, a former Pro Bowl defensive back, is a defensive specialist, and Sherman has solely coached offense. The team also interviewed Bills special teams coordinator Bobby April.

CHARGERS: Offensive line coach Carl Mauck and assistant secondary coach Albert Lewis were fired. Each had a year left on his contract.

Mauck was hired last offseason after Hudson Houck went to Miami. The Chargers returned their entire line from the team that won the AFC West title in 2004, although left tackle Roman Oben got hurt on Oct. 30 and didn't play again. The line struggled late in the season, when the Chargers lost three of their last four games to miss the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons, finishing 9-7.

CHIEFS: An assault case was dismissed against running back Larry Johnson, who had been accused of shoving a woman in a bar. The case was thrown out Tuesday, municipal court administrator Bernard Schneider said Wednesday. He was unable to provide further information.

A woman from Overland Park, Kan., had contended that Johnson shoved her at a Kansas City bar. The woman said she had been involved with the player for years.

Johnson's attorney, Kevin E. J. Regan, said the defense was ready for the trial to start but that prosecutors weren't. Regan asked for the case to be dismissed because it was the third time the prosecution was unable to proceed.

GIANTS: Peter Giunta was hired as secondary coach a day after Ron Milus was fired. Giunta spent the past five seasons as Chiefs defensive backs coach. Before that he was Rams defensive coordinator for four seasons, including the team's Super Bowl victory in 2000. He also coached the Jets defensive backfield in 1995-96.