Look, I understand there are a lot of factors that can contribute to an offensive or defensive unit's ability to get the job done. However, underlying all of that there is a basic presumption that to have a good offense or defense you have to have talent. And, in the NFL, talent is meant to be identified through the draft. One thing I have never seen in the one place is an analysis of the Saints offensive and defensive units by historical draft position. So I thought I would do some digging and look at where our players have come from....
Offense - it was difficult to assess who was our starters at RB and WR, so I have tried to take the top 15 regular contributors on offense (yes there will be disagreements as to who should be included at the bottom of that 15, but humor me here please people).
QB - Drew Brees - 2001 2nd round (San Diego)
RB - Ingram - 2011 1st round; Sproles - 2005 4th round (San Diego); Thomas - Undrafted;
WR - Colston - 2006 7th round; Henderson 2004 2nd round; Meacham - 2007 1st round; Moore - Undrafted
TE - Graham - 2010 3rd round
FB - Collins - Undrafted
Center - De la Puente - Undrafted
Guard - Nicks - 2008 5th round; Evans - 2006 4th round
Tackle - Bushrod - 2007 4th round; Strief - 2006 7th round
Defense - to make it fair I have also looked at who I consider to be the top 15 contributors on defense.
DE - Jordan - 2011 1st round; Smith - 2004 1st round; Charleston - Undrafted;
DT - Ellis - 2008 1st round ; Rogers - 2001 2nd round (Detroit); Franklin - 2003 5th round (Baltimore)
CB - Greer - Undrafted (Bills); Robinson - 2010 1st round; Porter - 2008 2nd round
S - Jenkins - 2009 1st round; Harper - 2006 2nd round
So what does this mean in summary....
On our record-setting greatest show on dome turf offense we have - 2 x 1st; 2 x 2nd; 1 x 3rd; 3 x 4th; 1 x 5th; 0 x 6th; 2 x 7th; 4 x Undrafted. 2 of these drafted players were drafted by other teams (appreciate your fine efforts minor league feeder club San Diego).
On our 24th ranked regular season defense we have - 6 x 1st round; 3 x 2nd round; 1 x 5th; 1 x 7th; 4 x undrafted. 5 of these drafted players were drafted by other teams.
Or to put it another way, 9 of our starters on defense were drafted in the 1st or 2nd rounds. In comparison only 4 of our offense were drafted in the same rounds.
So what does this mean? Obviously age of players has not been factored into the above analysis (including Drew's long-slow decline!!!). But, at face level, you have to agree that Sean and the offensive coaching staff are getting a lot more production out of a lot less "talent" on offense. Does our defense struggle because the Saints cannot identify talent and take players too highly in the draft? Does our defense struggle because of co-ordinators and scheme (GW I am looking at you here)? Does our defense struggle because of post-draft coaching (tackling and other fundamentals)? Hard to assess, but probably a combination of all three.
To take this to another level, lets look at the San Francisco 49ers and their defense. Arguably the number 1 defense in the league (and I am not going to argue after yesterday's showing).
DT - McDonald - 2007 3rd round; Smith - 2001 1st round (Cincinnati); Dobbs - 2011 undrafted
DT - Sopoaga - 2004 4th round; Francois - 2009 7th round
FB - Brooks - undrafted; Bowman - 2010 3rd round; Willis - 2007 1st round; Haraison - 2006 5th round; Smith - 2011 1st round
CB - Rogers - 2005 1st round (Washington); Brown - 2007 5th round; Culliver - 2011 3rd round
S - Goldson - 2007 4th round; Whitner - 2006 1st round (Buffalo)
So we have 5 x 1st; 0 x 2nd; 3 x 3rd; 2 x 4th; 2 x 5th; 0 x 6th; 1 x 7th; 2 x undrafted.
To repeat, the Saints had 9 out of 15 players from the 1st two rounds, and the 49ers had 8 players. I wish I could do a similar analysis for teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but alas time does not permit. Not dissimilar, but there is little or no similarity in defensive performance.
What is to account for the disparity in defensive performance? I know the Saints defense is meant to be predicated on a bend-don't-break basis. But why, with the talent we are meant to have, can't we have a defense in the top 10, not the bottom 10?
I would love to get the views of others, but personally I would LOVE to see GW leave (either by his own free will or after being pushed) provided a suitable defense minded candidate becomes available (I believe a couple of defensive minded head coaches have recently become unemployed at St Louis and Jacksonville).
In 2009 we were opportunistic and created turnovers, in 2010 our defense under GW improved significantly statistically, and in 2011 I believe we witnessed a significant regression. I fear that under the same coaching staff in 2012 it will be like 2011 all over again. Sometimes a change is as good as a holiday, and unfortunately I believe it is time for GW to take that holiday.