Payton to Saints: Put On The Cleats



The reason Sean Payton wants his offense to do better running the ball has nothing to do with the alleged deficiencies of the Saints' passing game, and everything to do with a Lombardi.

Quick Out, May 10, 2013

As the offseason progresses, and theory begins to morph into action, the experts are breaking dormancy and starting to creep out of the shadows, scattering their bits of analysis where you can step in them in the morning before you’re fully awake. One issue has to do with the Saints and their run game: seems they want one. At least, Payton wants one, and he’s mandated that it be a lot better this year. The question, though, is why?

First, though, there’s also the question of Chris Ivory. After the drawn-out pantomime dance that finally sent him into exile in New York, people are wondering if the Saints can hold up at running back without Ivory’s contribution of 217 yards. I wish I were the person who invented “child, please,” because then I could respond “child, please” and feel not only indignant but proud. As it is, I can only feel indignant.

Mike Triplett writes that Mark Ingram may be in for his best year yet, because (in part) Chris Ivory is no longer in the mix, “turning a four-way tailback logjam into a three-man rotation.” Logjam? Mike, Ivory was only active for six games last season. For most of the season he was literally a non-factor. He had only 40 carries. He was a minor component of the Saints’ offense, and the reason we felt fine letting him go is that we had no intention of using him more. If Ingram has an outstanding year, it will not be because, finally, he doesn’t have that nefarious Ivory draining stats from him, but because Payton truly makes a serious commitment to the run game—as he did in 2009 and 2011, when we were 13-3.

So that brings us back to the question, why would Payton do such a thing? He’s a notorious passmonger, after all; and his monging of passes has only resulted in record-setting seasons for Drew Brees, and league-leading offenses four years out of six. So why is it so important that we achieve the mythical “balance” that everyone cries out for? (What comes above first-place? Hyperfirst?)

According to Mark Sessler, writing at, the reason is that Payton understands Drew won’t be able to shred the league as easily this season, since he has “a thin cast of wideouts.” I’m not making this up. Brees has the same cast of wideouts this year as he had last year, when the Saints were second in the league in total offense, second in total points, and first in passing offense. Oh, wait, no…one exception: Devery Henderson remains unsigned. We’re sure to miss his contribution of 316 yards, especially since his putative replacement, Joseph Morgan, only gained 379 himself. On half the receptions. (Don’t get me wrong: I’ll miss Devery, and I wish him well.)

Plus, there’s the fact that Jimmy Graham will be healthy. And (hopefully) Nick Toon. And there’s Kenny Stills entering the mix. So, yeah: thin. Whatever will Drew do?

Child, please. The Saints are fine at receiver. And Payton isn’t some ignorant, superstitious twit plotting to capture time of possession. As I pointed out months ago, Payton is perfectly aware of the location of the next Super Bowl: in northern New Jersey. In February. To get to the Super Bowl, you can capture a conference championship in the comfort of your own Dome. To win the Super Bowl, you’re going to have to play hard-nosed smash-mouth grind-it-out throwback football under appalling conditions. Probably.

Hey, it’s always possible that the weather that day will be uncharacteristically spring-like and mild. And if that’s the case, what happens? The Saints air it out and win going away. But if it doesn’t, we’re going to have to be able to pound the ball, and you don’t remake yourself into a running team in two weeks. You need an entire season’s worth of practice and momentum to make that work.

Payton’s not a fool. Payton knows this. Payton reads this blog.

So, the real reason the Saints are going to concentrate on rushing this season is that Payton is concentrating on February. It’s not because he has no faith in his personnel; it’s because he understands the entire point of this exercise.

Posted by Himself in Quick Out | 7 comments


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  • sagehawkjhMay 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

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    Well said. Put Sean’s next one on my tab.

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  • vjdancerMay 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

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    DANG IT!!

    I totally wanted to be hyperfirst!

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  • Breesus Christ SuperstarMay 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

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    Poor Ivory. Better to be inactive on our roster, than stuck in that three ring circus in New York. He is the lone bright spot on their roster.

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    • HimselfMay 10, 2013 at 5:06 pm

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      Is that a three-ring rotation up there in New York? Wonder which ring Ivory is. It’s now the only ring he’ll ever be able to brag about.

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  • PhilistineMay 10, 2013 at 11:29 pm

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    Sean knows that the running game is necessary to ride that one-game-at-a-time thing all the way to The Show. When your opponents have to play the run, the passing game opens up (and vice versa), and Drew makes the defense play Whack-A-Mole instead of being forced to throw risky passes to stay in the game. And, yes, the running game does burn more clock, which is a good thing after Drew hangs 28 points on a team in the first half. The Saints don’t have to be able to dominate the game on the ground; they just have to confuse the opposing defense enough to keep moving the ball and keep our half-assed defense rested and off the field.

    Joisey in da Wintah is just another outdoor game after a bye week. It’ll be just as cold on the opponent’s sideline as it’ll be on the Saints’.

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    • HimselfMay 11, 2013 at 9:42 am

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      And if that other opponent is the Patriots, or the Broncos, or the Ravens, or even the Steelers (who knows…they might come back), all of which are used to playing outdoors in bad winter weather, the Saints are at a disadvantage. Besides: the main problem wouldn’t be the cold, but the wind: if the Saints are a passing team, and the conditions strongly favor a running team, then we have to rely on our half-assed defense to win the game for us.

      (Actually, half-assed would be a world-shaking improvement. Last year we were more 64th-assed. If we can improve to half-assed this season, Wang is going to have to resurrect We Got This™.

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      • PhilistineMay 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm

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        With all the indoor practice facilities and pampered hot-house athletes, I don’t think the advantage is actually all that huge. Plus, those teams have to play at least some of their games indoors against teams that are supposedly built for that environment. Finally, the Patriots and Broncos look for all the world like dome teams to me, anyway. Maybe the important trait is quality depth instead of a few high-priced players and a bunch of guys. That way, when the injuries start piling up, the team can still do its thing instead of having to work around all the deficiencies. Seems that the Saints, outside Drew Brees, are heading that way. Of course, with Drew Brees’ contract, they may have no choice but to field a team of no-names and rooks. Damn, that thought just sent a shiver up my spine.

        If the Sean and Drew Show can pull off anything like they did in 2009, the Saints’ well-rested Half-Assed DefenseĀ® (or “Half-Fast DefenseĀ® – those deserve trademarks, don’t you think?) will do as well as a tired top-tier defense, which is sort of the point of the Saints philosophy.

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