New Orleans Saints’ GM Mickey Loomis can finally get back to work. On Tuesday, his suspension related to the bounty scandal was fully served. He was banned from the team for 8 games after his reported involvement in the bounty scandal that ripped through current and former players and executives of the Saints. Going into week 10, Loomis has some work to do if he wants to put his team, currently sitting at 3-5, in the best possible position to make the playoffs.
A moral victory for the team may be the first thing to accomplish. This team is filled with talented players and coaches that have been unable to put it all together for the first 8 games of the season. They have shown that they are a team built on the sum of its’ parts, not on the their star power.
Surprisingly, the first thing that Loomis needs to get taken care of is the head coach that was banned for the entire 2012 season…Sean Payton. In September, 2011, Payton signed a contract extension with the New Orleans Saints, but that extension was never allowed to take effect. The contract was put on hold by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. There have been no official reports as to why the contract was not allowed by the commissioner’s office, but the popular belief is that it hinges on a clause in the contract that would allow Sean Payton to leave the team if GM Mickey Loomis were fired by ownership. Without clearing up this clause in Payton’s contract up, the Saints could conceivably lose their star head coach to another team this summer. He would surely be offered one of, if not the, highest contracts for a coach in NFL history. Loomis needs to lock down the team’s coach and co-leader, next to Drew Brees. This will show the team that ownership and the front office has not given up on the team because of the bounty scandal, but will fight through it, just like the players should.
Step two, Mickey Loomis needs to take care of a few personnel problems, which could be difficult this far into the season. There are still suspensions looming for players on the roster. Jonathan Vilma, the starting middle linebacker, and Will Smith, starting defensive end. If their suspensions are upheld, Vilma will miss the remainder of the season and Smith will miss 4 games. This could be disastrous in the stretch run as this team will likely need to win 7 of their final 8 games to find their way into the playoffs. The front office attempted to be prepared for these suspensions in the off-season, but the players that were brought in are almost all injured or have been released by the team. Loomis needs to make a quick move or two to prepare for the possible departure of these two players at a critical moment in the season.
The Saints are at a crossroads in the season and will need to perform above expectations to have a chance at the playoffs, and Mickey Loomis can help that cause, both emotionally off the field and with personnel on the field. Loomis needs to have hit the ground running in New Orleans by now so that he can get this team where it wants to be and to help interim head coach Joe Vitt do his best Sean Payton impression.