METAIRIE, La. — For a team that has gone 41-13, including the playoffs, over the past three seasons, heading into the midway point of the season 2-5 is likely pretty jarring.
It wouldn’t be surprising, then, for there to be dissension among the ranks. It also wouldn’t be surprising for there to be massive changes thrust onto that team.
Except, for the New Orleans Saints, neither are true.
Acting head coach Joe Vitt said “dramatic changes” would be the worst thing a team in the Saints’ situation could do right now.
“…If you have dramatic changes and you have (erratic) changes, that’s when panic sets in,” Vitt said. “All of a sudden you’re going to create a scheme that you have not worked on in OTAs, that you have not worked on in training camp and all of a sudden all of the things that looked good in OTAs and looked good in training camp all of a sudden start to look bad right now.
“If you put that panic in, the players can smell the house burning before the match is ever lit.”
The Saints host Philadelphia (3-4) Monday night as they attempt to get back on track after Denver hammered them. They can look to 2007 for lessons in not throwing in the towel.
In 2007, the Saints started off 0-4 but didn’t break ranks. The team stuck together and won the next four games instead.
That year, the coaching staff didn’t make any drastic decision. Instead, they relaxed a bit.
Prior to the Seattle game, the one that finally put the Saints in the win column, the coaches changed things up, taking away the seriousness and inserting the fun.
In preparation for the game, the offense became the defense, the defense became the offense and hilarity ensued.
Trick plays, too many men on the field no-calls, reverses, you name it, Strief said.
“The idea of it was have fun because I think in these moments, when guys take this as serious as they do and you’re not winning and you’re putting in all that work and you’re not getting the result that you want, it can become frustrating,” Strief said. “I think at times you look at the season and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, we can’t do anything right.’
“You forget that ultimately you’re playing a game and you’re probably better playing loose and enjoying it than you are playing tight and worrying about the outcome in the second quarter.”
The gambit worked, of course.
While that hasn’t happened this season, there hasn’t been any criticism from either side of the ball of the other. That wouldn’t be the Saints’ way, quarterback Drew Brees said.
“I think this is when a lot of teams or maybe less mentally tough individuals would start pointing the finger and starting getting overly frustrated or pessimistic,” Brees said. “That’s not our mentality. That’s not the way we’ve been brought up so to speak in this organization with this foundation we’ve built. There’s never a more important time to circle the wagons and rally around each other and make it about each week once at a time.”