New Orleans Saints: 2014 Final Report Card
Was there more of an enigma in the NFL this past season than the New Orleans Saints?
Some of us, including myself, thought they might be a potential Super Bowl pick or at least a contender. Instead the defense, which was solid last season under Rob Ryan’s guide, fell apart. And the offense continued to move the ball up and down the field, but could not outscore its opponents as in year’s past.
The unbalance of the team led to a 7-9 record and second place in the NFC South – not the place they team had hoped to be and certainly not the win total this franchise is capable.
Changes will be made.
One of those “changes” will certainly come in personnel where key veterans may be on the outside looking in or cut once free agency begins. Long time Saints receiver and fan favorite Marques Colston has gone on record as stating he will take a pay cut to remain with the team, according to NOLA.com.
The team is also making changes to its coaching staff, with the hiring of Dennis Allen to help with defense and Jeff Ireland in the front office as director of player personnel.
Can these changes jumpstart the franchise back toward its winning ways? Team owner Tom Benson and the loyal fans of the team sure hope so. Here is a look at the team’s report card from 2014.
What a strange year for the Saints, according to ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett. The team led the NFL in total yards, first downs and third-down percentage, ranked third in passing yards and ran the ball very well at times. But they couldn't score consistently, couldn't get the ball downfield consistently and turned it over too much. They needed more greatness from Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham.
The running game also got a boost from Mark Ingram, who missed four games but still managed to run for 940 yards and lead the team in touchdowns. Ingram is a free agent and may or may not be re-signed.
GRADE – C+
Last year, Rob Ryan was the toast of New Orleans, causing get joy with the team and the fans over a defense that was quicker, stronger, and faster. Now, it seems Ryan is the one to blame of the issues on defense and the fact the Saints could not stop a turtle.
As Triplett wrote in his assessment of the defense …
This was the season's biggest stunner, considering there's some real talent in this group. But the results were a disaster: The Saints ranked dead last in efficiency, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They were among the bottom five in total yards, rushing yards, takeaways and third-down stops.
If New Orleans is going to keep up with the running game and athleticism of Carolina and the speed of Atlanta on the outside, this is a unit that will needs major upgrades.
GRADE - D
I am not sure how to grade Sean Payton on this one. The two sides of the ball were more Jekyll and Hyde than at any other time in his tenure – to the point he called his players out due to lack of effort. The most troubling time of the season was the 41-10 whipping they took at the hands of Carolina. The win would have put the team on pace to make the playoffs, instead the team crumbled.
There is no doubt Peyton has control of this franchise and his relationship with Brees is special – but more is needed. New Orleans can be a contender again and the NFC South can be had, it will take an effort on both sides of the ball to do it.
GRADE – C-
OVERALL GRADE - C