Historical Accuracy (Q&A):
Why exactly was NFL head coach Sean Payton suspended for an entire season?
The Home Team movie true story reveals that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 NFL season as a result of his part in the New Orleans Saints Bountygate scandal, which involved players allegedly being paid bounties for attempting to injure rival players on other teams. Payton appealed the league's decision but was denied. An investigation by the NFL found that not only did Payton try to cover up the scheme, which took place from 2009 to 2011, he failed to put a stop to it when ordered to do so by Saints owner Tom Benson (NFL.com).
Payton's ban lasted from April 2012 until January 22, 2013, at which time he was reinstated as head coach of the Saints. As depicted in Netflix's Home Team, during Sean Payton's suspension, he was forbidden from talking to anyone in the league, including any coaches or players. It marked the first time a head coach had been suspended since Chuck Fairbanks in 1978.
Coach Sean Payton on the New Orleans Saints sideline and Kevin James as the coach in the movie.
In addition to Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, and general manager Mickey Loomis were also suspended for varying amounts of time. The NFL found evidence that Williams was the one who started the bounty program and created a pool funded by himself and some of the players to pay the bounties. Four players were suspended as well, but the sanctions against the players were eventually overturned after it was found that the coaches were the ones mainly responsible. The Saints organization was fined $500,000 and forced to give up their 2012 and 2013 second-round draft selections.
Did Sean Payton win the Super Bowl two years prior to being suspended by the league?Yes. As highlighted in the Sean Payton movie, he was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints at the end of the 2009 season when they beat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010. This was during the time that the team was involved in the Bountygate scandal and a little over two years prior to the start of Sean Payton's suspension in April 2012. His suspension lasted the entire 2012 NFL season and wasn't lifted until January 2013.
Sean Payton coached the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts on February 7, 2010 in Super Bowl XLIV. Bottom:
Kevin James reenacts the Super Bowl win in the Home Team
Is the movie based on Sean Payton's similarly-titled book Home Team?No. Payton's 2010 book was released roughly two years prior to his suspension and deals with how the city rebounded from Hurricane Katrina, which is symbolized by how the Saints' home field, the New Orleans' Superdome, went from an emergency shelter at the time of the hurricane to the stadium where the Saints won the NFC championship four years later. The victory earned them a trip to the Super Bowl where they defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17.
Actor Kevin James told Rich Eisen that the Netflix movie was based on a small documentary produced by Sean Payton's daughter. "Meghan produced a piece called Cutting Oranges, which was like a small documentary piece on Sean coaching this team, and that's what we saw and based it all on."
How many children does Sean Payton have?
The Home Team true story reveals that Sean Payton and his ex-wife Beth have two children, a daughter, Meghan (born in 1997), and a son, Connor Payton (born in 2000). Meghan Payton currently lives in Los Angeles and works as a sports reporter. She is not featured in the film. Her boyfriend, actor Chris Titone, co-wrote the Home Team movie script with Keith Blum.
Sean Payton pictured with his children, Connor and Meghan Payton, in September 2013. Photo: @SeanPayton Twitter
During his suspension from the NFL, did Sean Payton become the offensive coordinator for his son Connor's sixth-grade team?Yes. Like in the Home Team movie, the true story confirms that Sean Payton took on the role of offensive coordinator for the Liberty Christian Warriors, his son Connor Payton's sixth-grade football team in Argyle, Texas. He turned down offers to work on television as an analyst during the 2012 season, stating that it would conflict with his son's football games and practice schedule. -NOLA.com
The Liberty Christian Warriors 2012 team photo featuring Sean Payton as offensive coordinator and his son Connor Payton #44. Photo: Liberty Christian School
Did Sean Payton use the New Orleans Saints playbook when helping to coach his son's sixth-grade team?
Yes. In answering the question, "How true is Home Team?" we discovered that Payton used a scaled-down version of the Saints playbook when coaching his son Connor's team. "We have 12 plays on the wristband. The terminology is the same as we used in New Orleans," Payton noted. "The kids said, 'This looks hard.' But I said, 'I've seen your homework. That's a lot harder.' And they've done a great job with it." -The Times-Picayune
It's true that the kids were dumbfounded when they first saw the plays. "He speaks a language that we never even heard before," said Coach Brennan Hardy, played by Taylor Lautner in the Netflix Home Team movie and renamed Coach Troy.
The real Sean Payton working as the offensive coordinator for his son Connor's sixth-grade football team, the Liberty Christian Warriors, in 2012. He is wearing a wristband with the team's plays.
Was Sean Payton divorced from his ex-wife Beth at the time of his suspension?Not exactly. According to The Times-Picayune, Sean Payton filed for divorce from his wife of nearly twenty years, Beth Payton, on June 14, 2012 in the midst of his suspension. While he sought joint custody of their children, Beth filed a counter-petition requesting that the court schedule his time with the kids "as necessary to protect the health and well-being of the children."
While investigating the Home Team movie true story, we discovered that Sean Payton's ex-wife Beth did remarry. However, it didn't happen until years later (in the movie, she is married to a fictional character played by Rob Schneider). In real life, she tied the knot with real estate broker Jamie McGuire on September 20, 2020. Less than two months later on November 8, 2020, Sean became engaged to former Miss West Virginia, Skylene Montgomery. Sean and Skylene married in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on June 19, 2021.
