Who Should Be Fired for Saints' Defensive Performance?
Through four games, the New Orleans Saints have put themselves on pace for some not-so-lofty company in terms of defensive performance over the course of one season.
The Saints are also on dangerously pace for a number of other records, including points (on pace for 520 points, record is 533 by '81 Colts), rushing yards (2,988 yards, record is 3,228 by 1978 Buffalo Bills) and passing yards allowed in one season (4,424 yards, record is 4,796 by 2011 Green Bay Packers).
Of course, four games does not a season make. The Saints have 12 games to turn around what has been an unmitigated disaster defensively.
What if, however, the 2012 Saints' defense is a historically bad unit? What if this continues for the next 12 games and we're placing the Saints right alongside the 1981 Colts as the worst defenses ever?
Well, heads would roll, and justifiably so.
Given the problems of the first four games, the following slides break down who's job would be the first to go.
GM Mickey Loomis
Why not start with the guy putting the puzzle pieces together, general manager Mickey Loomis?
The Saints' defense is obviously lacking the talent necessary to put a competing product on the field. The defense tastes awful, but Loomis is buying all the groceries.
For the most part, the last seven years has been Loomis picking lemons high in the NFL draft.
Four first-round picks—Cam Jordan, Sedrick Ellis, Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson—have resulted in four starters, but mediocre-to-below-average starters. None of the four is a star or even remotely close. Jenkins had that potential but he's regressed.
Roman Harper and Tracy Porter, both second-round picks, were good picks at the spot they were drafted, however, Harper is now a significant liability in coverage and Porter is playing and starting in Denver.
Porter, despite leaving the team this offseason, is probably Loomis' best pick of the bunch.
Given these evaluation failures, Loomis has to be the one held responsible for this epic collapse at some point. The NFL draft is where the foundation of a football team has to be made. Loomis has done well on the offensive side, but the other side of the ball is a completely different story.
Defensive coordinators can only do so much without any talent available.
Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
While the talent level of the players may not be there for Steve Spagnuolo, there's past precedent set by Gregg Williams that this bunch can work. Maybe not top-10 defense potential, but potential enough to win football games.
The way Spagnuolo is running the Saints defense now is obviously a far cry from the way the blitz-crazy Williams used to handle his business.
Williams helped mask the Saints' talent deficiencies with a medley of fire blitzes, aimed at hitting the quarterback and causing turnovers. Even if the occasional big play happened or an offense figured them out—say, San Francisco in 2011 playoffs—the Saints were still putting themselves in position to be competitive.
The defense under Spagnuolo looks content to slowly bleed out with small wound after small wound. The Packers had very few big plays Sunday, but the Saints were helpless in stopping drives when it mattered most.
The natural reaction now is to point the finger in the defensive coordinator's face. Maybe that's legitimate in this scenario because this Saints's defense has been historically bad through four games.
As is tradition in the NFL these days, Spagnuolo will likely be the first man to go if things continue down this treacherous path.
Bill Johnson, Defensive Line
If the Bill Johnson's defensive line hasn't been the worst in football this season, it's been close to the bottom of the barrel.
Problems have occurred against both the pass and run.
The front four has generated little to no pass rush on its own, especially Sunday in Green Bay. The Packers were coming off a two-week stretch that saw Aaron Rodgers get sacked a whopping 13 times, but the Saints rarely laid a finger on him Sunday.
Rodgers had more drop backs against the Saints without a sack than in any game during his five-year stint as the Packers starting quarterback.
The defensive line has also been a factor in the Saints giving up more rushing yards than any team in the NFL. Gap control and allowing lanes for the linebackers have been rare occurrences.
Is Johnson all to blame? Obviously not, but coaches usually take the fall for such poor play from a collective unit.
Malcolm Jenkins, Safety
I'm not suggesting the Saints cut Jenkins, but at some point, a message needs to be sent to the entire group. What better example to make than of Jenkins, who has All-Pro potential as a safety but plays like a backup?
Jenkins was again poor in Green Bay, committing two stupid facemask penalties and continuing his struggles against the pass.
What the Saints' defense is missing is that one playmaker, a guy that can consistently get his hands on the football and cause turnovers. Darren Sharper was that player for New Orleans, but Jenkins hasn't been.
Maybe sitting him down would send a message to the entire group that no one's job is safe with a product on the field this poor.