The New Orleans Saints are officially looking for a new head coach after Sean Payton stepped down from the role on Tuesday. During his farewell press conference, Payton touched on a number of moments from his 16-year tenure in New Orleans and, on top of being asked about some of his more famous accomplishments, he was also asked about some of his biggest regrets. While Peyton noted that he had plenty to regret, letting linebacker Rob Ninkovich leave the organization was one that he specifically highlighted.
"My biggest regret first, besides the Ninkovich debacle, would be the double reverse against Tampa Bay. We ran a double reverse against Tampa Bay in the four-minute lost the game," said Payton. "Then, Mickey [Loomis] brought me a study on Ambien and its erratic behavior and mood swings with people. Got a lot of regrets. I mentioned one of them. I wish I would have done a better job early on in my career with the media and hopefully I corrected that. But yeah, they're always going to be personnel regrets, decisions. But yeah, the double reverse, the Ninkovich decision. There's a lot."
Ninkovich was a fifth-round draft choice by the Saints back in 2006 out of Purdue when Payton first arrived in New Orleans. His first few seasons in the NFL were choppy as Payton struggled to find the proper slot for him in his scheme. Ninkovich played just three games as a rookie, was cut heading into the 2007 season, and then returned in 2008 when the Saints signed him off the Dolphins practice squad. He was later cut before the 2009 season.
It was at that point that the Patriots came in and signed Ninkovich to a one-year deal. From there, he would blossom into one of the key pieces of Bill Belichick's defense and help the franchise to two Super Bowl titles. Ninkovich played eight seasons in New England and currently ranks eighth on the franchise's all-time sack list.
That success comes to the chagrin of Payton, who has mentioned in the past that letting the defensive end go was a poor decision.
"There's still regrets every time I see Ninkovich line up and sack someone for New England," Payton said back in 2016.
While that may have been a rare miss by Payton, his tenure in New Orleans was still wildly successful, and was able to bring a Super Bowl title to the organization back in 2009.