New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis cleaned shop in 2014, parting ways with veterans Jonathan Vilma, Roman Harper, Jabari Greer, Will Smith, Lance Moore, Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins, who were staples to the New Orleans Saints organization.
Excluding QB Drew Brees, Smith, Vilma and Harper were the voices of the locker room. The moves haunted the club, but with production decline, it was the right decision.
The true value of those missing pieces came into sight in 2014. There was no heart, no passion, and no determination it seemed like. But at the end of the day, it was time for the Saints to get younger, faster and stronger, and hopefully better, which was not the case in 2014.
It was miscommunication on all ends of the spectrum, especially on the defensive side of the ball. There were clearly more issues than just overall performance on the field, and it all pointed to the locker room.
The New Orleans Saints parted ways with several more players this offseason. Veterans RB Pierre Thomas and LB Curtis Lofton were cut, while Jimmy Graham, WR Kenny Stills and G Ben Grubbs were all traded away.
It seems as if Graham and head coach Sean Payton have been on two totally different pages since the “wide receiver or tight end?” controversy began to surround the organization a year ago, so his departure was not too big of a surprise.
But regardless of the roster makeover and whatever other issues have damaged this organization over the past year, Coach seems happy with the direction the team is now headed.
Payton spoke with the media during rookie minicamp Saturday afternoon, covering a number of topics following the team’s second day of workouts. He mentioned that player makeup had a big impact on the recent offseason moves. Whether it was free agent acquisitions or the selections in the draft, character was a focal point in the team’s decisions.
It’s safe to say the Saints lacked character a season ago, as I mentioned above. That’s not going to work if your goal is to bring home a championship. Last year’s mishaps will not be tolerated in 2015. When the season ended, Payton said one of the primary objectives will be fixing the character issues. Well, it seems like he stuck to his word.
There are ton of new guys who bring the qualities, two that really stick out being free agent CB Brandon Browner and one of the two two first-round picks, ILB Stephone Anthony.
Not only does Browner bring experience, and two Super Bowl rings to the Big Easy, he also brings a voice. He’ll speak when something isn’t right. He’ll step up and aid in the development of the younger guys.
Stephone Anthony was the same way at Clemson. He was the captain of college’s No. 1 overall defense a year ago. At Saturday’s press conference, Payton said when you see Anthony, you see that top defense. They like Anthony not only for his size, but also for his ability to read defenses and communicate. He could be the one making the calls on defense sooner rather than later.
Greatness can’t just be measured with performance. Character must be thrown in the mix. You need to have the heart, the passion, the determination, the ability to motivate and the intelligence to make the calls. You don’t want to win — you need to win. Winning and being great is an addiction. That’s what Sean Payton hopes to see from all of these fresh faces.
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