MOBILE, Ala. — Fresh ideas.
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis wasn’t 30 seconds into talking about the hiring of Jeff Ireland for the team’s top personnel post — the exact title is still fuzzy — Wednesday when he said those words.
And he wasn’t just talking about the scouting department.
Since Senior Bowl week started, we’ve also seen the hiring of Dennis Allen to an unspecified but seemingly supervisory position on the defensive coaching staff.
And while the NFL’s new personal conduct policy obviously has a lot to do with it, that Loomis seems to be distancing the team from Junior Gallette until his domestic violence case is resolved spoke volumes about a franchise that always seemed on the player’s side during most previous personal conduct matters.
Will Smith got off with community service with no suspension after a public altercation with his wife in 2010. She later asked that the charges be dropped, which they were in 2012.
Who knows what other changes are coming?
That’s what going 7-9 when too many people inside the organization admitted to drinking the Kool-Aid that the Saints were going to the Super Bowl will do to you, especially since it’s been five years since the team reached the singular accomplishment in the franchise’s history.
And for those keeping track, Loomis has been in his post for 13 years, and the ninth anniversary of Sean Payton’s hiring was four days ago. So he’s got season No. 10 coming up.
But instead of celebrating the occasion here — some coaching staffs regard Senior Bowl week as a break before getting back into the grind of preparing for the next season — Payton and his assistants are instead holed up out on 5800 Airline Highway trying to figure out what’s gone wrong and which current players can best fix it.
That heightened since of urgency in the annual self-evaluation process is spurred on for various reasons, some better left unsaid at this point.
But the bottom line is that the Loomis-Payton regime will be under the gun to succeed in 2015 unlike it has been before.
And this is the same pair who survived Bountygate.
The team doesn’t even count the 7-9 record in 2012 as Payton’s, although the league does.
But the question right now is: Are the Saints in better position to make a Super Bowl run this year than they were at this time in 2014?
Considering the shaky state of the defense, the need for offensive improvement at wide receiver and the interior line, and yes, Drew Brees’ ability to regain his mojo — No.
But that’s why you make changes — on your coaching staff, in your personnel office, and on your roster.
Heck, even longtime head equipment manager Dan Simmons has retired.
It didn’t take until the end of the season for Loomis and Payton to realize that things weren’t right within the football side of the organization.
In a way, the Saints were fortunate not to have won the NFC South, because even if you’re in the playoffs, 8-8 isn’t much better than 7-9.
It developed to where winning the division replaced improving. Hanging an NFC South Champions banner would have just masked the problems.
Don’t forget: In December, the Saints were outscored 71-24 by Atlanta and Carolina and were down 20-7 at halftime at Tampa Bay before the Buccaneers decided to tank in order to get the No. 1 pick.
Those teams are already all looking better in 2015 than they were in 2014.
You can’t yet say that about the Saints — yet.
“Sometimes we get a little too comfortable,” Loomis said. “And that includes me.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a little uncomfortable. Right?”
No, there isn’t.
And so change is underway.
Loomis wasn’t specific about what suggestions Ireland may have offered that got him the job.
Somewhere, the dismissal of college scouting director Rick Reiprish must have come up. Given the desire for a fresh ideas and Reiprish’s insistence that he was doing things the right way, it seems a change was foreseeable.
Justified or not, though doing it in Mobile, where Reiprish and his scouts were already on the job, was tactless. The decision couldn’t have just been made during the Tuesday morning weigh-in.
But messy things often happen in uncomfortable situations.
Ireland, by all accounts, is an excellent talent evaluator.
As a general manager at Miami, he was a bust. Botching the attempted hiring of Jim Harbaugh while he still had a coach in Tony Soprano was particularly egregious.
But Ireland won’t be hiring coaches with the Saints. He’ll be looking at college players, as he was Wednesday before politely declining to talk about his new job.
And Allen won’t be trying to win with the mess that is the Oakland Raiders. He’ll be trying to stabilize a defense that at times was at odds with itself while pledging support of Rob Ryan.
“If we’re moving with more energy than we have in the past, I don’t know,” Loomis said. “But we had more change than we’ve had in the past.
“It’s important that we all get on the same page and move in the same direction.”
If not, a year from now there won’t be just lots fresh ideas around the Saints.
There will be lots of fresh faces.