“Who’s Your Daddy?”
12 Posted on August 17th, 2013 by Himself
Given its heritage, after being coached by Gregg Williams and Rob Ryan, it should come as no shock that the Saints' defense is looking a wee bit like a certain famous wrecking crew.
There’s been a lot of nonsense written about the Saints this preseason: all about their prospects, their problems, their crises du jour. None of it by me, of course, but only because of a complete lack of trying. Some of you may have noticed: I’ve been incommunicado lately.
Well, all of that is about to end. And I mean, all of it. As I reassert myself as the premier Saints blogger on this entire site, I intend to go farther into absurdity than anyone has yet dared to go. Silly? Irresponsible? Not even Jeff Duncan can keep up with me. Gaze on my works, ye flighty, and despair.
And yet: perhaps not so absurd after all. If anyone had suggested to you that, even in the preseason, the Saints would trail only the 49ers in total defense after two weeks, would you have voted for involuntary commitment? How about if they were to suggest that the team’s “decimated” linebacker corps would help their “anemic” pass rush tie those same 49ers for the lead in sacks, with an average of almost six per game?
How about if someone suggested: “These guys look like the ’85 Bears”?
Ahhhh…now I have your attention.
Right about now, you’re thinking I’ve gone off the deep end. All this time off, and the best I could come up with is this wild-assed comparison to the all-singing, all-dancing terror of the NFL? Maybe we should take a poll: Is Himself stupid, crazy, or just showing off? (Could be all three.) Unfortunately, this site has no poll widget. Sucks to be you; take it to the comments. But let me be a little proactive here and answer some of the most obvious criticisms.
1. “But it’s only preseason!”
Yeah. I get it. Preseason: that part of the NFL year when teams are trying as hard as they can to prepare for the coming campaign, and evaluating both personnel and scheme. If there were really nothing we could learn from the preseason, the same would hold true for the coaching staff, and then you’d find yourself having to agree with Roger Goodell that the preseason should be curtailed. Are you prepared to go that far?
The fact is: if we could learn nothing from preseason, Pierre Thomas would be pulling down $35k somewhere in the Chicago metro area. Lance Moore would be living with his mom. And Pat Yasinskas would never have written this:
I won’t reveal who I have picked to win the Super Bowl at the moment — that will come in early September. But I’m thinking about changing it to the Saints. I’m also thinking the Saints just might go undefeated.
Then again, part of me realizes this is just a preseason game. More importantly, the Saints are playing the Raiders, who are far worse than I imagined and I already thought they were pretty bad.
Actually, Pat wrote that in 2009. And give him credit: he, earlier than anyone but me, recognized the Saints were destined for greatness that year. He also wonders if he sees the same thing now. (Well, sorta. Close enough.)
So get over it. Yes, it’s preseason. That’s when you’re supposed to notice things.
2. “Yeah, but…the ’85 Bears!? Where have you been all this time…in electroshock?”
Ha. Very clever. (How’s that working out for you?) But I didn’t say they were the ’85 Bears; I didn’t even go so far as to say they were as good. But they sure have been looking like them, and why should that surprise anyone? It’s in their DNA. After three years under Buddy Ryan protege Gregg Williams, the defense now takes its marching orders from Ryan son Rob Ryan. Buddy is almost literally the father of this defense. Frankly, I’d be pretty upset if they didn’t bear a resemblance to those Bears, however tenuous.
But “Ah,” you say, “you didn’t say they bore a resemblance, you said—”
I said they “look like the ’85 Bears.” In other words, they “bear a resemblance.” You actually want to take this any farther?
3. “But did you see that opening drive against the starters in the Chief’s game? They picked us apart!”
Yeah, I saw it. Did you see Steve DeBerg and the 2-14 Bucs take the Bears to the wall in Week 1? Even the best have lapses. And to reiterate: I’m not claiming these Saints are as good as those Bears; my only point is that they’re doing a creditable impersonation so far.
4. “But it was only the Raiders!”
And the Raiders aren’t very good, right? Actually, the Raiders suck. They’re awful. But the Saints did exactly what you’re supposed to do when you meet with an awful team: you make them your bitch. The starters got a little scratched up, but bitches will do that. In the end, by the time the starters were being pulled, the Saints were ahead 23-0 and had held the Raiders to 48 total yards.
And something else about those starters: they included Ramon Humber, David Hawthorne, and Jay Richardson. That’s right: three out of four of the starting linebackers were out. We were playing with subs even in the first quarter! And we still decimated the Raiders. Because that’s what good teams do, when they play well within a good system. What will happen when Lofton and Galette are back…along with Martez Wilson as lagniappe? And once Cam Jordan, Akiem Hicks, and John Jenkins have gelled into our permanent, All-Pro starting line?
Of course, we should know better next week. We get to play a good team, Houston, and on their turf to boot. Everything about the Texans—everything—is dramatically superior to the Raiders. And of course, if the Saints look bad, I’ll be saying, “It’s only preseason. Proves nothing. By the way, the Bears were 1-3 in the 1985 preseason, did you know that?”
5. “That’s right! Because…it’s only preseason!”
I’m sure you understand by now, as I do, that you can’t prove anything when nothing counts. Excellence in the preseason, no matter how remarkable, is not admissible as evidence. And I admit that two games—even regular season games—is too small a sample size. There’s also the fact that the two league leaders, the 49ers and the Saints, share a common opponent (the Chiefs), and that could help explain how their stat lines look so similar.
But here’s where I part company with all the stat geeks and mavens and whatnots who spend their time “proving” things by crunching numbers instead of watching the games. I have no idea how to quantify the Saints’ relationship to the best defense of all time, but in large part because I have no interest in it. I watch the games. I pay attention. I also have all 19 games played by the ’85 Bears on tape, and I’ve watched those many times since they happened, back oh before you were born. And these Saints, so far, and fully bearing in mind that’s it’s only preseason, are playing just like them.
Perhaps not as well. Perhaps never as well. Perhaps they’re more like a high school marching band playing Mozart. But when they play, you recognize the tune. And once you get used to the funny hats and the glockenspiel, you have to admit:
They’re pretty damned good.