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Saints fire Rob Ryan in last-ditch, Hail Mary attempt to save season.
Sports reporters sat on a designated small strip of grass in Metairie yesterday, and watched Rob Ryan walk out of the Saints complex for the last time as the team’s Defensive Coordinator. I like to think that he proceeded directly to Ms. Mae’s and started telling tales about the good ole days. Maybe he did, maybe didn’t. Much like almost everything else that’s happened this season – it’s just hard to tell what’s going on right now.
On Monday afternoon, Coach Payton met with the press, and announced that Ryan still had his job, while at the same time it was apparent – not for long. Payton told reporters he hadn’t met with Saints GM Mickey Loomis about what changes needed to be made. Which was a little ridiculous. It’s not like anything related to the latest Saints defensive meltdown is news. The poor play has been happening for 26 games now – the defense finished the season ranked 31st last year, and is currently ranked 32nd (out of 32 teams…meaning last).
The writing was on the wall in Reznor-sized letters – Rob Ryan had to go.
The Saints performance against the Washington Redskins was an embarrassment – even by the current, low standards. Poor play is one thing, but this team mailed it in on Sunday. A fan can forgive a team if they are completely outmatched, but a fan cannot forgive a team for quitting. Sunday was that type of game. A poor performance that included the Saints “Worst Play of the Year”, captured here in GIF form – so you can see, over and over again, how hard Brandon Browner is competing these days for the Saints. Browner – who instead of chasing down a running back that was within two yards of him (and who went on to score a 78-yard touchdown), decided to deliver this cheap shot on Washington offensive lineman Spencer Long, instead of doing what he is paid to do – like tackle. And with that type of play from your defense, someone had to pay for it, changes had to be made to stop the bleeding, even if they are just symbolic gestures this late in the season.
Today, Dennis Allen takes over the defense – but lightning’s not going to strike, no one is going to yell – “Eureka! We’ve got it,” and the Saints defense will still rank in the lower echelon of the NFL. But, it could be different. A change could spur the defense into another direction. A direction that hopefully is a polar opposite of the current one – a direction that has defenders in black and gold repeatedly chasing opposing receivers and running backs into the end zone.
With all of that said, this is not just a Rob Ryan “issue” – it’s a Saints issue.
The Saints – under the guidance of GM Mickey Loomis – walked directly into a soul-crushing salary cap fiasco. A kind of minor-league blunder that makes one think no one in the Saints management offices are watching the “ball.” The Saints have been watching the gargantuan cap hits that come along with the Drew Brees contract approach, and not making any thought-out-in-advance moves to lessen that burden. It feels as if they have been thinking, “Well…at least we have Drew,” and hoping for the best. That mentality, and lack of forethought, doesn’t fly in the NFL. That “one big hope” will cost the Saints 30 million dollars next year. But, it’s not uncommon for NFL teams to have stud quarterbacks that make over $20 million a year now. Big price tags come with big-time performers – and Drew Brees is still one of the best gunslingers in the league. Unfortunately for New Orleans, those other teams have managed their payroll, and developed young talent far better than the Saints.
The mismanagement doesn’t just apply to the quarterback position. The Saints have received next to nothing from high-priced acquisitions like Jairus Byrd and the aforementioned “Worst Play of the Year” honoree Brandon Browner. The salary cap fiasco cost the Saints a leading tackler in linebacker Curtis Lofton, and the Saints would eventually trade away All-Pro Tight End Jimmy Graham (who had just signed a contract extension the previous year) and second-year Wide Receiver Kenny Stills in hopes of replenishing a lack of talent on their roster due to a mind-boggling number of failed draft picks. In other words, they developed Stills talent just to trade him away, and Graham’s contract is a $9 million cap hit for the Saints this year. And yes, I am intentionally not bringing up Junior Galette.
So, heading into the bye week, and with two weeks to prepare for the Houston Texans, the “smart play” was to get rid of Rob Ryan. Maybe it will help, maybe it won’t. Maybe at the end of the season, bigger changes will happen, and maybe they won’t. Either way, someone needs to take ownership of this ball club and grab the wheel to keep this football season from veering off into the ditches of sad spectacles and comic futility.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing – Natural Light (yep, that’s where we are now)
Playlist Recommendation – Beck – “Lost Cause”
Around the Way
The Tulane Green Wave travelled to West Point and beat the Army Black Knights, 34-31. The Green Wave rattled off 28 unanswered points in the first half, and held on for victory as Andrew DiRocca hit a 35-yard field as time ran out. Tulane is now 3-7. Their three victories come over teams with a combined won-loss record of 5-25.
Staying Uptown for some happy news…Congratulations to Tulane’s senior tennis player, Dominik Koepfer – who won the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship. Nola.com reports that Koepfer is the first Tulane tennis player to win a national championship since Jose Aguero won the NCAA Singles title in 1955. So, the fans obviously need a match between these two champions. My money is on Aguero.