All You Need Is…Lovie?

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Now that we’re out of the playoffs, it’s silly season for Saints fans. Time to start the mock drafts, for instance. Time to make out wish lists of free agents we can sign for $1.29 a game, which is about all we have. And time to start looking for another defensive savior, since last spring’s Man on Horseback shat the bed, the team bus, the plane, the sideline…cleanup crews reportedly will be busy until at least October.

And yeah, I know…I said I was done for awhile. Well, things keep happening, and you either adjust to new realities or you go 7-9.

Like the Saints did, in large part (well…pretty much entirely) because of a defense that was historically bad. And it’s difficult for a fan—especially one who is not in any way a technical expert on the pro-level game—to understand exactly what went wrong. That’s where the media comes in, and where it so often falls on its face. Anyone who watches the games can tell what happened…we need to know why it happened that way. Especially, because we have no behind-the-scenes access, we need the media to give us a glimpse of what goes on off the field.

And for once, they’ve done that…and it’s not good. Larry Holder reports that an anonymous Saints defender is calling for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to be fired.

“Trust me all the guys were being politically correct this season when answering questions,” the player said. “It’s bad.”

“He does have that good-guy persona, but he is a control freak and treats people like crap,” the player said. “(Spagnuolo has) no patience and zero personality. (He) has a way of pissing players and our defensive coaches off with how he says and does things. (I) think it’s even harder after having (former defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams), who guys enjoyed.”

There’s a lot that’s wrong with this. You could be forgiven for thinking that the stress of a lost season is cracking the Saints, and we’re starting to see steam escaping. This is the sort of caper—unattributed, toxic accusations—that you expect from the Jets, not from a team with a high-character locker room like the Saints.

But that’s actually what makes me sit up and take notice. The Saints do have a high-character locker room. This is out of character, extreme. Things must be very bad in the defensive meeting room for anyone to break ranks like this. And besides: didn’t much, or most, or maybe all, of the bitching about Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow turn out to be true?

Who is it? Don’t know (well, we know it isn’t Vilma), but I bet we eventually find out. The unidentified player sounds like a reasonably articulate veteran, someone who’s been around long enough to serve under Williams and like it. I wonder if it’s Shanle, myself. But who it is, while important, isn’t as important as the mere fact that that someone thought things were so bad he went to the media with specific, credible accusations.

Andy Reid just got fired in Philadelphia in large part for losing the locker room (but, to be fair, also for being an assclown who is the most overrated coach of my lifetime). If the same is true of Spagnuolo—if the players no longer (or never did) believe in him—that may be reason enough to send him packing. If he really is the sort of my-way-or-the-highway tyrant that he’s made out to be, he certainly doesn’t fit in with the kind of organization Sean Payton has built up. (If that’s the case, in fact, I wonder if he would have survived the entire season if Payton had been there.)

It can be a mistake to let the locker room run the team. If there’s friction, distance, discord between coach and players, a lot of the time it’s the players who are at fault. Witness Philadelphia, for instance, where Reid was saddled with a lot of unmotivated free agent signings who never worked out—starting with Michael Vick, an assclown who is the most overrated player of my lifetime. But in Reid’s case, those signings were his decisions, and those players’ lack of motivation was his failing. Can the same thing be said of Spagnuolo?

Not on the personnel front, certainly. He inherited virtually all of his players, having a say in only a few signings (like Chris Chamberlain). But it would seem he did nothing to instill confidence in either his ability or his scheme among the players he inherited—many of whom wear Super Bowl rings. Maybe a lot of what we saw on the field was actually a stubborn refusal on the part of the players to work within his system—and if so, yeah, that’s a fireable offense. But are we going to fire all of them?

Let’s face it: someone needs to be canned. Probably a lot of someones. But the list of possible cannings needs to include everyone involved—and if there is truly this much animosity between the players and the man who led them to historic incompetence, in all fairness Spagnuolo’s name has to be at the top of the list.

