Ozymandias?

14

 
ozymandias

Nine weeks ago, Sean Payton was going to be the Saints' savior. Today, he's the reason the season is falling apart before our eyes. How the hell did that happen?

Or did it?

 

Okay, so Sean Payton called a lousy game against the Jets. I get it: there was no commitment to a running game that was actually working when they gave it a try; the passing game was getting Drew Brees beaten to a pulp; and the single worst play call since 2008 wrecked the Saints’ chances late. The team, individually and in the aggregate, must shoulder a lot of the blame for inferior play; but Payton called a mangy dog of a game. In fact, maybe a mangy dog could have done better. We’ll never know.

But Sean Payton is still Sean Payton: the best goddamned playcaller in the entire NF of L. When he’s on, the other guys are a dead team walking. I mean…that’s true, isn’t it?

Right now, a lot of people are wondering what the hell is wrong with the Saints. Well, they’re 6-2, lead the NFC South, hold the #2 playoff seed (so far), and have a defense sufficiently improved to be considered a certified miracle. So I’m not really sure even what the question means, unless it means: what could be improved? Every team has weaknesses, the Saints included. But I’m not yet buying into the idea that Sean Payton is one of them.

That opinion isn’t unanimous by any means.

There is a groundswell of discontent surrounding the Saints’ offensive imbalance that is finally beginning to register on the Richter scale. But perhaps the most focused criticism so far has come from Murf Baldwin at Bleacher Report. Murf agrees with a lot of people (such as Myself) that the Saints need to run the ball more; but he takes it farther than that. The Saints, he says, are falling behind the times, and it’s all because of their coach.

The days of the pass-centric offense are coming to an end. Philadelphia (first), Seattle (second), San Francisco (fourth) and Washington (sixth) are all in the top 10 in rushing. While only San Francisco (20th) sits outside of the top 10 in total offense.

I know what you’re thinking, and we’ve all thought the same thing at one point or another. Why would New Orleans not center its attack on its great QB?

The answer is simple…because that style is no longer conducive to championship football.

In other words: the game has passed Payton by. You can’t win anymore by having the world’s greatest passing game; in fact, that’s only a one-way ticket out of the playoffs. In the modern NFL, you must run the ball to win—and the Saints won’t run for one reason and one alone: Sean Payton doesn’t want to.

“To put it simply,” says Murf, “it’s Payton’s ego that is holding the Saints back.”

Really? I mean, I know 2013 was supposed to be the Sean Payton Revenge Tour, but isn’t it a little harsh to say that Payton’s ego alone is responsible for the Saints’ offensive failures? (And I use “failure” in a very relative way.) It’s obvious that the running game—the same ground attack that Payton, before the season, said was going to be a priority—isn’t working as it should. But mightn’t the fault lie elsewhere than Payton’s ego? Like, maybe, an offensive line that is no longer dominant? Running backs who aren’t getting the job done? Or even an honest conviction that passing the ball is likely to work better given the circumstances?

Is Sean Payton just football’s version of David Simon?

That’s because “anything I’ve ever accomplished as a writer, as somebody doing TV, anything I’ve ever done in life, down to, like, cleaning up my room, has been accomplished because I was going to show people that they were [bleeped] up, wrong, and that I was the [bleeping] center of the universe and the sooner they got hip to that, the happier they would all be.”

Um…okay.

Well, here’s an idea: let’s try looking at some recent history. Last year, for instance, when the San Francisco 49ers, the league’s 4th-ranked rushing offense, met the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl, outrushed them 182 yards to 93, and lost. (Baltimore’s touchdowns came through the air and in the return game.) Or the fact that the past ten Super Bowl champions have averaged a thoroughly pedestrian 16th rank in rushing. (One of them, the 2011 Giants—and that’s pretty recent—ranked 32nd.) Or how about this: of the teams named by Murf above, how many of them have recently won championships? I believe—and this is just me talking, now—I believe the answer is: none of them.

So where’s the evidence that the league has turned around, that the pass is passé, that running the ball is now the ticket to success that it was in Larry Csonka’s heyday…and that Sean Payton has suddenly become some sort of dinosaur, to mix somewhat my metaphors? I’m sorry…I just don’t see it.

