(Nexstar) – The Saints’ return to the Super Dome after Hurricane Katrina was a moment of revival for New Orleans. But before heading off to his next gig in Denver, former Head Coach Sean Payton shared a story of what almost derailed the big moment.
“None of us – players, coaches, front office employees could have prepared ourselves for what that night was going to be like,” Payton said in a sit-down interview with Nexstar’s Jarrett Payton, referencing the return to the Super Dome a year after the devastating floods. “I do have a fun story though.”
In the interview above, Payton relays the story of how intense traffic and an impractical vehicle almost prevented star quarterback Drew Brees from making it to the stadium.
“He got caught on Highway 10 in bumper-to-bumper. Some troopers were able to locate where he was at and help him get to the stadium. It gets worse though,” recalls Payton, who says the team did not normally drive to the stadium.
He says Brees’ old massive Land Rover looked like something you’d take on a safari.
“He pulls up, and he’s pulling into the parking garage, and it’s a concrete parking garage, but his rack on top is too tall,” recalls Payton. “Literally, he gets stuck. His car gets stuck in the entry to the parking garage.”
Payton says Brees was two hours late, and in line for a fine, so he just handed the keys to someone else so that they could deal with it.
“I think the car is still stuck there,” said Payton.
The Saints would go on to win the division and claim the city’s first Super Bowl a few years later.
Payton went 161-97, including playoffs, in 15 seasons in New Orleans before stepping down last year when Brees retired. He took over a moribund Saints team that had gone 3-13 in 2005 and led them to a 10-6 record and an appearance in the NFC championship game in his first season with the Saints.
Now he’ll attempt a similar turnaround in Denver, where he was named head coach last week.
“I think it’s realistic for our fanbase to expect a completely different type of culture. And I think it’s realistic for them to expect us to win,” Payton said of the challenge.
If starting quarterback Russell Wilson’s new coach asks what kind of car he drives, we now know why.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.