Is it the beginning of the end? One has to wonder.
1) Worst 11-Game Start of the Payton Era
Knowing that with a 4-7 record the Saints have the worst 11-game stretch to start a season in the Payton era is an utterly discouraging fact. But wait, it gets worse: by losing to the Texans yesterday, the Saints actually tied their 11-game stretch record to start the 2014 season as well. So we're not talking about an isolated event here, this is becoming a trend. Prior to 2014, the last time the Saints were even close to being this bad with Payton on the sidelines was in 2007, when they started 5-6 after 11 games.
The decline of New Orleans' professional football franchise under Payton is real and right now, it's the light at the end of the tunnel that is more wishful thinking than reality.
2) Brees' Touchdown Streak is Gone...Who Cares?
Oh I'm sure some of us are disappointed about Brees' streak of 45 games with a touchdown pass coming to an end yesterday. The Saints scored six points in their 24-6 loss at Houston. Personally, I couldn't care less. Here's what stayed with me, however: the New Orleans Saints, with offensive guru Sean Payton, scored a grand total of six points in a four quarters football game. They scored all six in the second quarter, meaning that they were completely shut out in the second half, one where you expect a team to have made some halftime adjustments. Former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was just fired for fielding one of the most inept defenses in NFL history. But in 2015, Payton's offense has often heavily contributed to the demise of the team. I guess Payton can't exactly fire...Payton. So who cares if Brees is not going to break yet another (mostly) meaningless NFL record? I would have taken a win by the Saints with all touchdowns coming via the rushing game. I sure hope the team would have taken that too.
3) Dennis Allen: an Improvement Over Rob Ryan?
It is obviously too early to tell, after all Allen has now coached only one game as the official defensive coordinator of the Saints. However, after starting the game very shakily, the Saints defense seemed to really settle down. After giving up two quick touchdown drives, the Saints defense went into halftime having held Houston to 14 points. The Texans started the game 4 for 4 on third down, but went 2 for 9 the rest of the way, finishing at 6 for 13 (46%). The 362 total yards allowed were the best the Saints have given up in quite some time. It'll be interesting to see whether the defense can gradually improve over the remaining five games and whether Allen would have a shot at keeping the gig on a permanent basis should Payton decide to stay in New Orleans next season.
4) If Payton Decides to Go, Well...Bye.
Look...I'm not in the business of wanting to see people lose their jobs or get fired. In Sean Payton's case, it doesn't actually seem as though there'll be anything akin to a firing, unless the Saints just go into an ugly tailspin and lose their last five games. It seems that Payton's camp has put it out there that he could be looking to go elsewhere. I don't blame him, it's hard for anyone to stay at the same job for 10-11 years, let alone an NFL head coach (not named Bill Belichick). But two can play the game: if Payton wants to go, the Saints are likely to let him look around, given that he's under contract and the team would get some sort of compensation if he's to take a job with another NFL team.
Personally, I'm of the mindset that nothing is forever. Payton has revitalized the Saints franchise like no other head coach was ever able to. Heck, he revitalized the whole damn city. That's one man, we're talking about here. But he's lost something. And if what he needs is a change of scenery, maybe what the Saints need is a new voice, a new philosophy, and renewed energy as well. I have seen none of that from him this season. So if Payton goes, my heart will be sad, I may shed a tear, but I'll say goodbye without looking back.
5) Playoffs? Playoffs???
My apologies! I recently wrote a piece about the Saints still having a shot to make the playoffs. Then after yesterday's game, some Who Dats on Twitter were mentioning the fact that the most important thing to remember is that the Saints were only two-games out of the last wild card spot in the NFC. And I muttered to myself: "What have I done?"
The problems that this Saints team has wouldn't be fixed by backing into the playoffs. I cannot understand for the life of me why anyone would want these Saints to go get embarrassed even further on national TV in a Wild Card round at Green Bay, Minnesota or Seattle. Why? So we can say: "hey, we made the playoffs in 2015" for the history books? A much better Saints team made it to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2013.Do you know who remembers them? Nearly no one! Why? Because they did not win it all, or at least have a memorable playoffs run. We're talking about a team that won an actual playoff game! And it's great that no one remembers them, because the expectations in New Orleans have been higher now since 2009. We don't care about just making the playoffs and getting bounced in the first round...not anymore. Or at least we shouldn't.
So I hope the Saints truly realize how bad they are. I hope they don't back into some travesty of a wild card berth, and instead I hope they take a long hard look at the state of the franchise and start fixing what is wrong with it.