NEW ORLEANS -- In July, after a protracted and sometimes contentious negotiations, New Orleans Saints officials presumably made Drew Brees a $100 Million Man because they felt the team could still win another Super Bowl or two with him under center.
Prior to Game 1 this season I, too, believed this was possible. I believed $61 million in guaranteed salary and bonuses for No. 9 was money well spent.
I don't believe any longer.
Why? Because Brees isn't getting any younger and the team's window of opportunity may be closed before team officials can retool a defective defense that seems destined to be remembered as one of the NFL's worst ever.
Maybe THE WORST before all is said and done.
Forget for a moment that the Black and Gold is yielding yards (474.7 yards per game) and points (30.9 per game) by the bushel.
Forget for a moment that the defense can't stop the run, rush the passer, create game-changing turnovers and get off the field with any regularity.
Know this: They can't even perform one of the game's most fundamental tasks.
THEY CAN'T FREAKIN' TACKLE!
Defensive backs often blindly dive at the feet of opposing running backs. They routinely throw a blind shoulder at a passing receiver. Arm tackles are the rule rather than the exception.
Seldom do you see a Saints defender simply wrap up a ball carrier and bring him to the ground.
Ninety-five percent of tackling is based on a player's "want to,'' according to a wise ol' ball coach. "Either you 'want to' make a tackle, or you don't,'' I remember O.A. "Bum'' Phillips once saying in his Texas drawwwwllll.
That being the case, it appeared too many Saints defensive players wanted nothing to do with a Denver Broncos running back or receiver Sunday night in a lopsided 34-14 loss at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
Interim Saints Coach Joe Vitt said he can't sprinkle "pixie dust'' on the defense to make it better. First-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said he can't wave a magic wand to fix the problems.
In a nutshell, the defensive performance against the AFC West-leading Broncos was atrocious, a primetime nightmare for all the world to see, including the top two men in the Saints' football operations, suspended General Manager Mickey Loomis and suspended head coach Sean Payton.
Brees and a one-dimensional offense were not much better. One-for-12 on third down and only one meaningful touchdown: Ugh! Yes, Brees played miserably, easily his worst outing of the season. But he can't do it alone and the more he tries to shoulder the load by himself, the less effective he is and the smaller the return on the team's blockbuster investment.
But that's a whole 'nother story, one I'll tackle head-on at a later date. When the time is right, I'll gladly wrap both my arms around that topic and break it down for you. I'm not in the mood right now.
I just don't "want to!'' I guess the Saints' defense is rubbing off on me.
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