Brian Allee-Walsh

It’s time for the Saints to move on and focus on next season

The sooner the New Orleans Saints quit blaming the (fill in the blank) officials, the quicker they can get on with the business at hand.

Last time I looked, Super Bowl LIV will be played Feb. 2, 2020, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, and time’s a wastin’. As Mike Ditka once said, “If you live in the past, you die in the past.”

What happened, happened. Let the NFL competition committee (of which Coach Sean Payton is a member) do its job this spring. Let it GEAUX!

The future remains bright for the Black and Gold, and the future is now.

For starters, I suspect the Saints’ window of opportunity has closed a smidgen after the 2018 season but a large enough opening remains for them to win a second Lombardi Trophy with Drew Brees under center. He may be 40 but he’s a young-ish 40, still brimming with confidence and fully engaged in his job. Yes, No. 9 has lost a little on his fastball but he more than makes up for it with his football IQ, much like the G.O.A.T, 41-year-old Tom Brady.

A healthy, motivated Brees gives the Saints a strong leg up on the vast majority of teams but as we’ve seen in the past he can’t do it alone. Many of his best seasons have gone for naught because of a talent-challenged defense. But that side of the ball seems to be on solid footing under defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. It appears coaching changes are forthcoming with regards to special teams but the personnel pieces are in place with kicker Wil Lutz and punter Thomas Morstead.

The team’s football operations will be asked to make wine out of water in the draft since they don’t have first-, third- and fourth-round picks because of past transactions and not an abundance of salary space (estimated $8 million to $11 million). They do own single picks in the second and fifth rounds and two each in the sixth and seventh rounds for a total of six. GM Mickey Loomis, college scouting director Jeff Ireland and coach Sean Payton need to pull rabbits out of a hat.

Their biggest needs come on offense, specifically at slot receiver, tight end and O-line depth. Other needs may develop if free agent RB Mark Ingram and the team part ways and DE Alex Okafor opts out of his contract.

In my opinion, the Swiss Army knife, Taysom Hill, a QB by trade, could be productive full time at either slot receiver or running back. But he also plays a big role as a situational QB and on all core special teams.

The time might be right for Payton to give fewer hats for Hill to wear and to focus on one or two roles/positions, and it isn’t at QB, not yet anyway. In my opinion, he’s the X-factor for the offense going forward. If push came to shove, he could probably play strong-side linebacker or strong safety on defense.

A strong case could be made that Hill was the league’s best athlete based on his overall production and the number of roles he played throughout a game. He certainly earned his $555,000 base salary and remains a great buy at $645,000 in 2019.

In upcoming columns, I will deal more with the futures of free agent QB Teddy Bridgewater, Okafor and Ingram, among others.

I will close with potential season slogans for Payton to consider when he reconvenes his team in April.

Last year it was “Prove Them Right.’‘

This year it could be “Prove Them Wrong,’‘ them being those (fill in the blank) officials.

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