The New Orleans Saints are struggling, and a hard reset might be what’s best for them to get back to a competitive level.
The New Orleans Saints enter Week 7 with a record of 2-4. Remarkably, they’re just a game behind the 3-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the lead in the NFC South (though they do not own a tiebreaker), but continued stumbling and injury issues should have general manager Mickey Loomis thinking about whether or not it’s time to recalibrate and commit to a rebuild.
New Orleans is now two seasons past Drew Brees’ retirement and into its first season without head coach Sean Payton. While Dennis Allen was a logical fill-in to seamlessly move the team from one competitive era to the next, that might be just a bit of a misguided strategy in retrospect.
Make no mistake, a good bit of the misfortune is brought on by injuries. Jameis Winston has been hurt since Week 1. Michael Thomas has now missed multiple games in a row, as has Jarvis Landry. Chris Olave missed Week 6. The NFL does not exist in a world of what-ifs, though, and the silver lining behind the injuries is it helps expose the fact that, behind the curtain, the Saints don’t have a long-term plan or answer for the league’s most competitive opponents.
Injuries are an excuse, perhaps a valid one. But they’ve only sped up the inevitable timeline.
The Saints do not have a clear-cut quarterback of the future. Winston has looked reborn at times, but even when healthy struggles to see the opportunities to extend drives methodically. Andy Dalton (who is now also injured) is a veteran closer to retirement than being the next multi-year starter.
The shining light is, of course, the defense, but even that leaves some to be desired. Tyrann Mathieu was a flashy offseason signing. He’s played fine, but hasn’t looked like his elite defensive self just yet in his home state.
Some of the capable defense is aged (Cam Jordan is in his 12th year, Demario Davis in his 11th) and could start declining or even retire in the coming years. The present level of skill won’t last forever.
Saints need to decide if they’re in or out
The team as constructed now can flirt with .500 for the foreseeable future, no problem. Is that going to be enough? Is this franchise, which has won plenty in the modern era, content with that?
A full commitment to a rebuild may be tough to swallow because it could mean looking for trade opportunities regarding longtime Saints like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on the offensive side and Marshon Lattimore on the defensive side.
Former players reacting to the tone around the team proves just how far the perception of the culture has fallen and how bad expectations are.
Of course, the huge advantage of pivoting to a rebuild right now is Sean Payton. The Saints own his rights as a coach for this season and next, and rampant speculation about him returning to coach could just speed up the timeline for him returning to a sideline soon. The Saints could squeeze a massive draft haul out of such a deal and use the return as a launchpad for their rebuild.
Now is as good a time as ever for the Black and Gold, as painful as it might sound.