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A Closer Look at Bill Johnson

Who is really to blame for the under-performing defensive line: the players...or the coaching?


We've talked a lot already about needing to see improvement for this Saints defense next season, particularly on the defensive line. Most or all of that talk has focused on adding talent to the unit, either through free agency or via the 2013 NFL Draft.

But this line is already stocked with "talent." On paper at least. Will Smith, Cam Jordan, Sedrick Ellis, and Brodrick Bunkley - the starting lineup - are all first round draft picks. Between them, their average draft position is 16th overall. Yet here they are, under-performing and needing help.

Usually in situations like this, when a group of players aren't living up to expectations, it's the coach everyone first looks to blame. Right? So why isn't anyone pointing a finger toward the man responsible for coaching these guys: defensive line coach Bill Johnson?

Johnson, a Louisiana native, will be entering his thirteenth year in the NFL and fifth season with the Saints as coach of the defensive line, following a short tenure with the Denver Broncos in 2007 and 2008. In all his time in New Orleans, unfortunately, his coaching results have been pedestrian, at best.

Season Sacks/Pass Attempt Rank Overall Defensive Rank
2009 21 25
2010 12 4
2011 28 24
2012 29 32

At what point then does the team decide to take it in a different direction? All the time we hear the tough talk from coaches about only playing the guys who deserve to be there. I suppose that doesn't apply to the coaches themselves, however, because I'm not sure Bill Johnson's resume is up to snuff.

Perhaps it isn't poor coaching on the field, however, so much as it's the lack of ability to evaluate talent and choose the right players. This is a regime, after all, that let a now thriving Rob Ninkovich slip through their hands. Either way, it's still in the control of the coaches.

Honestly, we should only hope that the problem is a simple lack of football talent. That can be adding the right players and with good coaching. But if the coaches are to bear the brunt of the blame, then we shouldn't expect much to change because it's the same cast of characters for the Saints next season.

I want to know what you think. Where does the problem truly lie for the poor play of the Saints defensive line?