From the basement | Saints need to be better

Max Yazdian, Staff Reporter

Elisabeth Keigler

The New Orleans Saints have gotten off to a 3-5 start this season, a record that disappointed many fans. The question is, what is the cause of these struggles, and how can they fix them?

The answer must start with who they’ve lost over the past few years. Every franchise dreams of having a Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterback, Drew Brees, and a Hall-of-Fame caliber head coach, Sean Payton, for 15 years. Losing both in one year can be very hard to recover from. 

However, Sean Payton did not leave the franchise empty when he left. They went 9-8 last year and had promising players all over the field. Many thought the Saints would be fine without them, as some media members had sky-high expectations going into the season. Peter King picked the Saints to go 12-5, winning the National Football Conference South and obtaining the one seed in the conference. Fox Sports labeled Jameis Winston as a sleeper MVP candidate, and the money in Vegas backed that up. 

The problem starts with the new head coach — Dennis Allen. Four of the Saints’ five losses this year have come by one score. Usually, when a team can’t win close games, that reflects poorly on the coaching. I was never a fan of hiring Allen to replace Payton, as he has already proven unsuccessful as an NFL head coach. In his first stint with the Oakland Raiders, he went 4-12 in his first season, 4-12 in his second season then 0-4 in his third and final season before getting fired. That is not exactly good. 

The Saints went the safe route by promoting from within, but I don’t believe that is best for the organization. They are better off scouting and hiring the next Sean Payton instead of holding onto the last remains of him. Plenty of brilliant young minds are out there, waiting for someone to give them their shot. Three intriguing offensive coordinators that come to mind are Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs, Ken Dorsey of the Buffalo Bills and Kellen Moore of the Dallas Cowboys.

The second big issue with the Saints is at quarterback. Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton have both had good and bad moments, but it’s clear that neither is the long-term answer at quarterback. In league with rising stars like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and many more, being stuck in quarterback purgatory is one of the worst and most dangerous places to be. With no first-round pick coming up, finding an upgrade may become very difficult to do. 

However, these past few offseasons have shown that there are multiple different routes to finding a franchise quarterback. The Cincinnati Bengals — the 2022 American Football Conference champions — selected Joe Burrow first overall, an option the Saints will likely not have. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Tom Brady via free agency and won a Super Bowl that same year. However, there is only one game-changer in the 2023 quarterback free-agency class. Ironically, that quarterback is Tom Brady. I doubt Brady would jump ship, especially for a division rival, but you never know. 

I believe the Saints’ best and most realistic option is to follow in the footsteps of the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams knew they were a quarterback away from contention, so they traded for Matthew Stafford. This trade has worked out well for them, as he delivered a Super Bowl in his first year. If the Saints believe they are just a quarterback away from contention by the offseason, making a Matthew Stafford-esque trade might not be the worst idea. Quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr are quarterbacks that could become unhappy in their current situations and potentially be made available for trade. Putting one of those guys with Chris Olave, Alvin Kamara and the Saints loaded defense could get the organization back on track. 

The key to any successful NFL team starts with an elite head coach and quarterback, both things the Saints lack. However, there are ways to fix these issues, and with the amount of talent on the roster, I would not be surprised to see the Saints back in Super Bowl contention very soon. 

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