My own feeling? I believe the player. I don’t think there is anyone on the Saints’ roster who would break ranks in such an egregious way over purely personal matters. I don’t think there’s anyone who would attribute opinions to other players if those opinions didn’t actually exist. And I’ve spent enough time myself inside dysfunctional organizations to recognize what’s going on: this player is either telling the truth, or he’s a sociopath. There may be a lot of sociopaths out there—but there are even more dysfunctional organizations that generate bitching as naturally as Congress pumps out debt.

Besides, it comes down to: the coach, or the locker room. I believe in the Saints’ locker room. If the coach can’t fit, the coach has to go.

So where does that leave us? One defensive savior brought us to the Super Bowl, then blew a hole in the bottom of the hull. The next just widened the hole. Looks like we need another defensive savior…and who’s available?

Lovie Smith. A Super Bowl-winning coordinator. A defensive head coach fired for his offensive failings, when his defenses were pretty damn good. Myself, I wouldn’t mind at all having a Tampa 2-style defense, so long as they could finally do things like, you know, tackle.

Which Spags never managed to get them to do. Not saying that Smith is looking for a coordinator job, or that he’d consider taking over the bottom feeders we’ve become thanks to …someone. But if he’s still out there when Payton comes back, I hope the first thing coach does when he sits back down at his desk is to call Lovie Smith and ask him what his plans are. Because he’s the kind of coach that players like, that they fight for, that they’re loyal to. Spagnuolo may have been that kind of coach elsewhere, but apparently he didn’t bring it with him.

So yeah, Lovie Smith. Sounds about right. Then we draft Jarvis Jones, and sign Osi Umenyiora and Jake Long. Maybe that Porter guy playing for Denver. And then we start planning the parade.

End Note: I swear to God I did not read this first. Apparently, I’m not the only one who puts stock in the anonymous player’s statement, or the only one to start pining for Lovie Smith the instant the Bears let him go. That’s part of what makes being a fan so cool: realizing there are people out there as delusional as you are. I am NOT alone!

Posted by Himself in Breaking News, Silly Shit | 34 comments

34 Comments

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  • The Angry Who DatJanuary 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

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    Wow, we did come to all the same conclusions. Creepy. Welcome back, sir.

    Welcome back, my friend, to the delusion.

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  • sagehawkjhJanuary 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm

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    I can’t get on board with that. I just can’t put any stock into something someone says but doesn’t put there name on it. Cowardly in the best of light, little b*tch in the worst.

    I find myself thinking along these lines: There are a lot of veterans on the Saints defense that know they probably won’t be back this season. This sounds like a player that knows he might be on the way out the door. They are the type of comments that Saints players never made about former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. No matter how ugly things ended between the Saints and Williams, the players were always wildly loyal to him until the bounty scandal erupted.

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    • sagehawkjhJanuary 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm

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      *their name even

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    • HimselfJanuary 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm

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      I’m not really sure I understand. The fact that the players were always loyal to Williams, that you never heard anyone airing laundry like a New York fucking Jet, is what makes me believe there’s something really rotten going on, and that Spags is in the middle of it.

      Call it cowardly or bitchy all you want…this doesn’t happen on teams where there is a healthy relationship between coach and players. Of course, it could be the Tiki Barber Syndrome, and we know how that ended. But more likely, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

      Besides…there’s still that magic number: 7,042. Nuff said.

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  • PhilistineJanuary 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

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    After apparently failing with a failed defensively-oriented head coach hired as defensive coordinator, I’m not convinced we should double down with Lovie.

    I’ve been a Spagnuolo apologist all season long. I thought that the defense was showing improvement – until week 17. Now, some unknown defensive sorehead says that Spags is a jerk and the players all hate him. Vilma, while calling the unnamed defensive player a coward, doesn’t exactly repudiate his allegations. I don’t take disgruntled players very seriously, but the Panthers game didn’t sit well with me. I think we need to give Spags one more year and some new players, but I wouldn’t scream if they canned him. What pisses me off is that I thought we could turn the page on all the 2012 bullshit – and that isn’t happening. I used to happily ignore most of the off-season, maybe checking in to see who we drafted, then starting to pay attention during preseason games. This shit means we can look forward to a mini-scandal now, and it’ll be nearly impossible to ignore the off-season.

