I'm coming for them! All of them!
1) Sean Payton's Message Has Gotten Stale
He makes eight million dollars a season, and right now, Saints head coach Sean Payton isn't worth that. At all! Being a head coach isn't just about leading one of the greatest offenses the NFL has seen in recent years. It's realizing that football is a team sport that is played on both sides of the ball. Payton would have two Super Bowl rings by now, maybe more, if he had paid more attention to the defensive side of the ball during his Saints tenure. And I mean serious, real attention to that side of the ball. There are absolutely no reasons or excuses why for almost a decade now, the Saints' defense has consistently been ranked at the bottom of the league, save two seasons (2010 and 2013).
But wait...I talked about this great offense. Yeah, not so much on Sunday huh? The Saints were shut out in the second half. A game that was tied at 14 in the second quarter became a rout, with Washington scoring the final 33 points of the game. There was no fire from the Saints, either defensively or offensively. Payton was not able to get his team up to play the hapless Tennessee Titans or Washington Redskins, because don't be fooled, the last two opponents the Saints have played are not good NFL teams this season; not even close.
Yet while playing against two teams with very similar talent level to his Saints, Payton had no words that rang strongly enough to make his players get on the field and play with any type of passion or sense of urgency. This has been going on since late in the 2013 season and today it's clear to me that Payton's message in New Orleans has gotten stale and it may be time for another voice in the Saints' locker room. 2009 is a long six seasons away and as far as I'm concerned at the very least, the honeymoon is long over.
2) Rob Ryan's Message...Wait, What Message?
We have tried every excuse in the book: they're young, they don't have enough talent, the scheme may be too complicated. You name the reason, we have used it to try and explain why the Saints' defense has been the absolute worst in the NFL dating back to the 2014 season. Try and wrap your head around these numbers: Scoring Defense: 31.5 points-per-game, NFL rank: 32nd. Yards Allowed per Game: 424.7, NFL rank: 32nd. Passing Yards Allowed per Game: 293.1, NFL rank: 30th. Rushing Yards Allowed per Game: 131.6, NFL rank: 29th. Interceptions: 4, NFL rank: 29th. You want advanced stats? Football Outsiders: + 19.4% Defensive DVOA; NFL rank: 32nd. Pro Football Focus: - 2.7 grade, NFL rank: 27th.
Okay, are you still breathing? Or reading? Yesterday, the Saints allowed Kirk Cousins to post a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. Perfect and Kirk Cousins should never be found in the same sentence, yet that's what happened. Cousins completed 20 of 25 attempts for 324 yards, four touchdowns and no picks.
Whatever the Saints' defensive talent or experience level, there is no excuse for being this abysmally, awfully terrible. It's been my contention for a while that Ryan should be fired, because it's not about his message or his scheme failing at this point. It's probably a combination of all of that and more. A good coach gets the best out of his players. The Saints' defensive players are in the NFL because they're good enough to play at this level. That they're underachieving to this extent tells me that the guy "teaching" them isn't getting it done, not by a long shot. If it's broke, fix it!
3) Mickey Loomis Should be on a Scorching Hot Seat
The role of a General Manager in the NFL is to find talent for his team, with the help of the scouting department of course, as well as inputs from the coaches. But Loomis is the guy in New Orleans who has the final say (allegedly) about who the team brings in to play for the Saints.
The Saints have an offensive mastermind in Sean Payton, which is why they've been able to find offensive gems in the undrafted free agent pool, and at times in the draft despite having an admittedly average scouting department. However, defensively, it's been bust after bust and terrible signing after terrible signing. Hello Jason David, Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman, Brandon Browner, Jairus Byrd, and the list goes on...
But here's where it gets even worse: the number of terrible contracts that the Saints (read Loomis) have given out to bad defensive players or free agents signees is staggering and I'm obviously not going to bog you down with all the numbers. But how brutal is it to know that for instance, the Saints are paying the (mostly) useless Jairus Byrd $26.3M in guaranteed money? That's the third-highest guaranteed salary on the team behind Drew Brees and Cam Jordan. Oh yeah, New Orleans is still paying Redskins' defensive end Junior Galette. If you just felt the need to vomit a little bit, I understand. These are just two crushing examples of Loomis' ineptitude.
Payton and Loomis hit a homerun in 2006, both in the draft and with undrafted free agents. That outstanding "signing class" brought them Super Bowl XLIV, and they've been resting on their laurels ever since. Like I said earlier, 2009 is looking smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror and Loomis' track record since then has been absolutely terrible.
4) Brees is Too Good to be This Bad
Regardless of the talent (or lack thereof) around him, Drew Brees is too good to have the type of games he had yesterday. But honestly, he's too good to have the type of games he's been having for quite a while now. Brees' stat line from yesterday's game looked like this: 19 of 28 for 209 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs and a passer rating of 83.8. Here are my issues with good ol' Drew and his crew: first, he and his team got shutout in a full half of an NFL game, by a defense ranked in the 20s in the NFL. For a quarterback on this caliber, zero points in the second half against the Redskins is absolutely unacceptable. Even worse is the fact that Brees, with his two interceptions, has now thrown a pick in seven of the nine games he has played in this year, and now has also thrown an interception in four consecutive games. Here's the thing: for as efficient a quarterback as he is, Brees routinely gives the Saints' opponent an extra chance or two in nearly every game. Sometimes the pick is on the receivers, like Colston's tipped pass yesterday. More often than not however, it's Brees just throwing balls up for grabs, trying to do too much. He clearly is not the biggest problem the Saints have, but as the quarterback, every mistake Brees makes is magnified. He's better than that and his sometimes erratic play is often making things worse for an already terrible defense.
5) Where Y'At Tom Benson?
Yes, I know the Saints' owner is up in age and isn't exactly the picture of great health right now. But here's a question I'm daring to ask out loud: were his kids right when they argued that he wasn't able to really handle his business ventures anymore? Because, although I certainly wouldn't want an overzealous, meddling owner like Jerry Jones for the Saints, I see nothing and I hear nothing from the old man that tells me that he sees what's going on. Benson has always been a bit of a "behind the scenes" owner, but if there ever was a time to give an interview to WWL and even just say: "I'm f***ing pissed by what I'm seeing from all these players and coaches that I pay millions to give me a better product on the field" then that time is now, Tommy!
Maybe he's just lying in the weeds and waiting to chop heads with his black and gold-plated katana when the season is over, and I sure hope that's the case. Because right now, the Saints feel like a rudderless ship and the captain is nowhere to be found.