Sean Payton knew Drew Brees' retirement was coming. Mentally preparing to move on from a Hall of Famer doesn't make life any easier in the aftermath.
Payton told Albert Breer of The MMQB that the new reality wouldn't fully set in until the Saints hit the field.
"I think it'll be different the first time we have an OTA, the first time we have a minicamp, or the first time we get into training camp," Payton told Breer. "It hasn't hit you quite yet because you haven't done anything football-related. You're involved in draft work, free-agent work. I'm sure there'll be a couple stages to it where it's the first meeting, first practice and so on."
The Saints are moving forward with an expected competition between Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, and potentially a rookie signal-caller, whenever offseason workouts officially move from the virtual realm onto the field. By all accounts, Hill and Winston have equal shots at winning the gig. If the Saints pulled the trigger on a rookie in the draft, that would throw a wild card into the fray.
Having to play without Brees for nine games over the past two seasons has helped Payton visualize how his offense will need to evolve sans the HOFer under center.
Payton noted that he's been through transitions from franchise cornerstones at other positions. When it comes at quarterback, however, it's always a bit more complicated.
"A transition like this, man, it happens at so many other positions," Payton said. "It's obviously more significant because it's QB and because it's someone like Drew. But I think it's part of what we do, and immediately your focus shifts, which it should, to the next thing, which is the players you have on the field. And the players that are on your roster. ...
"You take [Jonathan] Vilma, you take Jahri Evans, guys that had been here quite a while. It's different, they're not quarterbacks. And yet you get so conditioned to move on. We're not there yet because we haven't any practices, we haven't turned around with something coming up where we're like, 'That's something Drew would've handled.' We haven't had that moment yet. I'm sure there'll be a few of them. But it's a young team, that's what's exciting."