Now, a lot of what Murf says makes sense: like, the Saints need to man up and get more physical. But I fail to see how any alleged softness on the part of either the offense or defense is caused by Sean Payton’s egomaniacal insistence on flinging the ball. Offensive linemen, for instance, are reputed to love run blocking: it allows them to attack, rather than scooting backward and getting pummeled by pass rushers. You’d think that when Payton gives them the rare chance to take revenge on their tormentors, they’d make the most of it, wouldn’t you? And when they don’t wouldn’t it be fair to come to the conclusion that this offensive season’s offensive line is simply not up to the level of previous years, rather than blame their failure on the coach’s attitude problem? Well, I would. In fact, I’d say without hesitation that this is the worst offensive line Sean Payton has ever had. That may be his own fault; but I feel more comfortable leaving it up to him to find a solution to it.

So long, that is, as the solution includes more running.

So, no: I’m not convinced that the Saints are tottering, soon to come crashing to the ground and be covered by the lone and level sands. We still, in the parlance of the times, control our own destiny, an enviable position that every team in the NFL aspires to at the season’s midpoint. There is still not a single team in the NFC that is head and shoulders above New Orleans, provided the Saints play up to their capabilities. And run the ball more. I’m pretty sure Sean Payton knows this, and I feel confident he’ll balance out the offense before season’s end.

If he does, I’m a prophet. If he doesn’t…what the hell, pay no attention, I’m just a blogger. That’s the beauty of this gig.

Posted by Himself in 2013 Season, Game Day | 14 comments

14 Comments

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  • HollywooNovember 7, 2013 at 11:04 am

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    All I know is that the O-line is dog-shit. And seeing this makes a guy REALLY appreciate good offensive lines. Apparently we had real good offensive lines from 2006-2012.

    But why? Why do they get obliterated on short yardage situations, and why is Brees running for his life all of a sudden?

    4 out of 5 starters this year were starters last year. This isn’t all Charlie Browns fault.

    Is it the loss of Aaron Kromer? As bad as he was as a head coach, is he a brilliant O-line coach?

    I don’t know man, but I pray Brees can make it through 16 games.

    Oh, and its starting to piss me off that most in the legit media, and seemingly everyone at Ariline drive says the O-line play has been merely “inconsistent”. Are you fucking kidding me? I get you are not supposed to publicly call out your teamates, but there is nothing wrong with the head coach saying “the o-line needs to play better.” No one says that though. It’s all, “it’s not one thing in particular, its a combination of things, its coverage, its different looks, blah, blah, blah…” Bullshit. It’s the fucking O line. They need to man up and play better. Call them out as a group. Fuck!

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    • HimselfNovember 7, 2013 at 11:14 am

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      It’s not that the o-line is dogshit…the o-line is average. Our standards have changed. We were used to excellence, without really understanding what it was we were seeing.

      I don’t think it’s all Kromer, or even mostly. Yeah, Kromer is gone, and he was good (remember, he was also in charge of the running game). But there are other changes: Bushrod is gone, replaced by Brown. Nicks is gone, and Grubbs is revealing that he’s not the equivalent. (I NEVER saw Nicks pancaked by a defensive lineman.) De La Puente had a decent year last year, and this year he’s not playing as well. Evans is hurt, and is getting slower and holding more even when he’s healthy. Strief is Strief. Just little things, but they add up, and as a result the o-line is no longer dominant in anything.

      I’d like to see what Armstead can do. I’d also like to see the Saints draft, trade for, or otherwise sign a couple of mean, nasty road-grader types–Richie Incognitos without the psychosis. Get back to imposing their wills on other teams, instead of trying to finesse the ball for a half-yard and failing.

      And that’s why I don’t blame all this on Payton. I think he understands what he’s got on the offensive front, and how best to squeeze the maximum out of them. I just hope it doesn’t get Drew killed.

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      • HollywooNovember 7, 2013 at 11:27 am

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        No doubt, a nasty O-lineman is more of a priority for me now that even a pass-rushing linebacker.

        Yeah, Grubbs is really, really dissapointing this year. Who was that horrible right guard (tackle?) we had during the Haslett years? Watching Grubbs is giving me flashbacks to that dude.

        We need a bad-ass center. Problem is there is usually only one a year in the draft.