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    • HimselfJanuary 3, 2013 at 9:01 am

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      I look forward to Payton’s return. I believe the first thing he’s going to do is stomp this scandal flat. There will be no dissension tearing apart this team, and those responsible will walk. That means whoever this player was, whoever else comes forward airing the team’s laundry in public…and whoever is ultimately responsible, if that means Spags. I can’t see Payton willingly keeping a man who poisons the locker room, whether player or coach. Hell, I think he’d kick Vitt to the curb if it came to that.

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  • Doc BoudinJanuary 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm

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    Problem:

    things like, you know, tackle. Which Spags never managed to get them to do.

    If memory serves, neither did Gregg Williams; this was a problem we’d been bitching about for the last two seasons of his tenure. Which means his locker room popularity was worth absolutely Jack Shit. Much like our current defense. I do think you’re right, though; Shanle, having been a healthy scratch for the last few games, and an almost certain goner at the end of the season, seems the most likely candidate.

    All of this, of course, depends on another fucking “anonymous source.” What the shit happened to real journalism in the sports world?

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    • PhilistineJanuary 2, 2013 at 10:08 pm

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      I meant to point out the tackling thing too. Good catch.

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    • HimselfJanuary 3, 2013 at 8:58 am

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      The poor tackling was part of the problem that Spagnuolo was brought in to fix. Under Williams, the defense had degraded from acceptable to poor. Under Spagnuolo, it degraded from poor to horrendous. Not only did the scheme not work, but the fundamentals suffered–they missed tackles, took bad angles, blew coverages, and several times (I’m looking at you, Patrick Robinson) turned tail and ran the other way. The 2012 defense was shameful. It had its lows under Williams, and I wasn’t sorry to see him leave (and I was actually overjoyed, like almost everyone, when we signed Spags), but it wasn’t shameful.

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    • The Angry Who DatJanuary 3, 2013 at 10:11 am

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      Real journalism? Journalism is based on the anonymous source. Without it we wouldn’t have the free press. If a player won’t give his name (oh, maybe because he gets fucking fired if his comments don’t stick) the journalist can’t force him to or publish without permission (at least not ethically).

      There’s no whistleblower protection in the NFL. A player wants to say something anonymously, I welcome it. I want to know. I’m glad a journalist was willing to put it out there. Because if that’s the shit that’s going on it SHOULD be public.

      You know, if it wasn’t true, and players had no problem with Spags, you’d expect a load of them to come forward and defend him. So far:

      Vilma – bitched about anonymity without taking on the claims
      Shanle – said it wasn’t him
      Lofton – only guy to argue against the claims of ADP

      Where’s the rest of the defense?

      The point is, Holder is the only one actually getting us a scoop around here. Real journalism? This is it.

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      • Doc BoudinJanuary 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm

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        Not buying it, sorry. I’m sick of the goddamned “anonymous source.” It’s an easy out for folks who don’t have time to generate real stories. Granted, as you point out, it’s the only way you’re going to get some people’s information into print. But we’ve had too many of them over the last year, and only the writer’s word as to authenticity. More than one anonymous source? I’m at least willing to consider that. Multiple sources–that’s journalism.

        Where’s the rest of the defense?

        Seems like there are more guys defending Spags than anonymously bitching about him (although I’m not convinced he’s defensible, and let’s face it, if these guys could defend, we wouldn’t be talking about this). Let me turn that around; where are all the other guys he’s supposed to have pissed off? And it’s hardly a “scoop” to find out there are disappointed, disillusioned guys on the defense; they got their freakin’ taints handed to them on an almost weekly basis. They were the joke of the league. The historic stench was bound to turn a stomach or two in that locker room. Seriously, “We suck, but it’s not my fault!” is not news. But I guess we’ve got nothing else to talk about at this point, do we?

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        • HimselfJanuary 3, 2013 at 9:10 pm

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          We could talk about the Millau Viaduct. It’s the tallest bridge in the world. It was designed by Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, OM Kt., who played linebacker for the Redskins back when Jack Pardee was coach. And it’s made entirely of cream.

