Why is Greg McMahon Still Employed?
I hate this. I hate calling for another man's job. Because I have a job, and I'd hate it if someone said: "hey, you should fire this guy!" But here's what I also know: if I underachieve at my job...ok let me take off the gloves: if I consistently suck at my job, there won't be the need for someone to say that I should get fired, because...I'll simply and logically get fired. Greg McMahon is probably a nice man; he probably has a family and people who depend on him. But right now, he sucks at his job. Yes, the Saints had another blocked kick yesterday. It was a mesmerizing sight, because just five days earlier, almost the same exact play happened in the Superdome against the Broncos. And once again, it cost the Saints dearly, as the field goal attempt that was blocked could have given the team the very margin (three points) they lost by, a 23-20 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers. But that's not all: The Saints also had Marcus Murphy trying to field a punt inside his own five-yard line...he then tipped the ball out of bounds, forcing the Saints into terribly precarious field position. Aside from the Broncos and Panthers games, there have been other blocked or partially blocked kicks, terrible kick or punt coverage, terrible kick or punt returns. The Saints could be sitting at 6-4 had they not had an absolute liability of a special teams unit. But they do. And they're 4-6 and well on their way to the mediocre season record we've seen in 2014 and in 2015. And if Greg McMahon is still employed, it's because Sean Payton is a great offensive mind...and a terrible "everything else" when it comes to football or team management. But that's the subject of paragraph two.
Great Offensive Mind...Terrible at "Everything Else"
Sean Payton is a great offensive mind but he is a terrible talent evaluator when it comes to drafting defensive players. Sean Payton is a great offensive mind, he's terrible at talent evaluation/management when it comes to the players he signs of cuts in free agency. Sean Payton is a great offensive mind but he is terrible at managing his staff in terms of the coaches he hires and the ones he fires. Sean Payton should delegate...a lot. A lot more! As many of you know, I'm an avid LSU fan. The single biggest thing that torpedoed Les Miles' career at LSU was the fact that he never could delegate well enough on the side of the ball he was most deficient in: offense. Miles should have hired a great offensive coordinator, given him the key to his talent-laden offense and enjoyed the benefits. Had he done that, say after the debacle that was the 2011-2012 National Championship loss against Alabama, I bet that Miles' legacy at LSU would look quite different. It would probably look much better, which is a lot to say for a coach that was as successful as Les Miles was in Baton Rouge. In Payton's case, the problem lies with the defense. In 10-plus years in New Orleans, Payton has gone through defensive coordinators like he goes through kickers. At some point, when you are the constant and the problems stay the same through a slew of defensive coordinators, maybe the problem is: you. Through terrible defensive draft selections, horrendous signings and the multiple firings of defensive coordinators as easy scapegoats, the Saints have had a perennially mediocre-to-putrid defense, while the offense has always been top 5-10. The perfect recipe for mediocrity. When the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009, they found lightning in a bottle in the form of a defense that was ranked in the 20s but caused 39 turnovers despite being routinely torched up and down the field. That year, the offense was what it has always been in the Payton/Brees era and the Lombardi in the trophy case at the Saints' facility on Airline Drive seemingly bought Payton total control of the Saints organization and a lifetime of mulligans in NOLA. Maybe that's the biggest problem.
D-Fence! D-Fence! D-Fence!
The Saints defense gave up 20 points in the first half against Carolina. The first three of the Panthers points came after Brees fumbled in his own territory, giving Carolina a short field. A Brees interception led to the Panthers having the ball in Saints territory again to score. The last points of the half for Cam Newton and co. came after New Orleans' special teams took its turn helping the Panthers by having another field goal blocked. Count with me: 17 of Carolina's 20 points in the first half came with the Panthers starting their drive on the Saints' side of the field, something the defense had no influence on. Then in the second half, New Orleans only gave up three points. The Panthers gained a miserable 3.6 yards-per-play for the game and the Saints still lost, because both the offense and special teams were in quite the giving mood. Yes, the defense had a chance to get off the field late in the fourth quarter on a crucial third-and-10 play that Newton converted with a pass to Kelvin Benjamin, but they gave the team multiple chances to win the game. Today, for the second consecutive week, I'm tipping my hat to the defense and I am giving the stink-eye to Brees and the extra, voodoo stink-eye to McMahon and his misfits.
The Saints' running game has been very effective as of late. Last night in Charlotte, New Orleans rushed the ball 25 times for 107 yards, a very healthy 4.3 yard-per-carry average against a pretty stout defense. Alas, Mark Ingram took a bad hit in the back of the head in the second half and was forced to leave the field for concussion evaluation. Thankfully these days, NFL doctors take no chances with suspected head injuries and Ingram did not return to the game. The question now will be whether Ingram can recover in time to return against Los Angeles in the Superdome. Thankfully, the Saints may have enough time for him to heal with 10 days until the next game. However, should Ingram miss any time, New Orleans will be in a bind, as the team is thin at running back behind Tim Hightower, who continues to be a revelation in the Saints' backfield. Hightower rushed 12 times last night for 69 yards (5.8 ypc) and might be thrust once again into a bell-cow type of role in the Saints backfield. Stay tuned.
You Want Hope? I Got Some Hope for You
Yes, the Saints are 4-6 and it sucks! But...let me sell you some hope and see if you buy it (you know you want to). The next two games (Rams, then Lions) are in the Superdome and if you thought that the Saints defense played well the last two games, you'll think they're world beaters against the Rams on November 27th. Los Angeles has a good defense, sure. But their offense takes football back to about 60 years ago, in the age of "three yards and a cloud of dust" concept. Todd Gurley gets the three yards on third-and-six and the dust gets kicked up when the Rams punt. The Lions are waaaaay better on offense, but their defense will be the first that the Saints have faced in a while that is not in the top half of the league rankings. It'll be a shootout and the Saints know how to win shootouts in the Superdome. Heck, they beat this Panthers team 41-38 in the Dome. Then at 6-6, the Saints will travel to Tampa Bay to face the currently 4-5 Bucs. 7-6, here we come. The Bucs are as inconsistent as New Orleans, so a win there isn't out of the question and is a very real possibility. From there, the Saints travel again, to Arizona, but on the heels of a three-game winning streak. As we all know, confidence can do wonders for a team. But what do you say we take it one game at a time and see what they do against the Rams before getting too ahead of ourselves?