The latest loss by the Saints had me thinking about the explosion in popularity of independent film during the ‘90s and it’s uninvited relative at the picnic — the action verb meets character name format.
“Chasing Amy.” “Killing Zoe.” “Being John Malkovich.” The list goes on and on.
New Orleans, which is still in the filmmaking game no matter what you’ve heard, has never shied away from a good drama. So, ladies and gentlemen, join me in the latest episode of “Firing Sean Payton.”
Like all good movies it started with an underdog who fought their way to the top. I love those movies. "Rocky" is still cool to watch and the last one in the series made me cry and pump my fist in the air. But then it ended and I went on with my life. This is where the Saints and yours truly differ in approach.
The Bensons are stuck in the past. The owners who brought the city a Superbowl title in 2009 have got to make the increasingly easy decision to fire Coach Payton and GM Mickey Loomis. Yes, you can still call Payton the “former Superbowl coach.” On the other hand, you can also call him the coach who hasn’t had a winning record since 2013.
You will never be able to take away Coach Payton’s Superbowl ring and his part in shaping this team into a former winner. He’s reached the mountaintop with this team and will forever be part of the Crescent City’s allure. But the NFL is a brutal business with a cutthroat nature and if you like to rest on sentiments you will be left in the dust. The Saints need to move on.
The folks who only see things in Black and Gold will point to Sunday’s latest loss and applaud the defense for their effort. They should, because the defense played well — this week. Unfortunately, the offense has gone missing the past two weeks. And then, when the offense springs to life the defense will fold. There’s just no consistency. That’s just the way it’s been for three years now. Victories overshadowed by a relentless sloppiness.
And who have the Saints really beat this year? Outside of the Seattle Seahawks, who have an odd penchant for losing to bad teams, the Saints have beaten the 15th (San Diego), 26th (Carolina), 28th (Rams), and 31st (49ers) ranked teams in the power rankings. That’s not much to hang your hat on but has become the acceptable norm in New Orleans.
That’s not how other franchises operate. The Rams just fired Jeff Fisher for posting his fifth straight losing season. The Saints will have posted losing records in four of the last five seasons. Fisher’s record over the last 29 games is 11-18. Payton’s record is 12-17. Furthermore, hot seats are warming up around the league but there is no talk of any possible change in New Orleans.
Rumors are flying that Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals is on the hot seat. The Bengals have gone to the playoffs every year for the last five years. A rare slow start in Green Bay temporarily placed Mike McCarthy on the hot seat earlier this season. That’s the same McCarthy who has a Superbowl ring and has led the Packers to the playoffs seven straight seasons.
Does the Nola brass (Hey! Old-school hockey reference!) think the Saints are close to competing for the division title? Why would they think that? Do they think the Saints are better than the division-leading Falcons? How about the Panthers, who went 15-1 last year? Okay, surely the Buccaneers who are…oh wow. If the season ended today, the Bucs would be in the Wild Card game. So, nope.
Maybe the Bensons are keeping Coach Payton around because they have a talented young core that needs a seasoned coach to bring them along. That’s sort of true. The Saints — with the likes of Michael Thomas, Delvin Breaux and Sheldon Rankins — have some talented youngsters. The problem with this scenario is that Drew Brees will be 38 years old next season.
Which is what this is really all about. In Brees, the Saints have one of the league’s deadliest weapons, but the missile’s window of opportunity for hitting the cherished target that is a long playoff run is closing. I’m not one who thinks Brees’ best days are behind him. Brees has consistently put that theory to rest, which is exactly why the Saints need new blood at the helm.
The team needs to stop settling for the mediocre output of the past three years. Tom Benson needs to bring in a new coach to jolt this team out of its tendency for sleepwalking into the season and not winning must-win games that matter.
Because here’s the news — for the third year straight, the Saints have started a season 0-3, which immediately choked any hope of a playoff run out of the city. For the third year straight, the Saints will finish the 2016 campaign with a losing record with a bunch of current and ex-free agents that are crushing the salary cap and underperforming. All of these misfires point to where? The head coach.
For the Saints to field this same team without major changes next year would be a slap in the face to the Black and Gold faithful. Coach Payton transformed the Saints into a winning organization and if he can’t win with the team then the team should thank him for all that he’s done and move on because every movie doesn’t have to have a happy ending and all good things must come to an end.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Wayward Owl Brewing’s “Clean Slate” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: The Doors – “The End”
Around the Way
All endings don’t have to be sad, though. Sometimes your heroes just move on to another level. Such is the case with St. Augustine High School’s Leonard Fournette as he expectedly announced his intentions to enter the NFL after LSU takes on Louisville in the Citrus Bowl. Fournette has rushed for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns in only 32 games with the Tigers and crushed defensive backs along the way. Congratulations to the Fournette family.