Indianapolis, In. - Every great head coach in the NFL will tell you; you cannot be successful without great assistants working on those staffs.
Those assistants eventually become head coaches themselves. In league circles it's called the coaching tree. Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Tony Dungy, they all have them and after unprecedented success with the Saints, Sean Payton is forming one of his own.
"I think through life, I think everyone has influences on you," says former Saints offensive assistant and current Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone. "I think that, obviously, you know Sean is not only a good influence but a good friend, so I think you take a lot."
Three assistants on Payton's original 2006 staff in New Orleans are now head coaches: Marrone, Tulane's Curtis Johnson and the Oakland Raiders' Dennis Allen.
Allen said New Orleans wasn't his first stop in the NFL but it may have been his most influential:
"I came into the National Football League with the Atlanta Falcons but I grew up with the New Orleans Saints, so that organization from top to bottom was kind of where I formulated my plan as to where I got my opportunity. That's kind of how I wanted to do it and you know from Mickey Loomis to Sean Payton, Joe Vitt, Bill Johnson, all those guys over there were extremely influential in my career.
And that list does not include Pete Carmichael, Jr. and Aaron Kromer, who are both offensive coordinators who have interviewed for head coaching positions.