Payton has yet to formally address the team and until that happens, kicker Wil Lutz is happy to reflect on the time spent under Payton in New Orleans, like his first game with the Saints in 2016 when he was asked to kick his first game-winning field goal.
It was against the Oakland Raiders.
“Here I am this wide-eyed 21-year-old,” recounted Lutz. “I’ve only kicked two field goals and I’m being asked to kick a 61-yarder and he calls me over and he was like, ‘Dude, just have fun. you’re playing with house money. Just go out there and have fun.’ That really hit me differently.
“I think a lot of coaches could put pressure on people in that moment but at the end of the day I kind of got that gratification that whether I make it or miss it, he was behind me.”
It was the first of what would become many game-winners for Lutz and the Payton-led Saints.
Six years, four division titles and four playoff appearances later, Lutz has become a fixture in the Saints locker room. It is a locker room that was blown away by the news that Payton’s time with the Saints is ending.
“The initial reaction has been a little shocking,” admitted Lutz. “I’ve been refreshing Twitter every two minutes to see what guys are saying. I think everyone is so grateful for their time with coach that while we wish he was still our coach; we’ll move forward as a team.”
As for their now-former head coach, many believe that after 16 years (15 seasons), 160 wins and a championship trophy, Payton will not be out of coaching for long.
“For him to not get back into coaching I think would not be fair to him. He’s won a Super Bowl, and he’s one of the best to ever do it, said Lutz. “We’ll have to wait and see but as talented of a coach as he is. I would highly doubt that he’s done for good.”