For an organization in a self-admitted need of a thorough examination of “every aspect of what we do and how we do it,” the Saints are stumbling out of the gate.
When one of your core defensive players — someone you’ve rewarded with a $41.5 million contract and whom his teammates has elected a co-captain — is involved in at least a wrong person in your house and the wrong way to get her out of it situation, it not a good way to start the offseason.
That’s hardly better than the team started the regular season: a 37-34 loss at Atlanta in which the defense gave up 568 yards and a turnover set up the winning points for the Falcons, a harbinger of things to come.
From then on, nothing ever seemed quite right.
Add the stumbling finish: losses to two division rivals by a combined 71-24 bracketed around victories against teams that in one case were seemingly trying to get their coach fired and in the other seemingly were tanking.
So for the football side of the Saints’ leadership, it’s time to either do what it takes to get better or be prepared to face the consequences.
On Tuesday, General Manager Mickey Loomis was no more definitive about Junior Galette’s situation than he was about much of anything else in his annual postseason media briefing.
How long does it take to make a decision on Rob Ryan, anyway?
But then being upfront never has been Loomis’ way.
Saying that the team is taking the Galette matter “very seriously,” was appropriate, no matter how things turn out. In the NFL since the Ray Rice incident, anything related to domestic violence is the wrong crime at the wrong time.
It’s hard to see Galette escaping without some consequences.
The question then becomes whether the Saints are taking “very seriously” whatever disquiet has overtaken a franchise that’s been playing with elevated expectations since Sean Payton became the coach nine years ago.
That’s a lifetime in NFL years.
Only Bill Belichick, Marvin Lewis and Tom Coughlin have been the coaches of their current teams longer than Payton, and fans of two of those three clubs are not too happy with them right now.
Saints fans will always remember Super Bowl XLVI. But that was five years ago.
When the buttons you’ve been successfully pushing more often than not for a decade suddenly quit working, it’s a maddening feeling.
“What we did not do was implement some of those core beliefs that we’ve had since the beginning, and instead we strayed away from them,” Loomis said. “We have to look at ourselves before we start looking at the rest of our organization and the rest of the things we do.
“I have to look at myself and say, ‘Hey, what did I do that did not work?’”
The same, Loomis added, goes for Payton. The two of them, he said, have had some “frank” conversations.
Loomis didn’t get into specifics, but here are a few things most would agree need looking at:
Get Drew Brees back into a comfort zone.
No. 9 will be 36 on Jan. 15. And while his skills still seem as good as ever and he continues to say the right things, he doesn’t always do them.
Brees threw 17 interceptions this season, many of them when he was trying to force things in tight situations. It didn’t help that his top receivers, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham, developed the dropsies and alligator arms respectively.
But as even he acknowledges, Brees’ clock his ticking.
Have a definite philosophy about defense and stick with it. It goes beyond coordinators, of which Payton has had four and could soon be on No. 5.
That’s made for roller-coaster defensive performances — the same coaches and for the most part the same players getting drastically different results from one season to the next, and sometimes from one game to the next.
Loomis acknowledged the need for sound scouting and personnel decisions in that area.
Speaking of scouting and personnel: not wasting draft picks.
Of the team’s six choices in the 2014 draft, only one, fifth-rounder Ronald Powell, was on the active roster at the season’s end, and he was strictly on special teams.
Other issues, such as dealing with the salary cap, don’t seem as pressing. And the locker room leadership that seemed lacking this season will have to come from the players.
Despite all of their woes in 2014, the Saints were just one victory away form being a playoff team, even if they never looked like one.
And as Carolina proved Sunday, being in, if you get the right opponent, means you have a chance.
But Loomis correctly pointed out that making the playoffs at 8-8 would have delayed the process the team is now going through by only a few weeks.
That’s why there has to be an extra sense of urgency from a team that doesn’t want to think of itself in transition.
But there’s no guarantee that all of the self-examination in the world will right what wrong.