The New Orleans Saints as it stands today are not a good football team, they aren't even a bad team, they're awful. That's a strange thing to read considering they still employ the best offensive mind in football, a Hall of Fame quarterback, and so have had pretty much every offseason move work out (pending Sheldon Rankins' return from surgery). Why then are they awful? Because, a team that is built around a world class offense and the greatness of Drew Brees is worthless if they can't keep that quarterback upright.
Once is a coincidence, twice is a pattern, but three times is a trend. Three games into the Saints preseason and the offensive line's greatest achievement is that they were only bad against Pittsburgh, but not putrid. This is of course awful news for Saints fans as many of us believe (myself included) that this might be the best group of weapons Drew Brees has ever been surrounded with, and while they are yet far from 'good' the defense has shown signs of real improvement through those three games.
Many of us have asked ourselves the same question; how did Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis let the Saints line get to be SO bad? Are they incompetent, do they not understand keeping their QB standing is the single highest priority to the team? Of course they do, but there is a reason that this has 'come out of nowhere'.
Many of us blame the poor free agent signings of the last few years, they point at all the dead money, the Jairus Byrd signing, and even letting players like Malcom Jenkins and Darren Sproles walk to have success at other places, but as much as we may regret some of those moves, in hindsight the Saints are in the position they are now because of the deficit in talent on the roster.
You don't build a great football team by adding stars, and the Eagles 'dream team' made that pretty clear for everyone I would think. Great teams are made through balance and depth. Having enough solid players throughout the roster to complement whatever stars you do have, and THAT is the area where the Saints have failed the most. If you want to know the cause behind the Saints fall from the game's elite, then look no further than their drafts from 2010-2014. Here are the players of note left on the roster: Cameron Jordan, Mark Ingram, Terron Armstead, and Brandin Cooks. From five year's worth of drafts, the Saints have four players left on contract.
We all look at the payroll, we look at the stars who fill out our fantasy teams and whose jersey's we buy, but teams are built from 'contributors' just as much as the stars and that's the area where the Saints have messed up. They have spent an enormous amount of resources trying to fix a constantly failing defense, and because of that have had only minimal resources to spend on depth along the offensive line. It's true that the Saints are very good at finding talented linemen deeper in the draft, but when those picks have to be used on safety and defensive line depth, wide receivers who don't make the team, and narcoleptic linebackers, you get the mess we have now.
You wind up with a first round pick like Andrus Peat who has never had a chance to develop into the player he was supposed to be, because he's too busy adjusting to that player changing every 7 seconds. Peat HAS looked better the more time he's spent at guard, which makes sense since he spent his whole offseason working on developing the necessary footwork to work on the interior, and on the right hand side. Moving him from left to right is detrimental, and severely slows his development.
Peat aside though, that still leaves the Saints with two undrafted free agents fighting for one guard spot and a right tackle that no matter how much we love him is very quickly approaching his expiration date as an NFL starter. The Saints have been in a no win situation trying to desperately repair a failing defense while allowing their once great offense to rot from within behind an aging line. That's the reality we face now.
BUT! There is some good news! The Saints are far younger than they have been in years and they are absolutely flush with talent all over the roster. They are just a few pieces away from being a VERY dangerous team again. Unfortunately, several of those pieces happen to ALL be offensive linemen. If by some miracle the Saints can patch together a functioning offensive line, then this could still be a team to be reckoned with this year. If they can manage to fix it soon, it can still be a good team for year's to come because of the drafts of the last couple of years, but that of course assumes Drew Brees is a man of his word and can play into his 40s (unlikely behind this line to say the least).
The Saints bad drafts have put them in an unenviable position, but the (presumably) better drafts of the last couple of years have helped to set them up again. They need a couple more years of solid drafts to return to where they once were, but if you are looking for one place to lay the blame for the embarrassment that was the first three preseason games....you might want to take a look at the scouts who were fired last year.