Dec 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (R) and tight end Jimmy Graham (80) watch a replay on a fumble during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Who Dat Nation is once again back to the drawing board and saying what we have said many, many times before. “There is always next year.”
The New Orleans Saints front office went all in 2014 and lost. You can’t pinpoint one area for all the problems of this season to land on. Problems were aplenty across the board. It’s surely been rough for the organization and fans as a whole.
Back in August, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the organization with talk of the Saints representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. The national media as well as everyone here locally really believed all the right moves had been made in the offseason and all was set to send the Saints back to the holy grail of football. There was no doubt!
Then came Week One.
It was a horrid performance by the unit collectively, and we saw first hand what the season would be as a whole. A defense that you would’ve sworn Steve Spagnola was on the sideline coaching. An offense led by Drew Brees that was able to score points and keep up with Falcons, but turned the ball over in the red zone in what would’ve been a play that changed the outcome of the game.
That truly was a crystal ball reading of what 2014 would become. A defense burned often and early through the air and on the ground. A quarterback who always seemed to be forcing the ball to make something happen with a tendency to turn the ball over at the most critical point of the game. It was hard for fans, and in some cases, even non fans to watch it all unfold into what has become by far the worst showing of the Payton-Brees era in New Orleans.
The offensive line played less than stellar all season, and often gave the impression that they were better than what they truly were mostly in part to Drew Brees’ ability to dictate the movement of an ever collapsing pocket. He was able to evade many sacks throughout the course of the season that kept the numbers down and created this mirage. A high percentage of quarterbacks in today’s game couldn’t have done so and would’ve shown the true worth of the big guys up front.
The defensive line, with the exception of Junior Galette, was horrid. “Paging Cam Jordan, Has anyone seen Cam Jordan?” Junior brought it week in and week out. He harassed quarterbacks constantly, but would sometimes be slowed down when opposing offensive coordinators would run the ball right him. It’s no secret that he’s a pass rush specialist, and not a run stopping linebacker. Cam Jordan became non-existent after a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2013. The interior of the D-line? I don’t even have to go there for any of you who watched at least one game this year.
The secondary was beat early and often this year with the exception of Keenan Lewis playing like his all from Week One. Injuries bit early and often, personnel changes and groupings seems to change from play to play. Rob Ryan just couldn’t dial-up any continuity in the back-end. If the Saints can get a solid corner either via free agency or the draft and the unit can stay healthy next year, I would expect vast improvement.
The linebacking corp played decent at times, but were also not able to put together consistent play on a week to week basis. You could make the case that Curtis Lofton had a pro bowl type year but he was the only bright spot of the group. We should see some changes for 2015, with the departure of position coach Joe Vitt being the main one. With Vitt and head coach Sean Payton being close personal friends, we will just have to wait and see. Personal relationships for next year should be out the window.
The receivers and tight end groups get an average grade. I think with the return of Brandin Cooks and the elevation of Kenny Stills‘ play, we could see a solid performance next season. Due to cap constraints, Marques Colston is quite possibly out of the equation for next year. We’ll quite possibly see the Saints try to track down a big physical receiver in the middle rounds.
What happened to the beast that use to be Jimmy Graham? He played hurt for a major part of the season, but that doesn’t excuse the amount of dropped balls and blown routes we have seen from him this year. Did he get paid and rise above training and preparation? I’m not sure, but to have success and get back to the postseason in 2015, an aging Drew Brees will need him back in beast mode.
The topic that has been most discussed as possibly the biggest change we will see headed to the offseason is the firing of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. I may take a lot of push back for what I’m about to say but I don’t care. It’s my column, and my opinion.
I think Rob Ryan gets one more year to make it right. I believe in his system, and I believe he has been given less that good to work with. I was very down on him earlier on but studying further changed my opinion of his demise. I think with a healthy secondary and some changes in position coaches, he may very well be able to lead us back to being a top five defense.
With the fans relief of knowing they no longer have to watch what has been in 2014 any longer (other than a game in Tampa this Sunday that has nothing but pride on the line) everyone can get to enjoying the holidays with their families with that monkey off their back. I, as I always do, think next year brings us back to the top!
Who Dat for life! Merry Christmas