New Orleans Saints: 4 Changes the Team Must Make for 2013
On Sunday afternoon, something died. It wasn't the 2012 season. That died last week when the New Orleans Saints lost to the Kansas City Chiefs—a team that has been absolutely dreadful in its three games against anyone not from New Orleans.
No, the death that took place took something far more disastrous. That death was the loss of hope. It was the loss of a realistic hope that could foster itself.
The Saints' 28-27 loss at Lambeau Field took away the one thing New Orleans fans were holding onto even amid a 0-3 start. Hope could abound simply because there had been teams that came from 0-3 to make the playoffs.
No team has ever gone 0-4 and made the playoffs. And this team isn't the one to do that.
Now, here is what I'm not saying. I'm not saying the rest of 2012 won't be a great year. The Saints, theoretically, could still turn this thing around to the ultimate degree to go 12-4. And the way everyone else is stinking in the NFC, if the team could simply go 9-7, they could easily gain a wild-card spot.
But, that's just it. That's a sad, sad thing to hope for. Sure in the past, teams such as the Giants, Steelers, Packers and Cardinals have won or gotten to the Super Bowl with similar records. And yes, if the Saints managed to get to 9-7, they'd be playing some really good football at the end of the season.
But at some point, even an eternal optimist, like myself, must stay reasonable. It won't happen. And frankly, a high draft pick in 2013 is a better goal to look toward than a No. 6 seed and the 99.9 percent certainty of not making the Super Bowl.
With all that said, let's look forward to 2013 when, hopefully, the Saints have a top-five draft pick they can trade away for five picks that can set the team up for continued success over the next decade. With that in mind, I spoke too soon. Hope was not lost. But, the 2012 version of this team lost a reason to hope in this season. There we go.
Here is the hope for 2013.
Make Great Decisions in 2013 Draft
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The 2013 NFL season begins with free agency. But, it is most on display at the NFL draft.
With a probable sub-.500 record, the Saints figure to be picking in the top half of the draft. Depending on how bad this season gets, that pick could be in top 10, perhaps even top five.
If it is, there could be a number of suitors for the team's pick. And here's the thing, as bad as this team looks right now, talent is not the issue. Therefore, selecting one marquee name is not going to be the piece that makes this team tick and improve dramatically.
As of now, the Saints do not possess a second-round pick due to "Bounty" penalties. Trading down and gaining a second-round pick could be the right play for this particular team at this particular time.
Let Guys Do Their Job
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No matter what anyone says, the Saints have not followed suspended head coach Sean Payton's advice to "do your job." Instead, Aaron Kromer has tried to do too much. Drew Brees has tried to do too much.
You could make an argument that a number of other people directly associated with this team (coaches and players) have tried to do too much as well.
With Payton back in the fold—managing the team—everyone else can do what they do best. "Do your job" will no longer be a clever saying but a pleasant reality.
Pete Carmichael will presumably remain the offensive coordinator and can focus on game planning, while Payton adds his input throughout the game (clearly Kromer has no input on the play-calling).
Payton's presence will make Steve Spagnuolo better for two reasons. One, he'll push the right motivational buttons, the one area Spagnuolo is not good. The other is that he'll keep Spagnuolo accountable for his defense in a much different way than what Kromer currently is or even the way of Joe Vitt.
Just having Payton back will make the Saints a million times better.
Run the Football More
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Clearly, the Saints are not running the football enough in 2012. When you're averaging under 15 rushing attempts per game through four games, there is a huge problem.
When you consider the team has actually looked really good when running the ball, that discrepancy in rushing attempts is astounding. It is hard to understand. For fans who care about the purity of the game, it's hard to take, frankly.
Pierre Thomas is still a bull and nearly impossible to tackle. Mark Ingram is a beast when the defense is spread out a bit and running lanes are larger than an inch. Those two should be averaging 150 yards a game.
Instead, 163 is the the season's best. And that was well beyond anything else they've done all year.
Sean Payton needs to re-establish the running game in this offense in 2013.
Play More Zone Coverage
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Sure, the defenders the Saints have currently are better in man-to-man coverage, or at least, theoretically that is true. But, the man-to-man coverages that Steve Spagnuolo is drawing up are not working.
It isn't just the Packers who victimized Patrick Robinson and Corey White. Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, and to some small extent, Matt Cassel did as well. Receivers regularly beat the Saints corners with simple head bops or by planting their feet in the ground on a cut.
If the team played more zone coverage, those little physical problems would not be such big problems. Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins can both be effective in the Tampa 2 scheme we all assumed would be run when Steve Spagnuolo was named defensive coordinator.
Instead, man-to-man has been employed, and it has burnt this particular unit. Of course, the lack of a pass rush hasn't helped much, but that's partially due to a lack of talent and to still learning the new scheme.
It will all be better in 2013. Real hope will be re-established, especially if these four changes are employed by Sean Payton's staff.