This is the first thing I’ve posted (heck, written) in months, but I’m just going to jump right in. This is no resolution to post more – the resolution lifestyle doesn’t jive with me – but, I don’t want the burden of “restarting” to keep me from, well, restarting. So, feet first…
This will be Part 1 of my Saints 2015 season review, which ended yesterday with a satisfying walk-off victory over the Falcons. I plan to look back at each game of the season, as well as some memorable (or not) moments, and will absolutely indulge in some healthy woulda-coulda-shoulda. But, to start off, I’m going to ask a few questions about the upcoming off-season.
Wherefore art thou Coach Payton?
Though speculation on where Sean Payton coaches next season has bubbled in the background all season, ramping up over the last week, I’m not so concerned with the “where” of the question. “Wherefore art thou?” is not a question of location, but of reason and identity. Where Payton is going to coach is a question of who he is as a coach, at this point in time. Is he defiant, angry at suggestions that he would leave behind an organization he built up, only to see fall again? Or is he eager for new challenges, comfortable in the knowledge he led one team to a championship and anxious to show he could do it again, revitalized by a new environment?
All of this ignores the inevitable outside influences: the direction Mickey Loomis feels the team needs to go is really the wind that powers all other sails. I suspect the resolution to Sean Payton’s plans for the coming season will be the groundhog as much as the shadow. Is this the season Loomis decides to part ways with Brees, finally beginning the inevitable rebuild and biting the biggest salary cap-related bullets? Or does he decide to keep the current team together and see how far an aging star, a potentially improved defense and emerging offensive weapons can go? I think conventional wisdom says Payton is more likely gone in the first scenario, but I can easily imagine a world where those decisions flip-flop
Either way, I think you can reasonably say that if Sean Payton is coaching the Saints next year, that is where he wants to be. Which means he’s an engaged, intense and eager-to-prove-the-world-wrong Sean Payton, also known as the best Sean Peyton. If not, then I’ll wish him well, as I don’t really have it in my heart to hate a coach who took this team from laughingstocks to champions.
The Elephant in the Room
Is Brees back? If Payton’s back, then I’m 99% sure Brees is, too. If Payton goes, I think it’s closer to 50/50. If I may theorize a bit, if both coach and quarterback are gone next year, it’s the official start of the rebuild and the decision for both to go was made from on high (Hi Mickey). If Payton goes, but Brees is still here, then I think Payton left for (perceived) greener pastures. In that case, I think you see Brees circle the wagons and finish his career in the Big Easy, as we all hope Payton has a little Ewing in him.
The 2015 draft class looks like a good one, for as much as anyone can make that determination in one year (I firmly believe it takes two to three years to put a reasonable grade on a draft). At least two of the first three picks, perhaps all three, look like legit starters on a good team and there is the promise of depth (maybe a little more) from the later picks. A replay of that success rate in the 2016 NFL Draft would go a long way towards curing some ills. To actually make this a question, how much production can this team get from guys on their first contract?
It’s fair to say that free agency hasn’t been the greatest thing for the Saints the last several years. Whether it’s issues of health (Byrd), fit (Spiller) or simple player evaluation (Browner), will the recent results make Loomis gun shy? If not, which moves are there to be made? And, of course, that off-season classic, what the f@*k is going on with the salary cap?
These are the big picture questions that will shape the New Orleans Saints off-season. If I had to predict I’d say Brees and Payton return, youth is served and the odds swing back in Mickey Loomis’ favor. But, I’m a hopeless homer and predictions are bulls*t. What say you?