The Grind(less) Factor: Carolina at New Orleans


 Dissociative identity disorder ~ a dissociative disorder characterized by the existence in an individual of two or more distinct personalities, with at least two of the personalities controlling the patient’s behavior in turns. The host personality usually is totally unaware of the alternate personalities; alternate personalities may or may not have awareness of the others.

This is your 2014 New Orleans Saints – Sybil, As seen over and over this season the “Oh no! we suck again!” personality of the Saints reared its ugly head once again. That truly pathetic display that took the field Sunday was a mixture of the Steve Spagnolo 2012 horrid defense combined with the equally horrid offense of the Mike Ditka led 1999 squad, yes folks it was that bad.

After just four games into the season I wrote about this team’s lack of leadership, after thirteen games into the season I’m convinced that there is something rotten going on over at 5800 Airline Drive. Junior Galette wants to compare past leadership with this team’s leadership, here’s an idea, how about playing sound fundamental football like gap assignments and not over pursuing on a read option play instead of worrying about who was on the team last year.

I think Drew Brees spoke volumes when he said they need to be more professional, meaning individual players are not willing to put in the work needed to succeed at the highest level.

As I sat there watching the game I remember thinking this defense after twelve games is still confused, I can’t tell you how many times a simple thing like lining up correctly or getting everybody on the same page before Cam Newton snapped the ball was a struggle all game long. Remember in the second game of the year against the Browns how the Saints got beat? Yep you guessed it a blown assignment and mass confusion, sadly with three games left it is still a major issue.

This game has to be one of the worst defeats in Saints history right behind the soul sucking, gut wrenching playoff loss to the 49ers in 2011. The entire history you ask? yes because some of those heart breaking defeats of the past came with teams not as nearly as talented as this one, this team has brought under achieving to a new level. The Saints followed up their best game of the year with a home game so lopsided that it was over five minutes into the game, that my friends is pitiful.

I have to be honest, I did not see this coming, not just this game but the entire Saints season. Maybe I was like the players and started believing their press clippings and fell into the hype trap. I remember sitting through a couple of weeks of training camp thinking this team has a chance to be special, I really thought they would make some serious noise this year. I mean after all they had drafted one of the most explosive players in the draft along with a corner back and a couple of linebackers to go with the signing of one of the biggest free agents on the market. And then reality hit when Matt Ryan sliced up the Saints defense like a hot knife through butter.

 So what’s wrong with the Saints? Heck if I know, every time I try to figure this team out the answers become more elusive than a Sean Payton Wednesday injury report. Maybe the talent level just isn’t as good as I thought it was. Sure I knew the #2 corner spot and offensive line depth was at best shaky heading into the season but I didn’t expect Akiem Hicks to get pushed around or for Cam Jordan to come up missing in action more times than not. Did I expect the tight ends and receiving corps to play like they dipped their hands in oil before each snap? of course not.

But what really bothers me most is the lack of basic fundamental football technique. When I study film I go in knowing that a lot of factors determine the outcome of that play and sometimes what looks a blown assignment by one player might be caused by factors that are not his fault at all, a lot of it is subjective without knowing what the particular assignments are. But fundamental mistakes are glaring, horrible tackling, stupid penalties, bad QB decision-making, giving up on a play and so on. All this circles back to leadership and being a true professional, this is a team that either can’t or refuses to learn from its past mistakes.

The question that begs to be answered is, have some of the players mailed it in? I think we know the answer. Just from the outside looking in there seems to be a disconnect between the older veterans and the younger players, the Curtis Lofton‘s, Zach Strief‘s, Benjamin Watson’s. I think it’s telling when Curtis Lofton who racked up 17 tackles (11 solo) is sitting there after the game beat up and battered answering questions to the media when most defensive players slipped out early instead of facing the music and talk to the media, again being a professional. Lofton left this little gem for his teammates to chew on “I kind of already got a good feel of what happened,” he said. “If someone did quit, the film will show it.” Zach Strief who was doing his best to be politically correct answering questions also said something that sheds some light on the locker room, he said “We don’t have enough guys that have that trigger” meaning some players do not know how to turn it on come game day and are too relaxed instead of getting intense for the battle that lies ahead.

As you probably figured out by now there is no film breakdown in this week’s Grind Factor, I was going to do it but then I thought why? to show the same mistakes that I have been seeing all year-long? I could have easily copied plays from earlier games and you probably wouldn’t have known the difference. The reason I name these articles the Grind Factor is because all off-season through O.T.A.’s, Mini Camps and Training Camp players grind through the work with tired legs and mental fatigue to get to the point that when the real bullets fly all the hard work pays off on game days. To see players tanking and not giving the effort required to win in this league is to put it mildly….disappointing.

I know I probably sound bitter writing this article but I’m far from it, heck come Monday I will be in full-blown game mode. I also understand there’s only three games left and I’m going to enjoy them because I know what the off-season brings (2 million mock drafts) I’m just trying to put my finger on the problem with this team but it’s hard to do because the team has multiple issues. When the season is over I’m going to breakdown all the game film of the players I think under performed this year, as Lofton said the film don’t lie. But until then I will be watching closely this Monday night to see how this team responds in the face of what seems like a locker room coming apart….it will be telling how this team moves forward this year and next.