Photos from the Saints locker room after the teamâs win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2016. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)
"Panic" isn't a word that has been in the New Orleans Saints' vocabulary, and it's not one that they're going to introduce themselves to after a second consecutive 7-9 season, their first back-to-back losing seasons since Sean Payton was named head coach in 2006.
Rather, General Manager Mickey Loomis said Thursday, the franchise leaders will tread the path that has proven successful for the team in that decade.
"We've got a process that we follow," Loomis said. "It's no different this year. We've got some evaluations to go through, coaches are doing that. We'll meet next week, we'll go through those evaluations and then we'll begin to formulate our offseason plan."
But they will enter those evaluations energized despite posting a non-playoff season. A change in locker room culture, Loomis said, and a 3-1 record over the final four games gives New Orleans reason to believe it has the ability to rebound and compete for a postseason berth next year.
"I think we both got energized by the possibilities," Loomis said of himself and Payton. "Because I think we see our team differently than we did … it's a different feel, the 7-9 is different this year as opposed to last year. I think we've got a lot of energy and excitement about that, optimism about that."
Loomis said the infusion of youth helped with the invigoration. Five members of the Saints' nine-man rookie class made starts (offensive lineman Andrus Peat, linebackers Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha, defensive lineman Tyeler Davison and cornerback Damian Swann) and a sixth (running back Marcus Muprhy) impacted the return game.
Cornerback P.J. Williams and linebacker Davis Tull were placed on injured reserve and missed the season, and quarterback Garrett Grayson mostly was the No. 3 quarterback while watching Drew Brees (a league-leading 4,870 passing yards and 32 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 68.3) have one of the best statistical seasons of his decorated career.
Also, one undrafted rookie (defensive lineman Bobby Richardson) and three first-year players (cornerback Delvin Breaux and receivers Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman) made significant impacts as starters.
Loomis said the Saints' had more play from rookies and first-year players than any NFL team.
"That's encouraging on one hand, because we like the talent," he said. "We've got room to grow with these guys. We have to supplement that with some additional talent."
Here is more from Loomis' availability with local media:
On whether he discussed compensation for Payton with another team:"I never had a discussion with another team (about Payton). No one called me and I didn't call anyone else."
"His first statement, when he walked in the room is, 'I want to be here. I want to be coach for the Saints.' It never really went beyond that. Then it was just a matter of, how are we going to approach this season, what are the things that we need to do, and let's get going."
On Brees, and the possibility of extending his contract: "Drew's going to be our quarterback. We'll figure out how we're going to handle (his) contract, whether it stays the same and just remains right in place, or whether we do something different. That's all part of what we've got to figure out in the next coming weeks."
On the Saints' salary cap situation:"I keep reading how we're in dire straits with the cap. It's not a great cap situation, but it's not as dire as sometimes I think it's painted out to be. We know where we're at, we know what we have to do and once some of that gets taken care of, our plan gets a little more dynamic depending upon our evaluations and what our offseason plan is.
"I don't like being up against the cap or being over the cap, but I'm comfortable in that area because we've been that way. When you're a good team and you're paying guys, that circumstance is going to happen.
On the Saints' successes and failures in free agency:"For every good decision, for every good signing and every one that doesn't pan out, we've got to pay attention to both of those and how they occurred and the process that it was to get there. So we're constantly reviewing, 'Hey, what did we do that was really good in this particular case?' or, 'What did we do that we didn't that we missed? Was there a red flag that we should have seen?' We pay attention to all that. That's all you can do – learn from your mistakes and repeat your successes."