The Saints managed to avoid humiliation by the Detroit Lions on National TV and at least make the game interesting in a 35-27 loss. That's where things are for the 2015 Saints; avoiding embarrassment on Monday Night Football is acknowledged as a positive outcome. OK, maybe positive is too strong a word, how about we give them one of those 'participation trophies' all the kids get these days? The Saints showed up and tried hard! HOORAH for not losing by 40.
Something drastic needs to be done to save the Saints future.
Do you want me to go over the game details first? Fine. The Saints defense got burned to the ground by Mathew Stafford, the Saints scored 3 touchdowns right before the half but none of them counted, and Brandon Browner got some penalties. Also Detroit got to call a fourth time out for fun because why not? Just more Christmas misery poured down our throats. Brees then led a furious, fun comeback, but Mathew Stafford hit some more throws, Detroit didn't forget to run the ball late like Tampa Bay, and that's your game recap in 1 paragraph.
By the way, Mathew Stafford went 22-25 for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns. The only reason that's noteworthy against the 2015 Saints is the 3 incompletions. 3! The Saints pass defense is just a rumor people talk about and not an actual thing a football team does.
After 14 games 3 of the last 4 years the Saints record has been 6-8, 6-8, and 5-9. What's that tell us? The Saints at best are clinging to mediocrity, at worst they have fallen into irrelevance, where the Clevelands, Buffalos, and Chicagos live.
There are no simple solutions to fix the absolute mess the Saints have become but I'm going to propose the one I would do if I ran the Saints; trade Sean Payton. If you read this column regularly, you know earlier in the year I said I wanted Sean Payton to stay as coach. The reason I've changed my mind is not because my opinion of Payton has changed. He is still a very good coach, brilliant offensive mind, and even though the Saints lost Monday, he still has the team playing hard and they didn't roll over and quit.
The thing is, Payton is the Saints most valuable asset. The Saints salary cap is a mess, so adding top free agents isn't really an option to improve the roster. They could trade Drew Brees, but if you think they are bad now, without Drew Brees I'm not sure they'd win a game. Also, the 2016 Saints without Brees are a marketing nightmare. Tickets still need to be sold after all. I get 2 season tickets with my mom, and if Garrett Grayson is the quarterback, I'm not sure that's worth 1,700 bucks for 2 seats in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next year.
Monday night showed us once again Brees' body, like every great athlete in history, is starting to break down. A shoulder injury here, an ankle injury there, and then all of the sudden Drew Brees simply won't be able to physically be great anymore. That day might be a year or 2 away, or it might be next week. If the Saints don't start figuring out a way to be competitive after Brees, then shame on them. I don't know if I can stomach a decade of horrible 3-13 seasons once #9 is no longer under center. From 2006-2013 Saints fans lived the good life, I can't go back to football poverty. It's too hard a way to live.
The possible answer is cashing Sean Payton in for a shot at a brighter future.
The market for trading for a coach was set when the Oakland Raiders traded Jon Gruden to the Tampa Buccaneers in 2004. The Buccaneers gave up 2 first round picks, 2 second round picks, and 8 million dollars cash. Please note Gruden at the time did not have a Super Bowl victory like Payton does. 4 high draft picks sure would give the Saints a great opportunity to get better now and for the future wouldn't it? The Saints would have a very hard time finding as good a coach as Sean Payton, but at this point I'm willing to risk the downgrade for a chance the Saints might not be the worst team in the NFL once Brees is gone.
So it's time to call up Indianapolis, Miami or maybe Cleveland and auction off Sean Payton to the highest bidder. OK, sending Sean Payton to Cleveland might be cruel and unusual punishment, but if the Browns got stupid and offered 3 #1 picks I'd do it in a heartbeat. Sorry, Sean.
I wish it didn't have to come to this. If the Saints had drafted just a little better the last five years, or not given out horrible contracts to players like Junior Galette, maybe we wouldn't be here. But we are.
This past offseason the Saints tried aggressive moves of redoing the scouting department and trading away Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. It didn't really move them closer to being good. It's time for even more aggressive measures, as scary as the outcome might be. Or they can keep Brees and Payton, draft a couple players, add a couple moderately priced free agents, and await the horrible, inevitable conclusion.
It's time to swallow hard, and do something historically aggressive.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.
Note: It's Christmas this week so my Saints-Jaguars will be the next sentence. There will be no defense and sadness. Don't let the Saints ruin your holidays.