NEW ORLEANS — Sean Payton was still having some fun on social media Sunday night, after a victory he clearly relished against former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the Los Angeles Rams.
Payton tweeted a link to a video of the song “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King” with the words “Who Dat.”
— Sean Payton (@SeanPayton) November 28, 2016
It was unclear what the Saints coach was referring to. But the song played earlier in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after a Saints touchdown, so it’s unlikely that it was simply a reference to next week’s opponent, the Detroit Lions.
Payton was never directly asked after Sunday’s 49-21 victory if he was extra-enthusiastic because it was his first meeting with Williams since their 2012 divorce and the Bountygate scandal that followed. But Payton was clearly animated on the sideline throughout the game, with fist pumps and smirks. When asked about them afterward, he said, “I was a little excited. … Listen, it was an important win for us.”
Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief acknowledged the obvious after the game, saying, “It does, it means something. There’s more there. So, good for Coach.”
“I didn’t see anything out of him necessarily. I just know better,” Strief said. “The message all week was, ‘Our back’s against the wall. … There’s no room for error.’ At no point did he ever say or act differently that I could see. But I’ll be honest for him and say there’s no way [it didn’t matter that he was facing Williams]. And I understand why people can’t say that. Nothing was different in his actions that I could see. But I know better.”
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro added: “[Payton] was fired up. We all know why.”
The closest Payton came to taking a jab at Williams in his postgame news conference was stressing more than once that he “clearly” thought the Saints’ offensive line won the physical battle up front against the Rams’ defense.
The Saints (5-6) racked up their most points and their biggest margin of victory of the season, with the exclamation point coming on a 50-yard trick-play touchdown pass from receiver Willie Snead to running back Tim Hightower with 10:15 remaining.
Payton and Williams downplayed the significance of their reunion during the week. But their three-year partnership from 2009-11 — which included the only Super Bowl title in Saints history — ended on bad terms even before the bounty scandal erupted. Payton opted to let Williams’ contract expire, feeling that his personality didn’t mesh well with the rest of the staff. Others, such as Drew Brees and Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt, later referred to Williams as having been fired.
The animosity only grew when the Saints suffered unprecedented punishments from the alleged pay-for-injury scheme that was directed by Williams in New Orleans — and the belief that Williams cooperated with the NFL’s investigation. Payton and Williams were suspended for a full season.
Payton has taken snarky jabs on social media before. When the New England Patriots erected a Tom Brady mural on the lighthouse outside their stadium before he served his four-game suspension this year, Payton tweeted a photo of it accompanied by “@Patriots.”