Why national reporters sometimes don’t have a clue
I ran across this article rife with unfactual and unfounded conclusions. Often I scoff but for this one, I decided to have fun today and dismantle it piece by piece. The article is reprinted here word for word to refute its illogic.
Is this the end of an era in New Orleans? by Gregg Rosenthal
There will be a day when Sean Payton returns to New Orleans as an ex- Saints coach. He will get a standing ovation when he arrives for dinner at an uptown restaurant. He’ll throw beads as the King of Bacchus. The roar in the Superdome will be deafening when the Saints celebrate an anniversary of their 2009 Super Bowl team.
The future of Payton as a returning conquering hero is easy to envision and Payton’s past as the greatest coach in team history is without dispute. Yet this complicated present promises to be messy. Clean exits are rare in the NFL, and things are likely to get uglier in New Orleans. (Why are they going to get uglier? Because the Saints are struggling? One bad season and a struggling start to another season? The team will not evolve and personnel improve? Last year, Drew Brees was not injured and our oline not exactly a well-oiled machine? But I digress with facts)
Is this team salvageable?
At 1-4, the Saints’ season is on life support. (Yes, I would say last night’s performance shows a team on life support) The defense has absolutely no pass rush, and the overpaid secondary is underperforming. (Yes, there was no pass rush on Matt Ryan. And there are no personnel shift on the defensive line or injured players. And Delvin Breaux has not been developing into a premier cornerback replacing cornerbacks who struggled in the past. And Browner and Byrd have not been adapting to a new defense). No team has given up more yards. The once-dominant offense only shows glimpses of its old self. (Except for stellar performance in their wins) With all-time franchise reception leader Marques Colston no longer performing at a high level, former undrafted Panthers practice squader Willie Snead is the team’s No. 1 receiver. (Yes, you have forgotten Ben Watson and Brandon Cooks, but never mind because it does not fit your forced narrative, Gregg). The running game is among the worst in the league and hasn’t uncorked a single run longer than 17 yards. (I admit our offensive line is reworked, players are injured and rookies are playing which may affect our ability to run the ball, but don’t let any facts get in the way of your steering the story into your narrative).
The struggles of the New Orleans’ running game is instructive. The Saints did a dramatic pivot this offseason when they dealt All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks for center Max Unger and a first-round pick, a move designed to improve the team’s running game. They re-signed Mark Ingram and brought in C.J. Spiller via free agency. (Again, please feel free to ignore the injuries and rookies playing on the offensive line). With Drew Brees getting older (Except Drew Brees got mobile, spry and avoided the pass rush of Atlanta) and a rebuilt defense to compensate for, it looked like the Saints would play ball-control offense. Mark Ingram, Spiller and Khiry Robinson form one of the most talented backfield trios in the league. But the results simply aren’t there. They are among the five worst teams in rushing yards and yards-per-attempt. (Please assume the offensive line has nothing to do with running the ball).
We noted in our season preview of the Saints that this organization can’t seem to stick to a plan. (Yes, they evolve) They handed out huge contract extensions to Graham and defensive end Junior Galette last year and neither player remained with the team. Jairus Byrd received more guaranteed money than any player in free agency in 2014 and has made next to no impact. (No, I would not say he is not an upgrade over previous players at all) This year’s big secondary addition, Brandon Browner, has been torched repeatedly by opposing offenses. (Yes, but still managing to get turnovers) The defense has been in a constant state of upheaval, with promises that things are just about to change. (Surprise, they did change but please also feel free to note the replacement for Aikem Hick has been injured as well as a surprising pass rusher by the name of Obum Gwacham but Gregg wouldn’t know about that because facts would destroy the click ability of his article).
“I know we’re on the verge of breaking through,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said this week via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “You can feel it. (A breakthrough) is coming. I know it is. Just keep blaming me. Keep blaming me and that will be great.” (It was magnificent last night in the dome. Please feel free to interject an “I was wrong” at any time, Gregg).
Ryan made these comments after giving up 39 points to the struggling Eagles, a game where Ryan typically clashed with Payton on the sideline. (That’s a clash, please!) It’s hard to imagine Ryan being part of the organization in 2016 barring a dramatic turnaround. So the rebuild should continue. (I think the team and players will continue to improve. But what do I know I only really watch all of their games.)
A win Thursday night against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons would provide a big boost, yet it wouldn’t change the structural problems of the team. This Thursday night matchup reminds me of New Orleans’ Week 10 game against Atlanta in 2012, when the wandering underdog Saints handed their rivals one of the three losses suffered by the Falcons that season. That game, of course, was played in the post Bountygate-season without Payton. And it’s worth wondering if Payton will be around the next time these two teams play in New Orleans. (Yes, he will be because he will not be working for dysfunctional men such as Irsay and Stephen Ross).
