NEW ORLEANS – Forget the statistics about making the playoffs after beginning a season 0-3.
In fact, forget the playoffs period.
After three games, it’s fairly easy to say this and not get excoriated by a passionate following – the Saints don’t pass the eyeball test.
Or, really, any other test for that matter.
Three seasons of top-notch football have given way to the ugly stuff and everyone who either pulls for the Saints or is a member of the team is a mixture of befuddled and angry.
This team that’s playing with the fleur de lis emblazoned on the helmet isn’t what anyone is used to seeing regardless of who is or isn’t around.
“I think we’re all very uncomfortable,” New Orleans right tackle Zach Strief said. “It doesn’t feel how it has felt to us. I think that we’re disappointed as a group. And I think that’s to be expected. I don’t think anybody would expect us not to be disappointed.”
The defense is giving up yards like never before and the offense isn’t gaining them back. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has no answer for what’s being thrown at him and neither does his offensive counterpart Pete Carmichael Jr.
Don’t blame Sean Payton’s absence. Don’t blame Gregg Williams' alleged bounty program. And don’t blame Roger Goodell’s iron-fisted suspensions.
New Orleans’ poor start goes beyond all of them.
“With the type of team we have, nobody expected when the season kicked off that we could sit here and be 0-3,” Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said. “All you can do is continue to battle back. Nobody cares about excuses. Nobody cares about anything like that.”
There’s no good news out of Sunday.
The Saints had the perfect opponent to get back in the win column. Kansas City was as bad as it gets heading into the game and should have provided an easy day in the beautiful football cathedral that is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But New Orleans played like it had little motivation, like a fire hadn’t been lit under its backside to get out of the hole it already had begun digging.
A no-excuse team now truly has none that holds water.
“I know the type of team we want to be and that we can be,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “We’re not playing anywhere near that level now and it has resulted in an 0-3 start. It’s very frustrating. Disappointing.”
Indeed, it is disappointing.
New Orleans boasts the league’s highest-paid player per year (Brees) and it’s playing with six first-round picks on defense.
It has 37 wins since 2009 is tied for second-most. Its 62 wins since 2006 is the best in the NFC South.
They went 8-0 at home a season ago and are 0-2 so far this one. At 377.3 yards per game, they’re nearly 100 below last season’s average. Instead of the 56.7 third-down conversion rate they were at a season ago, New Orleans is successful on only 37.8 percent of its third downs this season.
The adjustments on offense and the adjustments on defense aren’t happening.
Through three games this season, the Saints have more in common with the dregs of the league than the elite. They’re more the drunken uncle you hide during holiday parties than the straight A’s earning niece you brag about every chance you get.
They’re family but, right now, not the type you’re proud of.
Listen to the players in the locker room and it’s beginning to sound like a broken record.
They promise that things will change, that the season will turn around.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to turn this thing around,” Brees said. “I don’t know what that’s going to result in in regard to how many wins, playoffs or whatever. But we’re going to be a great team. This team.”
Added Greer, “We’re not going to quit. This is the hand that we’ve been dealt and we’re going to continue to fight, we’re going to continue to get better and once we turn this around, it’s going to be an incredible season.”
There’s only one problem with those quotes, at this point.
If the Saints are going to do or be something special, the talk has to translate onto the field.
They’ve said it before. The time for talk is over. Way over.