NEW ORLEANS (AP) Sean Payton wonders what people would say about his relationship with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan if they saw the Saints coaches digging candy out of a jar in Ryan's office while reviewing game video.
On the sideline, Payton and Ryan have been seen barking back and forth numerous times when the Saints' defense has been gashed. After practice on Friday, it sounded as if the coaches were on a public relations campaign to make sure their partnership isn't unduly judged by their sometimes testy sideline relationship.
''I don't admire many people outside of my own family. But Sean's at the top of the list,'' said Ryan, son of former NFL coach Buddy Ryan and brother of current New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. ''You know, people don't know Sean. They don't know this guy's a great father, a great man. He's genuine. He's the easiest guy in the world to work for because he's just good people And they see us, whatever, talking on the sideline. I mean, give me a break.
''The two best coaches in the league right now are Sean and Bill Belichick,'' Ryan continued. ''I've been fortunate to work for both. And both of them have ripped my (rear end) on the sideline.''
Ryan joined New Orleans in 2013, inheriting a defense that in 2012 had allowed an NFL-record 7,042 yards. In one season, Ryan improved the unit enough that it ranked fourth in yards allowed.
This season hasn't gone as smoothly. New Orleans currently ranks second-to-last in yards allowed (390.5 per game) and last in percentage of third-down stops (47.4).
As recently as last Sunday's victory at Pittsburgh, Payton could be seen shouting at Ryan - and Ryan yelling back - after a penalty for 12 defenders on the field. But Payton later said people should be used to seeing him yell at assistant coaches and players alike when things go wrong.
Payton added on Friday that Ryan possess qualities that both he and his mentor, Bill Parcells, have looked for in their assistants.
''He's passionate. He's there late. It means everything to him and he's got thick skin,'' Payton said. ''Shoot. I'm in his office eating - he's got like a candy store in there at midnight, everything under the sun, and looking at third-down film.''
Ryan, likewise, said he appreciates his boss' intensity and competitiveness.
''Trust me, I can handle intense people, and I love being around those guys,'' Ryan added. ''My father, too - he was no cupcake. So I love toughness.''
Notes: The Saints' two outdoor grass practice fields are currently being dug up. Payton said there is a drainage problem and the fields won't be able for use again until spring, meaning the team will have to use its indoor, artificial turf field to prepare for next week's outdoor game at Chicago.
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