Sean Payton's ex-wife, Beth Shuey McGuire (left), is pictured with children Connor and Meghan Payton in 2017. Adam Sandler's wife, actress Jackie Sandler (center), portrays Beth in the movie. Photo: Beth Shuey McGuire Facebook
Did Sean Payton's son Connor's team do significantly better with him acting as offensive coordinator?A Home Team fact-check reveals that this is indeed true. "In youth football at that time, if you get up on a team by so many points, they'll literally turn the scoreboard off," says Coach Brennan Hardy, portrayed by Taylor Lautner in the Sean Payton movie. "We went from never doing that at all in 2011, to by week three and four of 2012, sometimes the scoreboard was getting turned off in the first half." -NFL Network
Is the scene where the players projectile vomit in the Home Team movie based on the true story?
No. We found no evidence that the grotesquely humorous scene where the entire team gets food poisoning and begins to vomit violently on the field happened in real life. It's another reminder that this is a football comedy, which keeps it one more step removed from real life.
Did Sean Payton contact former Steelers coach Bill Cowher to help him come up with a strategy to beat an opposing sixth-grade team?
No. He contacted his mentor, Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, not Bill Cowher. The Liberty Christian Warriors, Sean's son Connor's sixth-grade team, remained undefeated until late in the regular season when they were beaten by the Springtown Porcupines, a team that ran the single-wing formation, which the Warriors were unable to stop. They were beaten 60 to 7, and as was the custom at the time for heavily lopsided scores in youth football, the scoreboard was turned off during the game. Knowing the Warriors would likely face the Porcupines again in the playoffs, Sean reviewed game footage recorded by one of the fathers. He also contacted his mentor, Hall of Fame coach and 2x Super Bowl champion Bill Parcells, to help him come up with a strategy to defend against the single-wing formation.
Sean Payton contacted his mentor, Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells (pictured), for help with his son's sixth-grade football team.
Did Sean Payton's son's team make it to the league finals?Yes. Sean Payton's son Connor's team, the Liberty Christian Warriors, made it to the league finals (aka the Sixth Grade Super Bowl), facing off against the only team that had beaten them in the regular season, the Springtown Porcupines. This time, with the help of Sean's coaching, they were able to constrain their opponent's single-wing formation offense, and though the Warriors lost, it was a much closer game.
The Liberty Christian Warriors in white take on their nemesis the Springtown Porcupines in orange in 2012.
Did Sean Payton feel that the best thing about his suspension was the time it gave him to spend with his children?
Yes. "Absolutely (the best thing about the suspension) is the time it's allowed me to spend with the children," Payton told The Times-Picayune in September 2012. "One of the things about what we do, so many times you're missing things, getting pictures of things we miss, phone calls of what you missed."
Payton also says that it was a much-needed break from the angst of the NFL, and it allowed him to get back to the basics and remember why he loved football and coaching. "You're back to cuttin' oranges and pourin' Gatorade, and you're really in that organic, on-the-field, how you remembered it to be when you started," he told Graham Bensinger in 2018.
Sean Payton's son Connor in real life and actor Tait Blum as Connor in the Netflix movie.
Is Coach Sean Payton portrayed accurately in Netflix's Home Team movie?For the most part, no. While some details of Payton's life ring true, Netflix's Home Team downplays what at the time was a serious scandal. Instead of exploring the extent of Payton's involvement in Bountygate, Kevin James turns him into a funny and lovable nice guy who finds redemption as he reconnects with his son. While it's true he reconnected with his kids, the movie embellishes this and plays it for laughs. Of the character, James said that he is a combination of himself as a comedian merged with various aspects of the real coach. This is by no means to say that Payton doesn't have a sense of humor (just watch the video of him dancing in the Saints' locker room). He just doesn't resemble funnyman Kevin James. In the end, the story of Bountygate and Sean Payton's suspension is turned into a comedy and given the feel-good treatment. It's no wonder why Payton himself approved of this flattering fictionalized version of himself and the true story.
The real Sean Payton (left) and Kevin James (right) in the Netflix Home Team
Who coached the New Orleans Saints while Sean Payton was suspended?
In researching the Netflix Home Team true story, we learned that Aaron Kromer served as the interim head coach for the first six games of the 2012 season, posting 2 wins and 4 losses. Following his own six-game suspension, linebackers coach Joe Vitt stepped in as interim head coach for the last ten games of the season, posting a 5 and 5 record. In week 16, the Saints were eliminated from postseason contention and lost a chance to make history by becoming the first team to compete in the Super Bowl on their own home field.
Does Saints coach Sean Payton approve of the Home Team movie?Yes. Payton reportedly approved the script. He also has a cameo in the movie. He can be seen at the end of the film wearing a janitor's uniform and sporting a hideous dark wig for comedic effect.
Sean Payton's cameo in Home Team
is at the end of the film. He portrays a janitor in the coach's office.
Overall, how accurate is Home Team?
Produced by Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions and Kevin James' Hey Eddie Productions, Netflix's Home Team uses some of the details of Sean Payton's suspension and life as the basis for a comedy. It by no means takes an honest or in-depth examination of his involvement in Bountygate (save that for the inevitable Netflix or HBO documentary). The Kevin James Sean Payton movie instead offers a comedic fictionalization of what he did during his season-long suspension, specifically the time he spent as the offensive coordinator of his son Connor's sixth-grade football team.
While some of the details about Sean Payton's life during that time are in line with the true story, including his separation from his wife Beth (in real life, they were in the middle of their divorce at the time), many have pointed out that likable funnyman Kevin James is not a truthful reflection of the real Sean Payton. Making a Mighty Ducks-style inspirational comedy out of Payton getting suspended for allegedly covering up a cash bounty system that operated under his purview is probably the most kid-gloves and flattering approach you could take to his story. It makes perfect sense that the coach gave the movie a big thumbs up.