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          • Doc BoudinJanuary 4, 2013 at 2:25 pm

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            I thought it was made entirely BY Cream…

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            • HimselfJanuary 4, 2013 at 4:17 pm

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              Whoops! You’re right. My mistake. That’s why there are no snares.

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      • sagehawkjhJanuary 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

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        I don’t have a problem with the “theory” of an anonymous source. I have an issue with the people who want to hide behind it when their only purpose seems to be to talk smack and not have to stand behind their statements.

        Maybe I’m off base here. Maybe this guy went through all the proper channels, saw a problem (like game footage), and couldn’t get anything done any other way. Or maybe he is the kid in highschool who starts the rumor about Suzie stuffing her bra by writing on the wall. I mean, it wasn’t outing Big Tabacco or anything here.

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  • HimselfJanuary 3, 2013 at 12:08 pm

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    El plotto thickundos…

    Check out the original article again. It’s been updated (query: why does the “legitimate media” never indicate the updates to an online article?), with quotes from Curtis Lofton and Mike Karney. Lofton says the scheme is definitely great and things are definitely looking up and the anonymous source is definitely a coward. Karney, on the other hand, says the source was “spot on” in his assessment of Spagnuolo.

    Now, we know that Karney was a victim of the Turk, and on his wedding day at that. His picture might be in the dictionary under “disgruntled.” So Mr. Anon might just be another disgruntled soon-to-be-Turked player. I suppose Lofton would say that’s definitely the case.

    Lofton, on the other hand, sounds like he’s going overboard being Mr. Team Leader. He wants everyone to know there’s nothing at all behind this, that everything is okay, and that sound you hear is definitely not the bulkheads giving way. Well, maybe it isn’t…but we sure did hit something big. Things are NOT definitely okay with the Saints right now.

    I couldn’t find any statement by Shanle. Was it on that twit-thing?

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    • HimselfJanuary 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm

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      Whoops, it’s the Jonathan Vilma article that’s updated with those quotes. (Query: why do bloggers always go off half-cocked?)

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      • The Angry Who DatJanuary 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm

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        The Shanle comment was on that twit-thing. Also, they do indicate their updates on the twit-thing, and sometimes corrections, although it’s still bullshit that they don’t indicate those things on the article.

        You should be on the twit-thing, Himself. Everything happens there first. On the twit-thing.

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    • Doc BoudinJanuary 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm

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      El plotto thickundos…

      Dammit, Himself! You know I don’t speak Spanish!

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  • HimselfJanuary 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm

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    THIS IS AN UPDATE

    Just to get that out of the way…

    If I were Payton, I’d being doing the utterly unthinkable right now: I’d be on the phone to Roger Goodell, and I’d be saying, “Roger, what do you want me to do? Just name it, and I’ll do it. But let me get back to my fucking team, NOW!

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  • PhilistineJanuary 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm

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    The 2012 Saints’ 7-9 record is really a victory of sorts. GoodZilla slapped the Patriots’ wrists for Spygate (Naivete? Friends with Kraft? Big-market team?) and watched them go 11-5 afterwards and miss the playoffs. When it was the Saints’ turn for so-called Bountygate, GoodZilla decided to drop the hammer (No big friendship with Benson? Firewall for upcoming lawsuits? Preventing a home-team Super Bowl? Personal dislike for Payton?). He took multiple draft picks, dropped unprecedented suspensions on the team and just generally kicked the Saints’ ass. The Saints, for their part, made an unexpectedly disruptive change at Defensive Coordinator, with all the sturm und drang illuminated above. The resulting defense was historically bad. We had an interim head coach for ten games, an interim interim head coach for six, and no GM for eight games. The result – the Saints went 7-9 and missed the playoffs. They didn’t go all Lions 0-16 on us; they didn’t even go all Dick Nolan Saints at 1-15. So the Saints play with the equivalent of one arm tied to the opposite leg and were two games from making the playoffs. We can actually take pride in that. I do.

