Saints, LSU both lose late, but neither loss really matters
ORLANDO, Florida - It was no day at the beach for either the New Orleans Saints or the LSU Tigers in not always sunny Florida over a lost weekend.
The Saints lost, 31-24, at Tampa Bay in the regular season finale on a 39-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline with 15 seconds left on Sunday.
The Tigers lost, 21-17, at the Citrus Bowl to Notre Dame on a 55-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline with 88 seconds left on Monday.
Both the Saints and Tigers appeared in control of the game at various times and late, but their defense could not make one more critical stop.
Both losses were also meaningless in a way. The Saints (11-5) still won the NFC South division, still will host in the Wild Card playoffs at 3:40 p.m. Sunday against Carolina (11-5), which is a team it defeated easily twice in the regular season. A Saints' win actually could have served up a more difficult task - hosting rival Atlanta, which split two games with the Saints. And you never know what will happen in that series.
For the Tigers, it looked pretty bad, but it was still just a second tier, non-playoff bowl. The way it lost that game will have little to do with how it does in 2018. Momentum from a bowl win carrying into the next season is a myth. The next season usually happens on its own, often with key players in the bowl not even returning.
The new offensive coordinator LSU coach Ed Orgeron hires to replace the fired Matt Canada and how that person develops quarterbacks Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse over spring drills and how he recruits future quarterbacks will be the most significant happenings of LSU's off-season. Not whether or not a tailback who will not be here next season - Derrius Guice - should've gotten the ball on fourth and inches with just over two minutes to play at the 1-inch line for a potential 21-14 lead instead of a 17-14 advantage.
Development of the placekickers will also be important, and Orgeron has apparently already punted Connor Culp and Jack Gonsoulin by signing transfer kicker Cole Tracy. Culp and Gonsoulin made the two-kicker system look like a LSU two-quarterback system.
"I'm glad that we got a new placekicker," Orgeron understated. "Obviously, we know that we need that. Nothing against the guys that we have, but they just haven't performed in the way that we want to."
Through the big picture lens, few will remember LSU's kicking woes and senior wide receiver D.J. Chark's trouble fielding punts amid gusting winds at the frozen Citrus Bowl of Jan. 1, 2018.
"Hate I went out like that," Chark tweeted after the game. "Love my brothers and wish I could've done more for them."
Don't sweat it, D.J. You had a great career at LSU and showed great patience, professionalism and maturity waiting your turn to play for two years. Now, the former three-star prospect out of Alexandria Senior High is off to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where he can make NFL scouts forget his uncharacteristic punt return issues Monday.
"That was unlike D.J.," Orgeron said. "He never did that all year."
LSU has bigger problems on the horizon than whether it was 10-3 or 9-4 in the 2017 season. And Orgeron knows that.
"We played very poorly," he said. "But we're looking at he overall picture of the season. I'm very proud of our football team for going from 3-2 to 9-3 and battling in the SEC West. We made some tremendous improvement over the season. I'm proud of this football team and our coaching staff."
In the meantime, Orgeron needs to hit his own refresh button. He needs to hire an offensive coordinator who can recruit quarterbacks because that remains a gaping hole in the LSU program, and apparently he can't do it. He also needs to look at his current staff of assistants and decide whether they are good enough.
And when Orgeron hires coaches in the future, he needs to do more homework. He apparently did not do that last year when he hired offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who has never run the type of offense Orgeron likes, and when he hired receivers coach Mickey Joseph, who needed consultant Jerry Sullivan to help him coach.
"We're going to have to look at the overall picture," Orgeron said. "We're going to have to be training a new quarterback."
Make that re-training. Yet again.