As I watched the debacle in Houston unravel before my eyes many thoughts went racing through my head. Should I cut the grass? Does the garage need cleaning? Is my oil change due in my car? Is there any room in the house that needs painting? Or maybe I should just pull those boxes out of the attic full of Christmas decorations and get started.  I thought now what after the ship has sailed for the New Orleans Saints?

As tempting as it was to turn off the TV and do something productive on this Sunday, I just cracked open another beer, threw something at the TV and settled in for another long three hours of bad Saints football.

weurffelIt feels as though the Saints have morphed into Mike Ditka era bad, which in my opinion is the benchmark of futile worthless garbage between the white lines. Are the Saints actually this bad? Of course not but they gave me the same feeling of nausea that I had in 1999 with the likes of the two Billie Joe’s and Danny Wuerffel lobbing wounded ducks to Keith Poole.

I really feel that these 2014-2015 Saints are harder to watch because they have much more talent than those Ditka lifeless squads but what I’m seeing on TV and at the Dome makes me question that line of thought.

So here we are in the middle of a meltdown and the questions pile up on how did the Saints get to this point and what’s next? There are no easy answers when you peel back the layers.

In 2006 the Saints had a team of castoffs that played with a chip on their shoulders all the way to the NFC Championship game. That team although not void of talent had a lot of holes on that roster but played with passion and overachieved while having fun doing it. Sean Payton in 2006 was innovating the way offensive play calling was done and very few teams had an answer when they got rolling. Bad weather coupled with four turnovers and three sacks doomed the Saints on that fateful day in Chicago but the seeds were planted that this was not the same old Saints.

In 2009 with the Saints veterans hitting their prime – Vilma, Smith, Harper, Colston, Greer, Evans, Nicks, Brees, Thomas, Porter and many more the Saints caught lightning in a bottle with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ aggressive style. That team had a top ten rushing attack to complement Payton’s aerial assault to go along with a defense that was ball hawking turnover after turnover. They caught fire in the playoffs and brought home the hardware – New Orleans 1st and only championship.

By 2011 the Saints fielded in my opinion the best team that this franchise has ever produced. After a midseason loss to the St. Louis Rams they got on a roll and won eight straight absolutely pummeling teams on route to a 13-3 record. That offense that year was one of the best the NFL has ever seen breaking records it seemed like after every game. The Saints lost out on a tie breaker to the 49ers for the second seed and a bye, but after crushing the Lions in the wild card round, they would meet up with San Francisco in what would be one of the best playoff games in NFL history. The aggressive defense that just two years earlier brought the Saints their first Lombardi would be their undoing.

You live by the sword you die by the sword.

With just 1:32 to go in the ball game Gregg Williams gambling defense got burned, and the 49ers went on a 7 play 85 yard drive that was capped off by the now infamous Vernon Davis touchdown.

The Saints haven’t been the same since.

I brought those three years up just to put things in perspective as to where the Saints are today. When the Saints were hitting their stride in 2011 they were all in at all cost with the window they had with Drew Brees. But what most of us didn’t see at the time was the Saints were getting old on several key positions. The Saints knew it but were unable to restock the roster through the draft and had to rely on the costly and often times risky road of free agency to fill the holes.

Since 2009 the Saints failed horribly in the draft trying to get young at the defensive back and linebacker positions – here are some of the misses:

DB

  • Chip Vaughn
  • Patrick Robinson
  • Johnny Patrick
  • Corey White
  • Stanley Jean-Baptiste

LB

  • Stanley Arnoux
  • Martez Wilson
  • Nate Bussey
  • Khari Fortt
  • Ronald Powell

It’s not just the linebackers and defensive backs where the Saints failed in the draft but also in the trenches on both sides of the ball including:

  • Matt Tennant
  • Al Woods
  • Charles Brown
  • Greg Romeus
  • Marcel Jones
  • Andrew Tiller
  • Rufus Johnson
  • Tavon Rooks
  • Akiem Hicks

It doesn’t get much better in free agency during Payton’s tenure, here are just a few of the notables that the Saints tried to plug in because of holes left by bad drafts:

