METAIRIE, La. -- Sean Payton brushed off speculation that he might emerge as a candidate for other jobs at the end of this season by saying it's something that comes up "yearly now," instead of just every three or four years, like it used to.
"I'll say what I've said before: This is where I see myself. And I've said that now for however many years," said Payton, who is in his 10th year as coach of the New Orleans Saints, with two years left on his contract.
"I think that happens when you're in Year 10 and you're not having success. There's this, 'Well, is there another job he'd be interested in?'" said Payton, whose Saints are off to a 1-4 start following a 7-9 finish last season. "My point is, if you predict that every year, at some point somebody's gonna be right, whether you retire or you finish or you're let go. I think that's just a little bit of the nature of our game right now.
"I don't know what else to say. I love it here, I'm close to my children [who live in Dallas]. I just built a brand-new place here. So you get tired of answering the questions, and yet I understand you asking."
Payton rattled off the list of past reports and rumors, which included the Dallas Cowboys twice, Michigan twice, Texas and general speculation from Sports Illustrated's Peter King last year that Payton might start to feel wanderlust, like his mentor Bill Parcells used to.
Payton stressed that such reports aren't a distraction for the team, and he said, "You ignore half that stuff and obviously dismiss it." But he said he does pay attention to such reports because "as a head coach, you pay attention to all those things that are threatening."
"But what'll happen now, though -- let me just talk about how it's refueled -- what will happen is [this] will be the lead news item, and it really shouldn't be," Payton said. "It should be more about, 'Hey, why aren't we having success? What do we need to do to improve?' But that will sell, and I understand why and how.
"So as a head coach, I think the most important thing is your own team and focusing on the next game. And I think our players understand this industry well enough."
Payton said coaches talk all the time about "tuning out the noise," and he said he believes "the focus of our team is dead square on getting better."
Asked whether there is legitimate concern about a coach's message growing stale or being tuned out after 10 years and whether that's something he has needed to guard against, Payton said, "I think that some of the challenges we're going through now are just the youth of a team, and obviously we've got a bunch of young guys playing. But I think as a staff and as a head coach, I would say we pay close attention to the details and changing things up.
"Yeah, there are times where I feel like, 'Man, they've heard me say this before,'" Payton said. "And then if I really count how many in the room have heard it, it would probably be six or eight and not 48."
Payton reiterated that he likes the attitude, mindset and buy-in from this year's team, after the Saints overhauled the roster and tried to overhaul the culture when that wasn't the case last season. The Saints have 11 rookies on a roster that turned over by roughly 50 percent following last season.
"I think absolutely [players are buying in]," Payton said. "I think we've got a group that's very focused. I think they understand the margin for error we're playing with. And they understand what wins and loses.
"So I think that's the thing that's inspiring as a coach because easily when all of a sudden you're 1-4, you can feel like, 'Man, are we having to pull teeth to get a good practice in or to get an install in?' I would say we're ahead of where we were a year ago with regards to the culture."