The last three seasons, including amazingly enough this one, the New Orleans Saints were projected to compete for the NFC South division title if not win it. That they would play in the post-season was a given.
After all, with Drew Brees as quarterback, ANYTHING is possible. By the way, I am, not just being sarcastic with that statement- I’m practically quoting every football commentator in the 504 area code.
I bought into the pre-regular season optimism going into 2013 and 2014. We had a new defensive coordinator, we were signing free agents, we were adding by subtracting. Brandon Coleman and Seantavius (sic? – it doesn’t matter if so) Jones are rising stars. The other teams are awful. Rah, rah, bola, bola.
However I decided not to clamber upon the Mardi Gras float this year. Who could (sanely) after the 0-4 preseason?
But preseason doesn’t count! They’re mainly playing scrubs and backups. Etc.
At a minimum the preseason showed us four team’s B and C-teams were better than ours.
So I decided to wait until after the first game, which would be a stout test playing against one of the best secondaries in the game in Glendale, Arizona.
The Black and Gold played about as sloppy there as they did on their last trip to the Grand Canyon State in 2010.
If that was the game that would show how good the 2015 Saints are, then the home game against Tampa Bay would show how bad we are.
After all last season’s second worst team in the NFL destroyed the worst team in the NFL. How we performed against the Buccaneers would tell us much.
After losing to Tampa, it appears that the Saints’ 2015 season is merely the continuation of the latter half of 2014 sans tight end Jimmy Graham.
An aging offensive line that provides little protection. A receiving corps whose top wide out is likely playing his final professional season and a number two man who is double covered because the other options are untested/awful. A tight end position that was been hurled into the pre-Jeremy Shockey/Jimmy Graham abyss. A lead running back that has been rewarded with a large contract and has returned to producing the very mediocrity that dogged his early years with the team.
And the crocodile leaping quarterback who has been in denial about the decline in his skills, answering such critiques with a carnival-esque YouTube video and a flippant “you got to be kidding” attitude to reporters who commit heresy by raising such questions.
And anyone who has been paying attention noticed that Drew Brees’s passes had lost their zip long before Tampa defensive tackle Gerald McCoy dropped him.
Yet head coach Sean Payton refuses to believe as much as he foolishly opted to call a time out with a minute left in the second quarter, hoping that the defense could stop the Bucs and that number nine could get the team down the field in quick order and score a touchdown like the old days.
Instead of letting the clock run down, Payton gave the Buccaneers a chance to execute a play that set up a touchdown with seconds left in the first half.
As for defense, I will just drop four names: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Victor Butler, Junior Galette and Jairus Byrd.
The only three players on defense that seem to be trying are linebackers Kasim Edebali and rookies Stephone Anthony and Hau’oli Kikaha (and defensive end Cam Jordan every other game).
The window of opportunity for collecting at least a second Lombardi Trophy in the Payton/Brees era was effectively slammed by tight end Vernon Davis in the 2011 NFC Divisional Playoff game in San Francisco and definitively nailed down by the disruptive penalties handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the wake of the Saints Bounty scandal in 2012.
The Saints were a much weaker team in 2013 and were unable to handle the rising Seattle Seahawks in either the regular season or the playoffs. Swapping out proven roster talent for more expensive and far less productive “upgrades” proved to be a bust.
Tom Benson will be paying the tab on the toxic free agent signings for years and the franchise will be burdened by dead money on the NFL salary cap books for future seasons.
The Saints don’t just stink but they are financially incapable of getting better due to past contract obligations.
When looking back, 2014 was the equivalent of 1993- the last year the Saints were competitive under head coach Jim Mora and it also marked the beginning of the free agent carousel when the core of the team were either traded or allowed to leave.. They went 8-8 though second in the NFC West and were just one win over San Francisco away from winning the division and going to the playoffs.
In 1994, the Saints went 7-9 and finished with that record again the following year before the bottom finally fell out in 1996, with Mora dropping his now famous “Diddley-Poo” line and walking out on the team mid-season.
As this season is almost certainly lost, the Saints ownership should immediately review where the team is heading in the near future and consider making drastic changes- those well beyond the termination of favorite scapegoat Rob Ryan- from players up to management.
We don’t need another 2-3 seasons of “Diddley-Poo” play before it occurs to someone in charge that things are not going to get better with the current leadership and that the team, if not the organization, needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.
This is going to break a lot of hearts, but the sun has set on the Payton/Brees Era in New Orleans, the only question is whether the franchise will be proactive in managing this unpleasant reality or burn time and money hoping that it just isn’t so.