Theirs is among the longest and most successful coach and quarterback pairings in NFL history.
Sean Payton and Drew Brees have been together in New Orleans since 2006, a span in which the Saints won a Super Bowl and future Hall of Famer Brees became the NFL’s all-time leading passer.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff got a close-up look at the relationship last January at the Pro Bowl.
“It’s telepathic, almost, between them and you can see that,” Goff said. “I know you've heard about that for years, but you can definitely see it when you're in that room with them.”
Rams coach Sean McVay, 32, and Goff, 24, appear set for a similar relationship.
The Rams made the playoffs in McVay’s first season and are poised for a possible Super Bowl run heading into Sunday’s game against the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Rams are 8-0 and running away with the NFC West. The Saints are 6-1, riding a six-game winning streak, and sit atop the NFC South.
Sunday’s game could be a preview of an NFC playoff game in January.
Payton, 54, and Brees, 39, have been in 12 playoff games together, including three during a 2009 season that ended with a victory over Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV.
McVay and Goff made their postseason debuts in last season’s wild-card loss to Atlanta. They could make a deeper run this season, with an offense featuring Goff, running back Todd Gurley and a receiver corps that includes former Saints first-round draft pick Brandin Cooks.
Pairing a coach and quarterback for a long time pays dividends, Payton said.
“For a coach, it's paramount, certainly, with today's game to have someone at that position that you feel like really becomes somewhat of a coach on the field, who's talented and prepares,” he said, noting Goff’s preparation during Pro Bowl week. “That, obviously, is a great sign for Rams fans when you look at the roster age of this team and you look at the age of the quarterback — shoot, the age of the head coach.
“Those are all positive signs for that team.”
Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, has experience in the Superdome. After sitting for the first nine games of his rookie season, Goff made his second start – his first on the road – at the Saints. He passed for three first-half touchdowns but was shut out in the second half of a 49-21 defeat under former coach Jeff Fisher.
“It maybe gave me some confidence knowing that being in a hostile environment like that and being able to make plays was something that I saw myself do and was able to kind of grow from that experience,” Goff said.
When McVay was preparing to interview with the Rams in January 2017, he studied tape of Goff’s seven winless rookie starts for a team that finished 4-12. Positives from the Saints game stood out.
“You see those traits and characteristics that make him a No. 1 overall pick,” McVay said. “You see the toughness, you see the ability to keep your eyes downfield in the face of a rush when you're about to get hit.
“That was definitely … one of the games that made you feel very confident before you even meet him, which then gives you even more of a belief of what he's capable of."
In 2017, Goff passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in a 26-20 victory over the Saints at the Coliseum. He finished the season with 28 touchdown passes and seven interceptions as the Rams advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
This season Goff has passed for 17 touchdowns with five interceptions. He and Gurley are in the midseason discussion for MVP.
So is Brees, who has passed for 14 touchdowns with one interception operating in Payton’s offense.
Can Goff envision a similarly long partnership with McVay?
“Of course,” he said. “You always want to strive to be the best. I think that's no different. Me and Sean have a great relationship and hopefully it'll continue to grow.”
McVay also envisions a lengthy run with Goff.