The Saints were 62-34 in Sean Payton's first six seasons with four playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title. They were 7-9 last season without Payton, who was suspended in 2012 for his role in the team's bounty program.
How much is a head coach worth?
Payton's contract extension reportedly will pay him $8 million a season, which is believed to make him the highest-paid coach in any sport.
But Drew Brees said forget trying to link Payton's absence to the team's sub-.500 season.
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"We make zero excuses," Brees said Friday. "We were a much better football team than our record, but unfortunately you are what your record says you are. We don't make any excuses for that. We should have played better. The reason we were 7-9 was because we didn't make the plays we needed to make. It could have been just one or two plays in three or four games that completely change the complexion of our season. Then, we're sitting there at 11-5, talking about a great season and making the playoffs and all those things. But unfortunately, all the things that could have gone wrong and didn't go our way ... "
Brees is the national spokesman for AdvoCare, which drew 25,000 to its Success School at the Fort Worth Convention Center on Friday. Colt McCoy, Jason Witten and Sam Bradford are among other endorsers of AdvoCare, a health and wellness company that sells nutrition, weight loss, energy and sports-performance products, who were in town for the event.
Brees, 34, had his third career 5,000-yard season, but he threw 19 interceptions. A theory exists that Brees wouldn't have thrown that many picks with Payton in his ear, reminding him to be patient, but Brees said there is no correlation.
"I hear him in my ear anyway," Brees said with a chuckle.
One of Payton's first phone calls after he was reinstated was to Brees. Brees said Payton's return gives the Saints a "fresh start."
Since their season ended, the Saints also have added former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. New Orleans is switching to the 3-4 defense after giving up the most yards in NFL history last season.
"I've played against him a long time, back when he was with the Raiders, and Cleveland and last year in Dallas," Brees said. "I like what he does defensively. I like his philosophy. It'll be interesting switching to the 3-4, which you always kind of see what that does to your personnel. But he's got a swagger to him that you've got to like. I think our guys will like it, and they'll respond well to that."
Brees, an Austin Westlake product, will be honored Monday when he goes into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco. Walt Garrison, Eddie Matthews, Bobby Moegle, Shaquille O'Neal, Cat Osterman and Ricky Williams are the other members of the Class of 2012.
McCoy wants fair shake at starter job
All Colt McCoy wants is a chance -- a fair chance. He didn't get that last year in Cleveland when the Browns drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round and named Weeden the starter.
Though McCoy will have to learn his fourth offense and play for his third head coach in four NFL seasons, he is happy about the arrival of new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. McCoy will get the shot he didn't get last year to win the starting job, though the battle could include another yet-to-be named quarterback candidate.
"Honestly, last year was a really weird year," McCoy said at the AdvoCare dinner. "I felt like going into camp I was going to still have an opportunity, and that obviously wasn't there. You don't really accept the role, but you do everything you can to help the team. Football is a team sport, always has been and always will be. I did my best on scout team. I watched all the quarterbacks all across the league every Sunday. I still continue to work on my game.
" ... I'm excited about the changes that have been made. We'll see what happens."
The former Texas star started 21 games in his first two seasons but played only 39 snaps in three games last season. It was the first time since his redshirt freshman season, backing up Vince Young, that he didn't start a game.
"My goals and my dreams, in terms of what I want to accomplish in the NFL, have not changed," said McCoy, who has one year left on his contract. "Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to chase those this year."