Brian Allee-Walsh

Find Waldo later. Build a relevant defense now in New Orleans

Saints coach Sean Payton, left, and the team’s front office may look to select a successor to quarterback Drew Brees (9) in next month’s NFL draft.
Saints coach Sean Payton, left, and the team’s front office may look to select a successor to quarterback Drew Brees (9) in next month’s NFL draft. AP

I get it.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is 38 and change. He’s entering the last year of a contract that pays him a base salary of $13 million and counts $19 million against the salary cap.

I’m taking a big leap here, but seeing 35-year-old journeyman Luke McCown and 25-year-old apprentice Garrett Grayson on the team’s depth chart, it’s safe to assume Brees’ successor currently is not on the roster.

Agreed?

That said, I understand Saints GM Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton’s sense of urgency to find Waldo this offseason, presumably via the draft (Patrick Mahomes II/Texas Tech, Joshua Dobbs/Tennessee, among others) but not overlooking potential free-agent prospects such as former Black-and-Gold property Chase Daniel and yes, even the overhyped Texas Tornado, Johnny Manziel.

I get it.

In a quarterback-driven league, where the rules heavily favor the offense, players under center and in shotgun formation typically are the means to an end. The better that QB is, the better chance that team has of winning a Super Bowl, a Lombardi Trophy and all the accompanying benefits.

Agreed?

And though I understand the importance of finding Waldo, the Saints should invest all of their waking moments this offseason trying to upgrade a deficient defense in order to stop opposing quarterbacks Matt Ryan of Atlanta, Cam Newton of Carolina and Jameis Winston of Tampa Bay.

The Saints aren’t going anywhere if they don’t regain control of the NFC South; if they don’t reduce the alarming number of points and yards yielded to the Falcons, Panthers and Buccaneers; if they don’t do a better job of neutralizing Ryan, Newton and Winston in the pocket.

That starts with the combined efforts of a disruptive pass rush and downfield pass coverage; i.e., impact edge rushers and good cover cornerbacks.

Since the 2010 season, the Saints have reached the postseason twice (2011, 2013), both times going 5-1 inside the division. In the other four years, they have not eclipsed the .500 mark inside the division, going 3-3 in 2012, ’14 and ’15 and 2-4 last season.

Defense wins championships, along with a quarterback of the caliber of a Drew Brees (see Super Bowl XLIV in 2009).

Brees and a stout D gives the Saints the best chance to win a second Lombardi.

The NFL is a year-to-year proposition. The idea is to win now. Drew Brees won’t be in New Orleans much longer. Neither will Sean Payton.

Find Waldo next year, or the year after, or the year after that.

Find a relevant defense now.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

  Comments