Photos of Mickey Loomis??? 2014 end of season press conference held on Tuesday, January 6, 2014. Photos by Matthew Sharpe (New Orleans Saints photos)
The offseason evaluation process for the New Orleans Saints is in its infancy, but it carries a mature overtone for a franchise that in 2014 finished 7-9 and experienced its first losing season under Coach Sean Payton since posting a 7-9 record in 2007.
In fact, the last four seasons under Payton included two 13-win seasons, two 11-win seasons, two NFC South Division titles, two second-place finishes and five playoff victories.
So the forensic analysis of 2014 will be thorough as the team looks to return to that level.
"I think I feel the same way that everybody in our building feels," Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said Tuesday in a news conference to put a wrap on the regular season. "We're disappointed – 7-9 certainly wasn't our expectation, it's not what we're accustomed to.
"We've got to be concerned about every aspect of our football team, starting with me, starting with our personnel department. We're going to go through this evaluation process of our club, and that's every aspect of what we do and how we did it. We're just at the beginning of that."
Loomis said that, indeed, a 7-9 record prompts the Saints to take a more critical analysis of the whys and wherefores than would have a winning record and playoff appearance.
"We're looking at every aspect," he said. "It's not just about coaching, it's not just about a roster, it's about the personnel department, about everything that we do, we're going to look at. And we've got to be honest with ourselves about the things that we're doing that may not be working, or have worked in the past and need to be adjusted. We're in the early part of that.
"(A 7-9 record) isn't acceptable for us. So we're looking at every decision that we make. Everything that we do going forward, we're going to look at pretty hard and say, 'Hey, can we do this better?'
"It's that old saying – you are what your record says you are. We're 7-9. That's just what it is, we've got to face that. We've got to be honest about it. Why were we 7-9? What were the things that prevented us from winning some of the close games that we had? Why did we have some close games, when we felt like there were opportunities for us to be better than that? That's the process that we're starting."
It's a process that will carry an obvious goal: Help the Saints return to their status as double-digit winners and Super Bowl contenders.
Excluding the 2012 season, when Payton served an NFL-mandated suspension and the head coaching duties were split between offensive line coach Aaron Kromer and assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt, Payton led the Saints to four consecutive playoff seasons until this year.
Loomis said that he and Payton discuss "every aspect" of the football operation, and will continue to do so moving forward into the offseason as the Saints attempt to restore some of the core beliefs that Payton installed after being named coach in 2006.
"We've got to revisit those, make sure that not only are we talking about those core values and those things that we believe in, but we're implementing them," he said. "That's part of our discussion, part of what we need to do going forward."
The coach and general manager also will evaluate the coaching staff.
"When we get our decisions completely made, we'll make announcements at the appropriate time," Loomis said.
He addressed several other areas during the news conference, including the status of outside linebacker Junior Galette. On Monday, Galette was arrested on a charge misdemeanor simple battery for allegedly roughing up a woman at his house in Kenner.
"We're going to take this matter very seriously," Loomis said. "We're going to let law enforcement and the legal process run its course. We have notified the league.
"I presume this is going to fall under the personal conduct policy. The league's got a process for that. We're going to let both of those run their course. If, at some point, we deem it necessary for the club to take some action, we'll do that."
Also, Ryan Pace, the Saints' director of player personnel, has had his name surface as a general manager candidate for several franchises looking to fill vacancies this postseason.
Pace, in his second year as director of player personnel, is in his 13th year as a member of the Saints' player personnel department. He spent six seasons as the team's director of pro scouting before he was promoted to his current role.
"We've had a couple of clubs ask permission to speak with him about their general manager position," Loomis said. "He's a talented guy that we have a lot of confidence in and would hate to lose him. And yet, he's ready for a general manager's job. He's talented.
"I would expect to lose him at some point. It's a good thing, no different than the coaches over the past that we've lost to other teams who've had opportunities. It's a good thing when your people are being asked to interview for jobs and promotions, and he's no different in that regard."
As for the Saints' salary cap situation, Loomis said it's not nearly as dire as is being projected. New Orleans has proven adept at maneuvering while being close to the salary cap limits.
"We are over the salary cap," he said. "But we've got a lot of mechanisms built into a number of these contracts. I read where we're $20-million plus over the salary cap. We are. But, in actuality, it's less than half that when some of these mechanisms trigger.
"I would say that I think we're in a better position than we were a year ago in terms of just the pure salary cap, although it may not appear like that (while) sitting out there and looking at it on the surface."