Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
I hope the Saints use their first-round pick to take wide receiver Tavon Austin out of West Virginia. I haven’t lost my mind, and, no, I haven’t suffered a serious head injury, why do you ask? I realize the 2012 Saints defense was the worst defense in NFL history. I know somewhere Steve Spagnuolo is staring blankly at a chalkboard wondering how he is losing an imaginary football game 24-0.
Even in his dreams, the Saints defense is terrible.
Before I make the case for Austin, let’s review the recent history of Saints drafts.
The Saints number one draft choices since 2006 are Reggie Bush, Robert Meachem, Sedrick Ellis, Malcolm Jenkins, Patrick Robinson, Cam Jordan and Mark Ingram. We aren’t pointing at this list and laughing out loud. So graded against the entire history of the Saints, it’s an improvement, but our standards are higher since Sean Payton arrived. The Saints are at a crossroads in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era. They are further from being a real Super Bowl contender than most fans and media realize, and they don’t have many avenues to enhance the roster.
I can hear you screaming at your computer, “Ralph, Sean Payton is back, Steve Spagnuolo has been kicked to the curb, and they are running an entire new defense so they’ll be back!” Without a very good 2013 draft, the Saints won’t compete in the stacked NFC.
The 2013 roster is miles away from being as good as 2009 roster. In 2009, Zach Strief was the third best offensive tackle on the team, and if you count injured Jammal Brown, he was probably the fourth best. In 2013, he is the best offensive tackle and it’s not even close.
The 2009 Saints had a young Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson in his prime. Now both of those guys are gone (Henderson may return) and the Saints will be counting on Joe Morgan and Nick Toon to fill the void. The 2009 Saints defense also had a healthy Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita and Darren Sharper’s last great season. The Saints desperately need an infusion of young cheap talent because they are tight against the salary cap but acquiring that young talent is made harder by the loss of their second-round pick for the bounty investigation penalties.
Sports are like everything else in life in that the good times never last forever. If we can live in a world where Angela Hill isn’t on your TV everyday and I can’t gleefully read Roger Ebert savage a horrible movie, you best believe the Saints won’t be fun to watch with Drew Brees every Sunday forever. If the Saints are going to be a serious contender in 2013, Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton must nail the draft starting Thursday and their history lately is spotty at best.
I have two reasons for wanting the Saints to take Austin.
The first is I don’t trust the Saints to select a defensive player with a first-round pick. They haven’t selected an elite one yet since Mickey Loomis has been the general manager. Who is the best defensive player the Saints have drafted since 2006? Roman Harper? The Saints inability to draft an elite player on defense is staggering and I’d argue the last truly special defensive player the Saints selected was Wayne Martin in….1989.
You’d think in 24 years the Saints would accidentally draft an elite defensive player. So for everyone demanding the Saints select someone on defense on Thursday night, you do realize this front office has proven incapable of selecting a really good one right? This year will be different though I’m sure.
History says the Saints are more likely to give us something between Jonathan Sullivan and Sedrick Ellis in quality. I trust CNN breaking news more than I trust the Saints drafting defensive players. Somewhere Jonathan Sullivan just nodded his head.
My second reason for wanting Austin is simple; offense will win another Lombardi trophy.
The Saints are going as far Drew Brees and Sean Payton’s offensive mind take them. While you think of the worst defense in NFL history and Alex Smith looking like Joe Montana, I think of five turnovers in a playoff game. The offense drives the Saints’ bus and even if one player could turn around the Saints defense, this front office has shown they can’t find him.
If Tavon Austin is Lance Moore 2.0 with freak speed the Saints offense becomes something close to the 2009 and 2011 versions. Those teams won without anything remotely close to even good defenses.
(Having Tracy Porter make two incredibly crucial interceptions does not qualify as good defense. Never confuse a great moment with great consistency.)
Loving offense is no crime and in order to win another Super Bowl the Saints need to be great at something. That something is offense and being conventional never got the Saints anywhere anyway.
Thomas Morestead just finished watching ‘Ambush’ from Super Bowl XLIV for the 9000th time and nodded.
Here’s hoping the Saints break Twitter, drive their fans insane, and select Tavon Austin with the 15th pick Thursday night.
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.