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      • cc58November 10, 2013 at 10:45 am

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        Whew, I’m glad you qualified that…

        nasty road-grader types–Richie Incognitos without the psychosis.

        Yeah it’s our O-line that is holding us back. Evans not healthy, Brian, not getting the support he had last year, that made him look better than he actually was, can be directly tied to that fact.

        The O-line did look like they were progressing until they faced the Jets. But hey, that’s one of the Jets, strengths. Sadly, it is also one of the strengths, of several of the tough teams we will be facing soon. I think Sean saw that Sunday, and realized he is going to have to commit to the Running game, successful or not, to correct that. At least he is talking the talk.
        I too, would like to see what Armstead can do, but perhaps not against teams like the 49ers, Seattle or the Panthers. Perhaps, Dallas and/or Falcons would be good games to try him at. Charles Brown has not really been that bad. Yeah, he gets exposed against the elite pass rushers, but then so did Bushrod. Over-all he has done a respectable job. The real pressures against Drew, have come largely in the middle and on the right side.
        Collapsing pockets have cause Drew to scramble and get hit more than the pressures from the left side. Looks like Drew has been studying a little of the old Archie tape. I’m joking over course, but he is running for his life a little more this year, and I do have concerns for him. I believe our O-line is still ranked in the top ten this year, despite our perceptions of them. PPF ranks them at number 10 in the league.

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        • HimselfNovember 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

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          Collapsing pockets have cause Drew to scramble and get hit more than the pressures from the left side.

          Am I the only one who remembers the moving pockets that Joe Gibbs introduced with the Redskins? Why don’t you see that anymore?

          And as far as Armstead is concerned, what I meant was: we know what we have in Charles Brown. He’s what he is, there is no more upside there (in my opinion). With Armstead, we don’t know yet. He actually graded out pretty damn good in preseason.

          Now, Brown isn’t nearly the sole cause of the offensive line’s problems, so switching him out for someone better–assuming Armstead is better–isn’t going to fix much. But it’s a start. And besides, I just want to see, just as a short-term experiment, what Armstead can do. I’m not sure he’s even been active this season.

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  • HollywooNovember 7, 2013 at 11:16 am

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    The most frustrating part about it is that no help is coming. We are halfway through the season, and there hasn’t been a shred of improvement. They are what the are, and they are a group that is not good at all.

    Wang pokes fun at guys who scream that the sky is falling, despite us being in first place, and I like to think of myself as pragmatic and level-headed, but I’m scared. I do feel like its about to come crumbling down and here’s why:

    For the first time since Drew Brees got here, I genuenly feel frightened for his health. Despite all of the adversity of the last 8 years that each version of the Saints had to endure and overcome, be it shitty defense, questionable play calling, lack of running game, a cocksucking commisioner, Josh Bullocks, at no time in the past 8 years has Drew Brees’ health been threatened.

    Now, its a very real threat and that is scary. He’s on pace to be sacked 60 fucking times!

    And no help is coming.

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  • Breesus Christ SuperstarNovember 8, 2013 at 7:59 am

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    You could make a living off of correcting Uptown Murf. This should be part of every weekly installment.
    Bottom line: passing league. You didn’t even mention how the rules/penalties overwhelmingly favor passing. And we have the best QB in the league. Had any one of several catchable balls not been dropped/tipped Sunday, we would have won the game despite a sorry O-line and insufficient number of called runs. In the penultimate 4th and inches play it was a failed run play that ended our chances.
    We needed just a few more called runs last week, not a change in offensive philosophy. It would be helpful for those runs to be effectively executed to ensure they are called more frequently.

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    • HimselfNovember 8, 2013 at 8:13 am

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      “You could make a living off of correcting Uptown Murf.”

      How much will you pay me? I’ve been considering a villa in Italy.

      Actually, Murf is pretty good at diagramming plays and explaining what goes on from snap to whistle. He’s obviously played football at a fairly high level before.

      But I don’t trust him when it comes to analyzing the management of strategy and assets. There are a number of possibilities to explain the Saints’ offensive tendencies, and most of them are more compelling than “Sean Payton’s ego demands it.”

