AJC- Sean Payton said he regretted making a choke gesture toward Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.
“Listen, the mistake I made that night was letting my emotions get the best of me,” Payton said during a conference call with the Atlanta media on Wednesday in advance of a rematch Sunday. “It’s the same thing that we talk about with our players all of the time. It wasn’t good and I felt like as that game went on, it even affected me in calling plays. I’ve got to better that way. It was frustrating from some of the officiating. But you learn even when you’ve been in this thing as long as I have. It’s something that you regret and you look back on ‘what are you doing?’ So, I think that’s the thing that bugged me for the better part of the week.”
I only have one problem with Sean Payton trying to get in the head of an opposing player who - somewhat forgetfully in all this - went on to nearly fumble away the game later in that very same fourth quarter, and that's the fact that he didn't own up to it earlier. This incident surely would have came up at some point during the week leading up to a quick rehashing of a heated rivalry, but the Saints' head coach could have saved himself some questioning if he just came clean on what was a fairly harmless jab at the Falcons' inability to avoid abject failure.
And honestly, I don't know why he felt like he had to play dumb. Engaging an opposing player with the universal gesture for crumbling under pressure isn't the most professional thing that an authority figure can do from the sideline, but - since the target of it even appreciated the competitiveness it took to do so - I have a tough time feeling differently. I guess it could become a problem if Sean Payton spent a majority of the game screaming at those who he's supposed to be game planning against like an annoying little brother that had nothing better to do than draw a reaction, but there's nothing wrong with the random act of mockery. I don't want him to start making all the calls out of anger and frustration, but that gut of his is pretty damn accomplished.
So yeah, not all that concerned that a little trash talk completely threw off the game management of someone who generally thrives off feel, even if that feel was the fist of the officials pounding on his team's prostate. Considering that same type of passion was largely absent the last few seasons, I think I'm actually inclined to welcome the occasional mishap in harnessing it. Especially if it ends up being directed at the fucking Atlanta Falcons.