I have always been intrigued and somewhat fascinated by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' model, more commonly-known as the five stages of grief. While interacting with Saints fans on @SaintsCSC during New Orleans' abysmal showing yesterday in Philadelphia, it dawned on me that most of us are at one of these five stages regarding the 2015 New Orleans Saints.
1) Denial (regarding the defense)
No, we're not that bad. It's because the offense can't score and forces the defense to be on the field way too long.
As much as I would like to make some of us feel better, and as much as some of us desperately want to "trust their eyes," here are the numbers and rankings for the Saints' defense through five games. I even included the yards metrics for those who distrust advanced stats:
Yards allowed/game: 409.0 (32nd)
Points allowed/game: 28.6 (29th)
PFF ranking: - 11.0 (25th)
Football Outsiders ranking: + 20.9% (32nd)
So, as much as some of us want to deny the facts, even though the offense has more than contributed to the defense's demise, there is no offense in the world that can make a defense be that inept. New Orleans' defense may be very good someday, provided the young players keep improving. This year, they're a sieve.
2) Anger (regarding Loomis and Payton's mismanagement)
I'm with all of you here. The 2015 Saints are a shell of what the Saints had been from 2006 to 2013 (if we consider 2012 the anomaly that it was). How did a team so dominant for such a long time suddenly fall off the face of the NFL earth? Bad management from the front office.
On Thursday night, the Saints will face the 5-0 Falcons. Atlanta fans will come here and gloat and trash talk, as if the past two years of 4-12 and 6-10 records with arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL and one of the best quarterbacks never happened. Why were they so bad in back-to-back years then? Mike Smith and his staff weren't getting the job done anymore. Smith had been an outstanding coach in Atlanta earlier in his tenure, but he had lost his way and was fired. Sean Payton has lost his way, so has Mickey Loomis. They've drafted pretty well in 2015 mind you, so maybe there's hope for the future. But the question is: do we want them at the helm of this future? Do we want them delivering the same stale message and making the same mistakes? Only Tom Benson can answer that question. For now, all we have as fans is anger at the staff that drove the Ferrari off a cliff.
3) Bargaining (regarding the 2015 season)
Here's my opinion: it's over. It has been over for a while. But this is what I keep hearing from fellow Who Dats: If we started Peat instead of Strief maybe things would be better? How about if we played McCown instead of Brees? (Yes, I've heard that). Here's another one: they just need to tighten up on the defensive front four and get more pressure. Oh and this is what I've heard the most: you play to win the game, you don't give up until the bitter end.
All of these ideas and views are admirable and respectable. I'm no quitter, but I'm also a realist, and a cold one at that. The question I have for those who are bargaining about the 2015 season remains the same: what do the Saints have to gain by winning, let's say three more games? Making our Sunday lives a bit more enjoyable? Is it pride? Is it teaching the young players a lesson about never giving up? If so then why do armies retreat at times in order to better strike back? You tell me.
4) Depression (regarding the sad current state of the Saints)
This is normal. Sports matter to us. Sometimes a little too much, but they do. We're passionate fans, we love our teams. We actually love them beyond just sports: they're our college school, our state school, where our kids went, they represent our city. So the sadness in the Who Dat Nation is palpable and understandable.
This is where Doctor JR puts on his psychologist white lab coat: bear with me here because I'll take the hated Falcons as example again: Atlanta seems bound to long term success with Dan Quinn at the helm now. However, just a short year ago the Falcons were a dumpster fire, finding more excruciating ways to lose games than the Saints of the early 2000s. Look at New Orleans in 2005, just before Payton arrived here: 3-13, nomad team with absolutely no prospects of success in the NFL. From 2006, the Saints were en route for their best decade ever with the crowning achievement being a Super Bowl win.
So what I am saying is, although you feel sad now, a turnaround could be just around the corner for New Orleans. The NFL is built for those quick recoveries where bad teams can rebuild and contend in a very short span. Ok, maybe not for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but you get what I'm saying. I truly believe that everything is going to be alright in the long run, especially given the good young players on this team. So, hang in there.
5) Acceptance (regarding the end of a great run)
The hardest part as a sports fan is to accept that the team you root for simply isn't very good, or accepting that maybe a run has come to an end. The Saints run as the dominant team in the NFC South is over. Like a twitching, dying corpse, New Orleans went to the playoffs in 2013 after a bad 2012 season and we all thought: oh, Sean Payton is back, the Saints are back. We ignore the signs, when the Saints couldn't win a division that they had led for a long part of the season, letting the Panthers come and snatch it from them. We were duped by the road-playoff win in Philadelphia and the valiant effort in Seattle. Then 2014 happened and we some of us realized that the disease was much more severe than we thought. Here's my opinion: the Saints need a complete overhaul. They need a new voice at the head coaching position. They need a new philosophy in the scouting department. Could Payton and Loomis turn this around? Can they revive the dead? Maybe so, but: would you bet your life on it? I wouldn't. I have come to terms with one thing: the 2006-2013 Saints are dead. Long live the Saints!