Recently, Sean Payton was asked why he had no interest in installing a wildcat formation for the Saints offense.
"I just don't want to take snaps away from this guy," Payton said, referring to the Saints' prolific passer, Drew Brees. Payton’s logic for wanting to keep the ball in the hands of his best player, who happens to play at the most important position, is obvious.
Brees is an elite quarterback who runs the offense as good as any team in the league. As a result, Payton likes to throw first, and ask questions later. However, due to the Saints failure to meet lofty, yet reasonable expectations, Payton has been the one getting asked the questions lately.
One of those questions being grumbled by media and fans alike over the last year is why hasn’t the offense been more balanced. Essentially, there’s a chorus of voices urging Payton to run the ball more, and throw the ball less. After all, the Saints throw more than anybody.
Last season No. 9 led the league in attempts, throwing the ball 635 times for 5069 yards. The second most attempts came from newly relocated QB Jay Cutler who threw for only 19 less attempts but for 543 fewer yards.
Brees also led the league in touchdowns, and yards per attempt at eight. All of this resulted in a No. 1 ranking for the Saints offense. The offense did what it was designed to do, score bucket loads of points.
But, as the Saints failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season, many indirectly placed blame on the outfit least deserving of that blame, the offense.
Critics justified this culpability by asserting that because the Saints threw the ball so often, this limited their time of possession, and caused the Saints already anemic defense to get too much game time.
The longer the opposing offenses time of possession, the more the Saints D would tire, exhaust, and give up splash plays and big points.
However, following this train of thought would suggest that the Saints would be scored upon significantly more late in games, when the defense is exhausted due to their extended time on the field, rather than early in games when the D is still fresh and confident (although I doubt they were ever confident).
Let’s take a look at when the Saints were scored against last season!
The Saints were scored upon significantly more in the second quarter (or first half) than in any other quarter. This suggests to me that the defense’s ills are not caused in any way by the number of passes thrown by Brees.
The Saints are being scored against most early in games, meaning that the D should not yet be fatigued as a result of the offenses quick hits and misses. Although there are a higher number of points scored against the Saints in the fourth quarter, I’m certain that throughout the league, the majority of points are scored in the last 15 minutes of play.
Additionally, the Saints finished at 8-8, so I don’t think that playing from behind or ahead should be a factor here because of their identical number of wins and losses.
Finally, the Saints offense is by no means perfect, but it has been the best in the league. And although many are calling for the Saints to run more and throw less, I’m firmly entrenched in Payton’s camp. Do not take away snaps from No. 9.
The primary goal of the offense should be to score points, and the goal of the defense to prevent the other guys from scoring. With no significant additions to the Saints offense, I don’t expect to see any change in how they gameplan.
The Saints D can only get better by adding better players, by playing smarter and more aggressive ball. Hopefully they made the right adjustments.