Ain’t Dere No More.
It’s a saying in New Orleans about treasured restaurants, bars and other landmarks – but mainly bars and restaurants – that are no longer in the city.
The loss of such institutions stick out because New Orleans has so many old restaurants and bars that have been around for nearly 100 years and remain. And many of the ones that are no longer are because of hurricane damage – not a tired menu. And all the restaurants have bars, by the way.
New Orleans, other than the crime that is not new, is its restaurants and bars. And Sean Payton loved them, particularly Clancy’s restaurant on Annunciation Street in Uptown.
As of Tuesday, Jan. 25, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, 58, Ain’t Dere No More. Payton announced he was retiring as coach of the Saints on Tuesday and may become an NFL analyst for FOX. Or he may take some time off and coach again.
The unprecedented rash of injuries took its toll on Payton as the Saints finished 9-8 and out of the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season.
This is going to be as hard for New Orleanians to get over as the loss of Bruning’s restaurant on Lake Ponchartrain to Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. It opened in 1859.
Payton, then only 42, came to the Saints just months after Katrina threatened to tear apart the fabric of the city and just weeks after then-owner Tom Benson tried to move the team to San Antonio, Texas, before then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue blocked him like former Saints Super Bowl guard Carl Nicks.
On the way to Payton’s interview with the Saints for the job, the driver mistakenly took him through a part of the city ravaged by Katrina. He still took the job. Not long after, he waited in line at a pharmacy for medicine for one of his children for nearly an hour, which was common post Katrina. He stuck it out.
When word leaked out that Houston was passing on USC tailback Reggie Bush with the first pick of the 2006 NFL Draft on the Friday night before the draft, Payton, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and others were dining at Emeril’s on Tchoupitoulas (Don’t try to say it.) in the Warehouse District. And they toasted their first round pick.
Payton and new free agent quarterback Drew Brees embraced the troubled city as if they were born there, but Payton is from San Mateo, California, and grew up in Naperville, Illinois, and Brees is from Dallas and grew up in Austin. They also made one of the best if not the best offense in the NFL for virtually the duration of Payton’s time in New Orleans from 2006-21.
Together with Bush, they took the Saints to their first ever NFC Championship game in just their first season in 2006 while blue tarp roofs still dotted the city like iron in the French Quarter.
And while the recovery was still dragging along, Payton, Brees and Bush did the unthinkable for a franchise that lost every season from its first in 1967 through 1986 and lost all four of its playoff games from the 1987 season through the 1993 season.
The Saints won the NFC and reached Super Bowl XLIV with a 31-28 overtime victory over Minnesota on Jan. 24, 2010, in the Superdome. Payton partied with Jimmy Buffett after the game. This guy is New Orleans.
Then the Saints won the Super Bowl, 31-17, over Indianapolis on Feb. 7, 2010, and a bleary Payton really had to be convinced to not become the first coach in Super Bowl history to not attend the press conference the morning after the game. But he made it.
Brees, who would be the King of Bacchus at Mardi Gras a week later, was only 30. Payton was just 47. Surely, there would be another Super Bowl. They made the playoffs the next season, but were upset at 7-9 Seattle. Then Payton and Brees put together their greatest offense ever and one of the NFL’s all-time best in 2011.
After an impressive 45-28 win over Detroit in the Wild Card round, the Saints looked on their way back. But a 36-32 loss at San Francisco ruined the Saints’ chance of hosting the New York Giants the next week in the NFC title game.
Bountygate hit, and Payton sat out 2012. But he came back to advance in the playoffs in the 2013 season before three straight 7-9 campaigns. He could’ve been fired. He possibly could’ve gotten another job. But the Saints stuck with Payton, and Payton stuck with the adopted city he loved.
Four straight NFC South titles followed from 2017-20 along with gut wrenching playoff losses – to Minnesota, 29-24, on Jan. 14, 2018, and, 26-23, in overtime to the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 20, 2019, in the NFC Championship game after what is known as the worst non-call in NFL playoff history.
The Saints were eliminated in the divisional round by eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in the 2020 season, and months later, Brees became the latest “Ain’t Dere No More.”
New Orleans may one day reach another Super Bowl, perhaps under Dennis Allen, the team’s talented defensive coordinator who may replace Payton.
But the New Orleans Saints will never be quite the same again and likely may not ever have a better coach.
Thanks for the memories, Sean Payton. Cheers.
And hopefully, we’ll still see you at the restaurants.