Fifteen victories in the last two regular seasons – encompassing 34 games – isn't something that the New Orleans Saints fan base had grown accustomed to. Even less was an offense that finished ranked No. 18 (333.8 yards per game) in total offense in 2022 and No. 28 (304.5 yards per game) in '21, and No. 22 in points per game (19.4) in '22 and No. 19 (21.4 points per game) in scoring the past two seasons. After 15 years of top 10 finishes in each category, the fall-off was glaring.
But extenuating circumstances were a major contributor; the Saints used five quarterbacks – Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill, Ian Book and Andy Dalton – during that period of time in part due to injuries, receiver Michael Thomas played in three of the 34 games because of ankle and foot injuries, and the offensive line was a revolving door because each projected starter missed time with an array of aches.
New Orleans will enter '23 with a new quarterback, Derek Carr, Thomas appears to be on track to open the regular season and the line is tracking in the right direction in terms of health. All of that could should make for a better outlook for the team, and give offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael a full array of weapons at his disposal. Carmichael spoke with senior writer John DeShazier as he enters his 18th year with the organization, and his 15th as offensive coordinator.
DeShazier: How difficult has the last couple of seasons been on you in terms of having to swap out quarterbacks so often?
Carmichael: Well, I think in this game, that's part of it. So I think that's just something you've got to be able to adjust to. That's part of the business. It's hard to use that as an excuse, to say that's difficult or not. When you're going through practices and you're going through training camp, you're getting yourselves ready.
DeShazier: When you have quarterbacks with different skill sets, how much do you have to alter game plans? How do you navigate that?
Carmichael: "I think that's part of making sure you put your players in the right position to be successful. That's been something that's been preached since I've been with the Saints back to 2006, that, find out what your players do best and make sure you're putting those guys in a position to be successful. That's part of the process.
DeShazier: Has Derek Carr picked up and run with the what you guys want to do on offense?
Carmichael: Yeah. I think there was a lot of communication leading up to him joining us. And then, throughout the offseason part of the evaluation and going through the process is seeing him do things on film that you're like, 'We do that and, he's successful with that.' And then there's a discussion of ideas that he has, concepts that he's like, 'Here's something that I've done over my career.' This is the time to be experimenting with it and finding if it fits your personnel and your skill guys as well.
DeShazier: What are some of the things Derek does that will lead to a more productive offense?
Carmichael: I think, obviously, he throws the ball well, he locates it well, he makes great decisions. And I think he also has the ability to put your team in the right play if you give him some options.
DeShazier: Will we see a more expanded offense with stability at quarterback in Derek?
Carmichael: There's a system in place and a lot of what we do, he's done in the past and has had success with. So there's a system in place, and some new wrinkles.
DeShazier: When you're coaching around injuries and the offense isn't as successful as you're accustomed to seeing, how do you manage that and simply say that there are certain things the team can't do?
Carmichael: Again, that's playing to the strengths of who you have on the field. That's part of it, and there's always been a next man up mentality around here. So I think you're not making a drastic change, but you're trying to put your players in the right spot.