What started out as an adventurous trip to New Orleans for Thanksgiving last years may become an annual event for wife Susan, daughter Denise and yours truly.
We decided to do it again this year and for the second straight time we definitely weren’t disappointed mingling with the different lifestyles found in the Crescent City.
Last year during the Thanksgiving weekend the city was in a state of euphoria over the fact the New Orleans Saints were still undefeated going into the month of December.
As it turned out, our Dallas Cowboys ventured to New Orleans and soundly defeated the Saints, ruining their vision of duplicating the feat of the 1972 Miami Dolphins by running the table by going through the entire 2009 schedule and playoffs undefeated.
Of course good things did happen for the Saints after the Cowboys left town as they lost their last two games but regained their composure and won the Super Bowl.
This year the Saints had already lost three games and were playing on Turkey Day for the first time in their franchise’s history. And their opponent was none other than the Dallas Cowboys in their brand new stadium in Arlington.
There had been plenty of concern about the Dallas Cowboys all week before the big game last Thursday, but it wasn’t about the upcoming game. It was about the fact the Cowboys had an interim head coach after Wade Phillips was let go and the NFL fans and the newspaper in New Orleans were dead certain that Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones was going to find the best coach for his team.
There was no doubt in Southeastern Louisiana that the best coach in the NFL is Sean Payton, who came to the Saints by way of the Dallas Cowboys. And the folks down there were certain that Jones was going to try to entice or even bribe their coach to come back to Big D.
Thursday’s edition of The Times Picayune had a huge colored photo plastered on the front page of the special Thanksgiving Day newspaper of Payton decked out in his Dallas Cowboys coaching gear talking to quarterbacks Tony Romo and Vinny Testaverde during a Nov. 25, 2004 game against the Chicago Bears.
The sub-headline read: “Sean Payton returns to his old turf, where he is remembered for his drive and talent as Dallas’ assistant head coach.” The story that went with the art revealed that Payton was just another of Bill Parcells’ disciples, a hard-working Dallas Cowboys assistant coach who stayed away from the limelight.
The article, written by Picayune staff writer Nakia Hogan pointed out that Payton served as an assistant in Dallas from 2003-2005 and was an astute coach with a great mind for attacking defenses before becoming head coach of the Saints.
“Well for me, it was an important training ground,” Payton said. “Organizationally, being with that team was very helpful. From a coaching aspect, working under Bill, it was a very important stop for me professionally. And in those three years, I learned a lot.”
And since arriving in New Orleans, the Saints’ offense has annually ranked among the NFL’s best, as Payton has led them to two NFC title games and last season’s Super Bowl.
Cowboys’ interim coach Jason Garrett spent three years with Payton in New York, serving as the New York Giants’ backup quarterback while absorbing all the knowledge he could from the young play-caller.
“I consider Sean a good friend,” Garrett said. “I consider him a mentor, someone I had a great time playing for in New York. I played for him for three years. I learned a tremendous amount from him about playing quarterback, offensive football and really about style of coaching as well. I cherish that time we had together because I learned so much from him.”
And in a related article in the sports section the same day columnist Jeff Duncan explained why Saints fans don’t have to fear Jones rustling Payton to Dallas. He said that Saints’ fans grew nervous fearing Jones’ lecherous intentions.
They feared the deep-pocketed Texan would rustle into town and hi-jack their beloved head coach with a windfall package of cash and draft picks. “The thought of the hated Cowboys stealing their Super Bowl-winning coach away knotted Saints’ fans guts like a day-old Lucky Dog,” Duncan wrote.
In his book “Home Team”, Payton spends two chapters rehashing his time as a Cowboys assistant, painting Jerry Jones in a favorable light and said that he and Jones were “beer buds” and “wine wagerers.”
“Payton isn’t going anywhere,” Duncan wrote. “And I’ll tell you why. He has a better job right now. That might be a ridiculous notion, considering the Cowboys five Super Bowls. They have the biggest payroll, the most audacious stadium, the highest franchise value and the prettiest cheerleaders.
“Dallas has a high maintenance owner and a high-maintenance general manager. They’re both named Jerry Jones. Jones is judge, jury and executioner on every personnel decision. Imprudent personnel decisions are one of the many reasons the Cowboys have failed to sustain success under Jones during the past decade and a half.
“The Saints, meanwhile, are trending upward. Under Payton they’re 4-1 in the post-season since 2006, with a Super Bowl and an NFC championship game appearance on their resumes. They’re primed to make another post-season run this season and figure to be in the playoff mix until at least Baylen Brees’ grade school years.
“This is Payton’s team, his franchise, his town. He owns them. In Dallas, he wouldn’t even own the best parking spot at Valley Ranch. As we’ve seen over the years, with flea-flickers, the Superdome Specials and Ambush onside kicks, Sean Payton does a lot of crazy things. But one crazy thing he won’t do is Dallas,” the article concludes.
KWICKIES…It’s hard to believe that TCU has agreed to join the Big East Conference starting in 2012. From a geographic standpoint it’s idiotic. However, from a competitive standpoint it’s a genius move, giving the Horned Frogs an opportunity to finally be recognized on a broader basis. Betcha the first question some of those East Coast writers will ask is what’s a horned frog?
Two Orange area NFL players got into the scoring act Sunday as Bridge City’s Matt Bryant kicked his third game-winning field goal as Atlanta beat the Green Bay Packers 20-17. Former West Orange-Stark and Texas Longhorn star Earl Thomas scored a touchdown after scooping up a blocked punt and scampering 10 yards into the end zone. Although the Seattle Seahawks were defeated at home by the feisty Kansas City Chiefs 42-24, Earl racked up seven solo tackles to increase his team-leading number to 53 and his total tackles to 63, which is tied for second on the team. He remains fifth in the NFL with five interceptions, behind veterans Asante Samuel, DeAngelo Hall, Aqib Talib and tied with rookie Devin McCourty.
It’s a shame all five Southeast Texas high school football teams were eliminated last weekend from the state playoffs by quite wide margins of victory. Gone from the field are Kirbyville (lost to Coldspring 27-20), East Chambers (lost to Cameron Yoe 45-29), Port Neches-Groves (lost to Manvel 56-46), Port Arthur Memorial (lost to Houston Memorial 34-20) and Evadale (lost to Falls City 52-14).
And congrats to weekend golfing partner Craig Couvillion for making an eagle-3 on the Par-5 No. 18 hole at Sunset Grove Country Club Saturday. He got on the green in two and sunk a 25-foot putt for the Eagle to finish the round with a two-over-par 73.
JUST BETWEEN US…By the time this Korner hits the streets, the punishment phase of Sunday’s fracas between Houston’s All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson and Tennessee’s All-Pro cornerback Cortland Finnegan that was won by the Texans 20-0 will already have been decided. But from this Korner’s viewpoint there’s no way NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should dole out equal punishment to both players. Finnegan has a reputation for being an aggressive competitor (dirty player) while Johnson practically wears a halo week-in and week-out. Finnegan was aggravated that his team was getting its collective butts kicked by the Texans and took out his frustration on the mild-mannered Johnson, who apologized to his teammates immediately after the game in the locker room. Actually the officiating crew could have nipped the fight in the bud by flagging Finnegan for taking cheap shots at Johnson earlier in the game.