A masterful opening drive gave the Saints a 7-0 lead against the Panthers and they would never score again. Two missed field goals, a fumble in Panthers territory, a beat-up offensive line, and a lack of consistency in the passing game left a lot of points on the board and it set the Saints up to lose an inexcusable game 10-7 to a woeful Carolina team that completed 5 passes.
This loss was illustrative of a universal truth all season in 10 losses, the Saints remain competitive in their games but too often beat themselves with self-inflicted wounds. Regardless of the reason, and it varied from game to game, the Saints have been creative in finding ways to self-destruct. This game was no exception. You can blame coaching, you can blame injuries or you can blame the players – but the most glaring reality is that things need to change offensively.
The clearest thing that was missing this season is a franchise quarterback. Until you figure that out, the Saints are a middle-class NFL team at best with a ceiling of 10 wins if luck and injuries go their way. If luck and injuries don’t go their way, the floor is picking in the top 5. That’s the Saints’ current reality, and because of this they probably need to stop trading away future 1st round picks for a while. A priority needs to be put on improving at quarterback in the offseason, of course, but they shouldn’t stop there.
There are some young promising players to build around with Chris Olave, Erik McCoy, Rashid Shaheed, Juwan Johnson, Cesar Ruiz, and Trevor Penning. Some veterans could return or be traded in Taysom Hill, Ryan Ramczyk, Alvin Kamara, and Andrus Peat. But until this offense’s identity is clearly defined it will be difficult to complement a defense that finished 5th overall and 7th in points against.
The cupboard is not bare with talent, but depth will need to be added and decisions will have to be made. One could be at offensive coordinator, and it remains to be seen if the Saints may consider making a change there from longtime assistant and sometimes play caller Pete Carmichael.
It’s not all Carmichael’s fault. It’s difficult to produce a consistent office when your starting quarterback was lost after week 3. Michael Thomas was also lost after week 3 and never returned. The offensive line underwent a constant re-shuffling as the season progressed. Deonte Harty and Jarvis Landry both missed significant time. Mark Ingram would also go on IR. Injuries were real and it forced adjustments in really creative ways. But the reality is that you’re only as good as the next man up and offensively it consistently wasn’t good enough.
This offseason should be eventful for the Saints and this last game made it clear: staying the course won’t cut it. This offense isn’t good enough to help this team go where they want to. Multiple changes should happen and it starts at the top with the play caller and the quarterback.
Andrew Juge is the co-host of “The Saints Happy Hour Podcast.