    As an added bonus,since I don’t have a dog in the playoff hunt any more, I can reclaim my weekends a month early. That’s a win, kind of (OK, I had to reach a ways for that one).

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  • Just Nother DayJanuary 6, 2013 at 1:19 am

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    Put the Tampa Bay cannon up Spag’s ass and fire him.

    He took a ho-hum defense and made it an oh-shit defense. He had training camp, pre-season, and the ENTIRE regular season to get his scheme to do some good. . . . to show Benson that he really did have a good idea. When someone mentioned, in week 13, that the Saint’s defense was “turning the corner” I pooped a little bit in my Haynes. The only corner you turn in week 13, with our defense, is the one leading to the off ramp. The one leading to Metairie, not downtown New Orleans.

    We’ve got the $100,000,000.00 man relying on the Keystone Cops to get the opposing offense off the field. WTF?

    A little while ago I was afraid of losing Sean. Now I’m afraid of keeping Spag-what’s-his-face.

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    • Doc BoudinJanuary 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm

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      You’ve got to conquer those fears. I suggest merlot. Perhaps the entire 2005 vintage.

      And Metairie? That seems a little generous. This bus didn’t even make it out of Norco.

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      • HimselfJanuary 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm

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        Neither did the wine.

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        • Doc BoudinJanuary 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm

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          Nice! Is that the refinery on the label?

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        • Just Nother DayJanuary 7, 2013 at 2:07 am

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          Holy crap! Do y’all hear the angels singing? Huh? Do ya’???

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  • Breesus Christ SuperstarJanuary 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

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    So I’ve been sitting on an inside scoop for a while regarding the defense. I am distantly associated though a relative’s marriage to one of the saints defensive players. I choose to keep this player anonymous because when I take his relative to games he leaves us passes to the players lounge. After week 4, we asked this player what the hell was going on. He told us that first off, it was a complicated scheme, but second and more importantly, the players didn’t believe in it/buy into it.
    Now I get kind of incensed at the thought of someone getting payed millions of dollars to follow instructions choosing not to simply because they didn’t believe in it, but the results speak for themselves.
    I think the talent was certainly lacking, but clearly the coach and scheme were not a good fit. Spags is going to have to go. There are 7000+ reasons alone.

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    • HimselfJanuary 7, 2013 at 7:34 pm

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      “He told us that first off…”

      So, we know it’s a man. That narrows things somewhat. What I wonder is, is this player a biped?

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      • Breesus Christ SuperstarJanuary 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm

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        I knew you’d probably call bullshit, which is why I kept it to myself since week 4.
        But the anonymous source and my source are telling similar stories. Who knows? Maybe it’s the same guy.

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        • HimselfJanuary 7, 2013 at 7:57 pm

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          Do I have to start using smilies?

          I’m not calling bullshit…that’s just my quirky sense of humor clogging up the pipes as usual. Actually, I appreciate you coming forward like that.

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          • Breesus Christ SuperstarJanuary 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm

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            Nah, maybe I just need a drink. I’ll have what JND is having.

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            • HimselfJanuary 7, 2013 at 9:50 pm

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              I think JND will have something to say about that.

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              • Just Nother DayJanuary 9, 2013 at 3:19 am

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                ***BURP***

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  • HimselfJanuary 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm

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    Well, well, well. Seems our old buddy Jerry Jones just jerked his knee again and assumed that “change” means the same as “good change.” With all the dysfunction on offense, he’s decided to improve his team by firing his defensive coordinator. Rob Ryan’s defense was far from great; but it was also far from Spagnuolo’s. He’s also the son of Gregg Williams’ mentor, and the same type of fiery players’ coach that Williams was. Plus, there’s the whole Dallas connection, and the delicious possibility of Ryan winning a Super Bowl ring under Sean Payton. (Hook Jerry up to a generator, and when his head explodes you could power the Southeast for a full month.)

    Anyway, it’s the offseason for us…so it’s the time for irresponsible speculation. Until it’s time to watch the Falcons implode…after which we can go back to speculation.

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