Standing pat in October could leave the New Orleans Saints standing at or near the front of the 2008 NFL draft line in April for the second time in three seasons.
“The not-so-smart thing to say is that everything is going to be all right,” Coach Sean Payton said Monday afternoon, one day after digesting a mistake-filled 16-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers a day earlier.
Three straight weeks of watching film of three blowout losses is one thing. Watching a game the Saints funneled down the drain stung the worst for Payton and his players.
“It’d be easier to be openly frustrated and point fingers if everybody didn’t care about each other on this team,” left guard Jamar Nesbit said. “If we had a bunch of guys who were selfish or out doing the wrong things and getting in trouble and not caring anything about the team, it would be a lot easier.
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“We don’t have those types of guys here and everybody is in it to work hard. That’s what makes it even more frustrating because everybody here is trying.”
The players still aren’t pointing fingers. But saying every single position group for the Saints has underperformed this season isn’t a stretch. Some players agree whole heartedly with any sort of change to conclude their ghastly start to the 2007 season.
Ask Drew Brees.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all because at times that’s what you need and this might be that time. . . . A lot of us aren’t playing the way that we need to be playing,” said the quarterback who’s thrown one touchdown and nine interceptions this season. “Us, collectively as a group need to be playing better. Some more so than others. At times when you need a spark, the head man makes those kind of decision.”
Ask Scott Fujita.
“Right now, I’m on board for a shake-up,” the linebacker said. “Whether it needs to be an across-theboard shake-up, it’s one of those things obviously it’s Sean’s decision. I trust him. But I think sometimes making people a little uneasy is healthy.”
“We need to change some things we do,” Nesbit said.
With the NFL trading deadline a week away, the possibility to explore for talent on other rosters is out there. Typically the NFL’s deadline draws nowhere near the scuttlebutt like that of other sports leagues.
The Saints will host group of players today at the practice facility, but Payton suspected if any one of those were signed that they’d be more along the practicesquad level.
Personnel-wise, the Saints are forced to stand pat.
“The answers to getting this thing turned around lie within this locker room. . . . The Lone Ranger is not going to come riding on here with the right plan to all the sudden turn things around,” Payton said. “It’s going to happen from within, and it is not easy.”
Payton gave specific examples of potential change. He’d like to see Lance Moore and David Patten receive more touches in the passing game. That might not be the best news for the struggling Devery Henderson.
In the running game, Payton said he’s contemplating more carries for Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas, though he liked the way Reggie Bush handled his heavyduty role at running back with the loss of Deuce McAllister.
Kicker Olindo Mare’s future stands in question with his groin injury and inaccurate kicking leg. Both hampered him in missing two field goals, one being the length of an extra point.
The more difficult decision will come with pulling the trigger to bench one of the numerous starters Payton coached to the NFC championship game last season.
“Obviously when you have a history with a player or players, you have an idea of what they can do,” Payton said. “That being said, the players on the team are counting on the leadership and your decisions, not just everyone else. They’re counting on you to put them in the best positions to be successful.
“That’s part of this job and paying attention to that every day and each week is important too. That’s something that I wrestle with all the time. Making sure that we feel confident that we are playing the right combination of players each week and on each given series and in each game.”
Right now, the Saints’ confidence is on the verge of extinction.
“You’re going to have to be resilient,” Payton said. “You’re going to have to be a tough-minded person to hang in there and fight through something like this. It’s not easy. It’s not easy for the players to come in I’m sure.”