Mobile, Ala. – For the New Orleans Saints and General Manager Mickey Loomis, the recently completed 2016 season provided enthusiasm that was tempered by reality.
Loomis, speaking to the media Tuesday afternoon from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., following the first day of Senior Bowl practice, said he saw the Saints make positive strides while finishing 7-9 for the third consecutive season. But the bottom line still is the bottom line.
"Making the playoffs is a standard," he said. "That's when you feel like you've had some success. Depending on how you do in the playoffs, you feel even better. But if you don't make the playoffs, you don't feel successful. So I don't think we feel successful, but I do feel like there are some good things that happened, some positive things that happened to our team this year, things that we can build on.
"I think there are some positive things, and yet, we're still 7-9. We are what we are. Our record is 7-9. That's not good enough to make the playoffs, we've got to find a way to improve, and we will. There are some things about our team that we feel really positive about.
"We've got to improve our team in a lot of areas, depth included. We've got to find a way to stay healthier, particularly in some of our key positions on defense. It's also the learning process and developing players and improving our roster. We've got a lot of things to do. We're going through that evaluation process right now. I don't have a 1 to 30 list yet, but we will have (one)."
Loomis, Saints front office personnel and the coaching staff are monitoring practices and interviewing players while in Mobile, per the usual. Possibly, Coach Sean Payton also is conducting interviews to fill vacancies on his staff.
At the conclusion of the season, the Saints parted ways with five assistant coaches – defensive line coach Bill Johnson, assistant special teams coach Stan Kwan, special teams coordinator Greg McMahon, assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Vitt and defensive assistant/linebackers James Willis.
"I think it's more important to get it right than it is to be in a hurry," Loomis said. "Sean is really diligent about background and understanding the guys that he's interviewing."
Loomis address several other topics during a news conference that lasted nearly 20 minutes.
Regarding rumors that the Saints were willing to part with Payton, and that a Payton confidant reached out to an NFL team to gauge its potential interest: "It's all inaccurate. I haven't talked to anybody about it. I don't know where that stuff comes from, to be honest with you. No team has called me and I haven't called any teams.
"I get asked questions all the time about things that just seem so out of left field. Somebody hears something and they just report it without coming to the source and saying, 'Hey, this is what I heard, is it true?' I never got a call about any of that stuff, asking me if there was any truth to it before it got put out there in the public domain. It is what it is. I don't lose any sleep over it."
On the fact that the Saints haven't been able to draft LSU players (four are scheduled to play in the Senior Bowl): "There's a lot of good LSU players in the league and guys that we have coveted. And yet, it's kind of the luck of the draw. At the time that we're picking, we don't necessarily have them on our board, (or) they got taken just before – there are a lot of circumstances that have arisen. It's not because we don't think they can play, that's for sure."
On the Saints having more salary cap room this year than in the recent past: "It'll be a little different. We'll have some room, a little more room than we've had in the past. I've said this before: It's never been a surprise. We know where we're at, we're constantly monitoring where we're at and planning not just for this year, but for the next couple of years. But it will be nice to have a little bit of room and a little more flexibility."
On a possible training camp location (the previous three seasons, training camp has been held at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Va.): "We're in the process of making that decision."