By Simon Evans
Defensive end Will Smith has no doubt that his coach has been the key factor in turning around the Saints.
Smith told reporters: "He's meant a lot. When Sean came in he cleaned house a little bit. He kept the guys that he thought really wanted to be there and wanted to play. He's brought on a lot of terrific guys, not only great players but great people.
"He always talked about changing the culture, working hard and doing all of the little things that we hadn't done in the past when we hadn't had any success."
Payton, 46, is not the kind of NFL coach who stands expressionless behind a clipboard while the action unveils in front of him - he is animated throughout, showing his frustration and his joy.
Payton, whose career included two years working as an assistant at the Dallas Cowboys to two-times Super Bowl winner Bill Parcells, feels there was no conscious decision to be so visibly involved in the game.
Perhaps it is because Payton failed to make the grade as a player that he seems to live every minute of the game.
"I would call him a players' coach," said Smith. "Sometimes he thinks he's a player, even though he really never had a chance to play.
Payton is not keen on such a description though.
"The whole players' coach thing, I cringe a little bit," he said. "I think it's important that you're demanding. I think it's important that you're fair. I think you don't want to settle for anything less than exactly what you're looking for.
"It's not our job to be the players' friend. It's our job to teach and motivate, give them a plan to be successful and make tough decisions."
The plan is working so far.
(Editing by Dave Thonpson)