ORLANDO, Fla. -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on Wednesday denied that there is any bad blood with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, despite a rather animated exchange when their two teams squared off in Week 17, a game the Bucs won 31-24.
“Not at all,” said Payton, who is serving as the head coach of the NFC team at the Pro Bowl.
“Listen, he’s a great coach and a good friend and when you get into these games, you just get going 100 miles an hour,” Payton said. “I know he’s building his team, and I like just meeting some of [Koetter's] guys who are out here. But it’s all good.”
Payton and Koetter exchanged aggressive, friendly chest slaps during the coaches’ handshake. Then Payton brought up the Week 9 scuffle in which Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans launched himself into the back of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore after quarterback Jameis Winston tapped Lattimore on the back of the helmet. Evans was slapped with a one-game suspension while Winston was fined.
In video captured by Tampa’s Fox 13 WTVT-TV, Payton can be heard telling Koetter, “Here’s the thing, I got pissed in the last game,” before Koetter replied, “Because I couldn’t see it.”
Payton grimaced and started to walk away before Koetter said, “Hey, Sean, if I would’ve seen it ...”
But Payton said, “Come on,” and walked away.
Koetter explained afterward that he was merely wishing Payton "good luck" in the playoffs. Koetter had also said that at the time of the Week 9 scuffle, he had not seen the exchange between Evans and Lattimore in real time because he was focused on calling the next play.
Koetter has also said on multiple occasions he’s drawn inspiration from Payton as a playcaller.
The respect is mutual with Payton, who even had breakfast with one of Koetter’s captains, Gerald McCoy, on Wednesday morning. Payton named McCoy one of the NFC team captains for the Pro Bowl. McCoy said that the exchange with Koetter was not part of the breakfast.
“Through the years, when you look at it, when [Koetter] was in Atlanta, his backup quarterback was Luke McCown," Payton said. "And then we had Luke McCown. So there’s been so many ties to his offense, players that have played for him and for us, so it’s all been good and we’ve got a ton of respect for what those guys do.”
ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report