Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
This is going to sound strange coming from the guy who wrote after the Saints gave up 44 points in the season finale to the Carolina Panthers they needed to either fire Steve Spagnuolo or tear apart the defense completely but after Sean Payton did both I’m not confident at all it will fix anything.
Don’t read this column as some sort of defense of Steve Spagnuolo. He coordinated the defense that gave up the most yards in NFL history, certain anonymous defensive players hated him, and his firing was justified.
It’s what the Saints do next which I don’t have confidence in. After seven years of watching Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton lead the Saints, history tells us their track record of building a defense is a combination of barely average and luck.
The Saints will be on defensive coordinator number four under Sean Payton. Payton has officially become multiple divorce guy. Why yes those three previous wives were all crazy, insane, and everything was their fault. I’m sure Payton and some Saints fans will say, “The next wife/defensive coordinator this is THE ONE they will be perfect.”
Just like Gary Gibbs, Gregg Williams, and Steve Spagnuolo before them the Saints next future ex is always the solution. I won’t hold my breath. I give the Saints credit for at least being able to identify the problem it’s the their solutions which worry me.
The Saints have tried every variation of the 4-3 under three defensive coordinators. We had the bend don’t break version under Gibbs, the blitz everybody with cash benefits included version 2.0 under Gregg Williams, and the worst parts of both in version 3.0 under Steve Spagnuolo. Carolina just scored again.
The Saints tell us the solution is less defensive lineman and more linebackers. The 4-3 is so 2007, the Saints are now going retro Jim Mora style and rebooting to the 3-4. Get to your closet, dig out your Dome Patrol posters, t-shirts, and dry clean that Vaughn Johnson jersey because we are gonna party like it’s 1991.
Payton thinks the 3-4 defense will be much harder to face saying, “Just having to attack it. It presents issues in running game, presents protection issues. I just know coaching on offense what it does to you from my own experience, when we played against 3-4 teams.”
The Saints don’t have the personal to run the 3-4 right now or really any competent defense. They also don’t have a lot of cap space or a 2nd round pick to rebuild the defense on the fly. If you are thinking the 3-4 is going to unleash the untapped potential of Junior Galette and Martez Wilson I want to live in the candy cane filled cloud fantasyland you reside.
While Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton have an unrivaled ability to find offensive players in the draft and off the street the Saints haven’t drafted an elite defensive player in two generations. Who’s the last great defensive player the Saints selected? I’ll nominate Wayne Martin who had had five seasons out of six with double digit sacks. Of course if you are under 35 you probably have no idea how good Martin was because the Saints drafted in him in 1989!
Under Mickey Loomis the Saints free agency and trade record on defense is uneven. They got the magical year out of Darren Sharper, traded for Jonathan Vilma, and signed a good corner in Jabari Greer but they whiffed on Jason David, Brian Simmons, and Kevin Kaesviharn.
In the draft they traded up to get Jonathan Sullivan, one of the worst busts in Saints history, traded up to get a very average Sedrick Ellis, and selected the limited Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins. Even if you give them extra credit for Tracy Porter’s awesome 2009 playoffs the Saints ability to find defensive talent is closer to average than really good.
On offense if the Saints want to replace Jermon Bushrod with a homeless guy or tell me Joe Morgan is going to develop into a nice deep threat receiver I believe them. I’ve seen Payton make the offense hum no matter the pieces. On defense I question if they know what they are doing because if we are honest does the 2009 Super Bowl happen if they don’t stumble head first into Darren Sharper?
Drew Brees best years are melting way fast let’s hope Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis get this right. I asked my Magic Eight Ball and he said, “Outlook Cloudy”
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.