  • Aaron Glenn
  • Jimmy Wilkerson
  • Alex Brown
  • Olin Kreutz
  • Aubrayo Franklin
  • Will Herring
  • Turk McBride
  • Korey Hall
  • Shaun Rogers
  • Ben Grubbs
  • Brodrick Bunkley
  • Curtis Lofton
  • David Hawthorne
  • Chris Chamberlain
  • Jason David
  • Brandon Browner
  • Jairus Byrd
  • Erik Lorig
  • Champ Bailey
  • Parys Haralson

Of course the Saints hit some home runs in free agency including Jabari Greer, Keenan Lewis, Benjamin Watson and Drew Brees but it is a hard boat to row when you are forced to spend big money to plug holes on your roster because if it doesn’t work out you get minimal returns and are left with a hefty chunk of dead money.

I understand why the Saints dove in head first in free agency–you have an elite QB in his prime and you surround him with the talent before the window closes. Hindsight is 20/20 and I probably would have done the same, heck I was probably cheering the loudest with each FA signing.

Poor drafts and free agent misses may be the main culprit on why the Saints find themselves in this situation now but it’s far from the only reason. Some might not want to admit it but the bounty sham crippled this team and they haven’t fully recovered from it – taking away two 2nd round draft picks and suspending your coach and general manager for a year is going to have profound effects on a club that is still being felt today.

Payton 1

Sean Payton in my opinion is not the same coach he was when he walked off the field that fateful afternoon in San Francisco. I can’t put my finger on it but it seems he lost his edge. I think the fire is still there but his in game decisions and adjustments that used to be spot on are few and far between. His offenses used to keep opposing defenses on their heels and they couldn’t adjust to his personnel moves. That’s not the case anymore, it’s almost as if they know what he is going to do, it really shouldn’t come as a shock because when you run basically the same system for ten years teams are bound to catch up.

Or maybe he just can’t execute the offense efficiently because the shortcomings of talent.

Now What After the Ship Has Sailed for the New Orleans Saints

Make no mistake the Saints are in full blown rebuild mode right now and that’s a tough pill to swallow when Drew Brees is turning 37 in a little over a month. But there is light at the end of this dark tunnel, the future looks bright with all the young guns they brought on board this year, couple that with another year of Jeff Ireland scouting talent and this team can turn it around fairly quick.

The Saints made two huge mistakes this past off season and it cost them dearly. One was not to address the guard situation and rely on two untested players in Senio Kelemente and Tim Lelito. We are seeing the results of this failure with a rookie tackle starting at left guard. The other was not addressing the wide receiver position with the hopes that Marques Colston would return to form and second year player Brandon Coleman would step up and be a solid contributor–neither happened. Thank God Willie Snead took his shot and ran with it or this offense would even look worse.

There is a lot of knee jerk reaction going on with fans and understandably so since this team has gone over the cliff this year but if you think cleaning the slate and starting over is the answer–just look around the league. How many teams have we seen start over and then then three years later they are starting over again? It’s an all to often occurrence and happens more than you might realize.

This off season all eyes are going to be focused on the future of Sean Payton but the reality is that Payton is under contract and can’t go anywhere unless Tom Benson grants him his release or works out a trade with another team. The only other way is that there is an ownership change and then he can walk with no repercussions due to a clause in his contract.

But the question that will be asked over and over the next month or two is does Payton WANT to leave? I honestly don’t think we’ll ever know the answer unless he actually walks because if he wants to stay he will stay–he carries that much stroke in that building.

So what do the Saints do in the immediate future? I think you will see more of a Dennis Allen stamp on this defense, getting away little by little of the Rob Ryan philosophy. It won’t happen over night but it will happen. I also think the Saints will give extended looks to certain players that will go a long way with their future in New Orleans – good or bad.

The Saints have five games left so give the trade Brees and fire Payton bull a rest. It’s a knee jerk-reaction to a team that is clearly going through changes. If anybody truly paid attention to the roster turnover and changes made in the front office and coaching staff this past off season the struggles of this team shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The clock is ticking on a team that is having serious issues with being made over this past year and the questions remains, is the clock running out? or being reset.

Now What After the Ship Has Sailed for the New Orleans Saints

Now What After the Ship Has Sailed for the New Orleans Saints