Sean Payton regrets end of regular season

NEW ORLEANS -- There hasn’t been a lot of room to question Sean Payton’s coaching decisions the last couple of seasons. But the coach of the New Orleans Saints questioned himself Tuesday morning.

While speaking to reporters at the coaches breakfast during the NFL owners meeting, Payton said he had regrets about the way he handled the end of the 2010 regular season.

“I beat myself up or what if the last game of the year where Atlanta is playing Carolina at the same time we’re playing Tampa,’’ Payton said. “There’s always that outside chance that you feel like something could happen differently and the fact that that involved a No. 1 seed was pretty significant. It was played at the same time but playing that game differently and resting some guys.’’

Payton’s voice trailed off as he mentioned the fact Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Ivory and Jimmy Graham all got hurt in that game and had to miss the playoff game at Seattle.

“I “what if?’’ that a little bit,’’ Payton said.

The Saints lost that game to Tampa Bay, 23-13. They ended up as the No. 5 seed and had to go on the road to Seattle, where they lost the next week. In hindsight, Payton said clinging to only the slightest hope Atlanta would lose to Carolina and give the Saints a chance to grab the No. 1 seed might have been a mistake.

“I don’t know that we felt like Carolina had a chance to win that game,’’ Payton said. “It’s hard to say that. But it would have been a game three years ago if Jake Delhomme is the quarterback. Then maybe they might have had a chance.’’

Umm, memo to Carolina general manager Marty Hurney: Payton knows a thing or two about quarterbacks, so you might want to draft one because that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of Jimmy Clausen.