Sean Payton came out strong Monday to deny an ESPN report suggesting the Miami Dolphins were among “multiple teams” that would have interest in inquiring about Payton’s availability after this season. MMQB’s Peter King repeatedly has wondered whether this will be Payton’s last season in New Orleans. (Yes, the same Peter King, Payton pours his heart out to each week and the same Peter King who was not welcomed into the Saints cafeteria and had to film outside the building to do a report. Yes, that Peter King)
“You ignore half of that stuff and obviously dismiss it. Our players aren’t distracted by that,” Payton said. “That comes up yearly now, not just every three or four years. That came up, shoot, my second, third, fifth, ninth, pick a year.”
These reports don’t come out by accident. The “multiple teams” in the ESPN report was particularly eye-catching because it suggests a competitive market for Payton’s services despite the two years remaining on his contract. Plugged in reporters like Adam Schefter and King don’t simply make things up out of thin air. (No, Payton routinely calls King to tell him his plans. And, yes, there always has been and always will be a market for Sean Payton. Duh) And even if Payton is publicly annoyed by answering these questions, the reports benefit him. There is a market being created for his services at a time he’s struggling to win games. (Yes, this seems so true) This is reminiscent to the reports about possible interest in Payton from the Dallas Cowboys before he signed his most recent contract extension with the Saints in 2012. (Yes, Payton wants to work with Jerry Jones so badly).
The Saints are essentially in the middle of a rebuilding project, yet the organization has to at least consider trading Brees and/or Payton. (They do?) There’s an argument to be made that now is the time to see what they are worth in the open market. Brees, 36 years old, has one year left on his contract for $19.75 million. His play has undeniably declined this season. (Except when he is a mobile maniac carving up the Atlanta defense) Payton comes from the Bill Parcells tree, and Parcells famously believed that it was better to leave a team before growing stale and staying at the party too long. (Yes, Sean Payton is a mindless Parcells robot who must follow the tree wherever it may lead or is Gregg just rechanneling more oft repeated words of Peter King who for his much speaking them hopes to parlay them into truth and reality?)
There is no denying that Payton’s formula is no longer working in New Orleans. (Yes, Luke McCown proved that on the field in South Carolina where he almost won the game and Drew Brees certainly proved that in the win over Atlanta. Also please feel free not to mention facts such as Brees’ injury) After winning at least 11 games in four of five seasons, the Saints are headed toward a second straight losing campaign. They also went 7-9 without Payton in 2012. (Did Gregg fail to read up on the team and learn Brees told reporters he was injured last year and had to re-learn his mechanics during the off season? Again, those pesky facts torpedoing all of this lovely click bait)
Parcells has deep roots within the Miami Dolphins, including one of his proteges, Mike Tannenbaum, running the team. Payton has a rare amount of control in New Orleans. General manager Mickey Loomis handles the business side for the Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, but there is every reason to believe Payton is making the personnel moves. (Yes, the move to Ireland and rethinking how personnel decisions are made won’t come into the this story at all) That could help explain some of the seemingly impulsive, jagged decisions the Saints have made over the last few years. (This I agree with but Payton challenged himself in this area and brought in Ireland)
It’s hard to imagine the Saints would get a lot in return for Payton in a potential trade, but Brees would be another matter. Plenty of quarterback-needy teams likely would be willing to take a chance on him to upgrade their position. The Saints could get a valuable draft pick for him before he plays out his contract year. (Gregg, you are forcing things here; give yourself the 24 hour rule before writing the article. You wished to seem prescient before the Atlanta game and wound up looking a bit of the fool) There are an incredible amount of variables here, including Brees’ level of play the rest of the season and the Saints’ potential position in the draft. Perhaps the Saints will have a first-round quarterback they are ready to turn things over to. (Yes, they will eventually)
Saints owner Tom Benson disputed the notion before the season that this team was rebuilding, insisting he wants to win another Super Bowl and was “looking forward” to returning to the playoffs. So what now if the team falls well short of those expectations?
There is never a good time to say goodbye to franchise legends, and that’s what Payton and Brees will be for the rest of their lives in New Orleans. Saints fans already have started to look back at their 2009-2011 teams with nostalgia, ready to fast-forward past this uncomfortable present. (I felt so uncomfortable last night) If Tracy Porter never has to buy another drink in town ever again, Payton and Brees should never have to buy another car. Saying goodbye to both men would be an emotional decision for Benson, and perhaps it’s easier to stick with the current plan until the bitter end.
Then again, this season is starting to feel like the bitter end. The only way out is to start winning games. (Thank you for the obvious conclusion but the Saints are not done yet. They will continue to fight to improve and evolve. The focus going forward will be to keep Brees mobile, limit the three and outs, let the defense get some rest and turnovers and let the boys play)
Thanks, Gregg, We Have Got It From Here, i.e., How Greg Rosenthal Got It So Wrong
Thanks, Gregg, We Have Got It From Here, i.e., How Greg Rosenthal Got It So Wrong