Sean Payton smart to face crisis head on, answer questions


New Orleans Saints head coach [for six more days] Sean Payton is smart.

True, he’s a Super Bowl-winning football coach and a franchise-resurrecting personality. He also knows how to manage a crisis.

The National Football League dropped a ton of hurt on Payton — essentially doing to him what he and his former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams tried to do to opposing players. The NFL knocked him off the field and out of the game for a year. Talk about a vicious hit. He forfeited his 2012 salary.

Williams, under Payton, paid players bonuses for hurting and knocking out of games other teams’ key players. That’s a no-no, unless you’re coaching from the Pentagon against the Taliban.

Payton, left, starts his year-long banishment April 1. The NFL owners and general managers meet this week at the [appropriately named] Breakers in Palm Beach. Payton decided to face the media there, much to the surprise of some of ESPN’s most knowledgeable NFL experts. They seemed to think he’d stay back in the Big Easy going over 2012 draft options and game planning with his staff.

Apparently, based on reports Sunday, Payton plans to step in front of the cameras this week and answer media questions that are sure to take him beyond the initial statement issued on his behalf. Why is this smart?

First, because he would have to do it at some point; might as well get it over with.

Next, he gets a chance to start his rehabilitation. He’s already apologized and taken responsibility — smart crisis management moves there as well — but now he gets to do it with sincerity only a personal appearance can match. He presumably wants to return to the Saints in 2013.

Finally, he’ll get a chance to put the crisis behind him by exhausting all the questions about it.

Assuming he’s truthful, factual and there are no hidden allegations that come out in the future, he’ll be able to re-emerge as a transformed leader. The suspension will cost him his $6 million salary and probably some endorsements.

How he handles the news conference and the media may win him a job at ESPN, Fox, CBS or NBC commenting on pro football.

That’s the cynic’s reason he’s coming forward now. But either way, for whatever reason, he’s smart.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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