      For instance: Payton has no faith in the blocking ability of his offensive line. He sees defensive tendencies in particular opponents that lead him to believe passing the ball will work better. He’s using game time to further develop his younger receivers. There’s a secret codicil in his contract that gives him a bonus if Brees breaks 5,000 yards again. Rita really digs passing. And so on, and so on.

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  • zsaintsNovember 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm

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    I really do think that Coach is having a bit of an identity crisis. Or, maybe another way to put it, is like he is second-guessing himself. It’s like he became (past tense) a bit too obsessed with the rushing game, then he flipped in the last game. It’s like he has been a little bit too tunnel vision during a game. A comment he made this week about realizing that (that he should have stuck with the running game last week when they were giving it to him) encourages me. Kinda the same thing happened in the Patriots game. They did a change-up on the Saints in the last few minutes from a game concentrating to shutting down the pass to a game shutting down the run and the Saints didn’t adapt. I don’t know. Actually, the change-up in the Patriots game, I have to admit, was sweetly done and hard to identify on the fly. Brilliant, really. But, Coach gave every indication this week that he is waking out of that dream (or nightmare) state he seemed to be in. The Saints have an awfully tough road head, though, to make it to the Superbowl, they will have to play their best. I hope the steam in the engine is just getting going. Don’t get me wrong. I have every confidence in Coach, but he really needs to get the swagger back. Ummm, he seems to have this “mea culpa” thing going on that just has to stop. I agree that he’s as good as it gets when he is on. He just needs to be really on for the rest of the season.

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    • zsaintsNovember 11, 2013 at 8:29 am

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      Now you’re talking! Woohooo!!!

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  • Doc BoudinNovember 10, 2013 at 10:36 am

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    Once again, let me say that your photoshops are pretty much unparalleled. You, sir, have mad nerd skills.

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    • HimselfNovember 10, 2013 at 11:06 am

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      It’s what I do instead of making money.

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  • FriarBobNovember 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm

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    It would be far more accurate to simply say that right now we do not have an offensive line worth pissing on if it was on fire.

    Until and unless we do, SP’s play-calling can be brilliant or suck or anything in between, and when we go up against an opponent with a top-flight DL, we’re screwed.

    Which is why we won’t be the #1 seed in the playoffs this year (again) and IF we manage to survive the first round or two and find ourselves in Seattle, we’ll get our butts whooped out there twice in one season.

    Unless, that is, somehow PayLoo can pull a functional OL out of their butts in time.

    But considering that means replacing — at a bare minimum — the putridly under-performing LG and the C, resting the RG until he’s fully healthy, and possibly also replacing the LT with a rookie (since who else is available after the trade deadline?)… I give the odds of them even trying to be somewhere around 10-20%. And succeeding at somewhere around 1-2%.

    We’re still about the fourth or fifth — absolute worst-case eighth — best team in the league, and probably at least third or fourth (arguably second, I’m not impressed with SF) in the NFC. We’ll almost certainly have at least an 11-5 record, maybe 12-4 or 13-3, as there aren’t more than two teams left on the docket that truly should beat us. (But then again, neither the Jests nor the Cheatriots should have beaten us either.) And it won’t mean jack squat — at least not for what actually and truly matters about a season (winning a SB) — unless we magically pull an OL out of our butts… or unless somebody else gets insanely lucky and takes out SF/SEA (whomever actually is the #1 seed) before we have to travel out there to face the music. If we had to travel to GB or Chicago — where they are as injury-riddled as we are or worse — or even, laughably enough, the cowpukes, we’d stand a VERY good chance of being the first dome team to ever win an away-game NFC championship. Might still lose, but we’d have a very good chance. (Don’t forget that NO dome team has ever won an away championship… yet. And while our improved defense would make us have more of a chance than most of those teams who previously tried, our OL more than offsets that.)

    We won’t have one out on the west coast. Not against an overwhelmingly good DL like either of the two realistic possibilities out there BOTH happen to have.

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    • FriarBobNovember 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm

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      Hmm… I neglected to read all the comments first. OK, I guess I could buy “average” instead of “putrid”. But considering how badly we need at least an OL that’s strongly “above average” (we don’t truly need elite, but we need a hell of a lot more than what we’ve got), I still stand by the rest of my comments.

      Until we either find or create a strongly above average OL out of wishes and pixie dust, we’re screwed in any away game against any top-flight DL.

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