March 10th is the start of NFL free agency, and the Saints are trying to plot ways to improve the roster in free agency and the draft. Saints color analyst Hokie Gajan says the Black and Gold have a lot of holes to fill: “We all know the defense needs improvement but that offense is not a well-oiled machine” he said.
So are the Saints closer to to the 2013 success or more along the finish of 2014? “They are not one or two players away, not from what I saw last year,” Gajan said. So it doesn’t seem like a simple fix.
The Saints have a number of questions to answer. Just to name a few; will the team keep Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs on the offensive line or make a change? What will the Saints do with OLB Junior Galette? His legal troubles aside, let’s face it - he didn’t play well against the run in 2014 and finished with 10 sacks. How will New Orleans fix the cornerback position that seemingly was a revolving door last year?
The answers remain a mystery, but arguably this could be the most important year at the helm for Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis. “Without a doubt Sean Payton’s equity has been eroded a bit by the suspension in 2012, and the 7 and 9 finish in 2014,” Hokie continued.
Let’s go back to Galette for a second... he’s due a $12.5 million dollar roster bonus in a few days. The Saints seem like they’re locked into the four year extension they inked Galette to at the start of last season. However, the team could decide to convert that roster bonus into a signing bonus, and trim some money off the salary cap. I disagree with Hokie on the Saints being a few moves away from being a contender again.
Here is why; you still have a franchise QB in Drew Brees (go ahead and argue to the contrary) and I don’t think the talent on defense is truly what we saw last season, I expect them to be much improved in 2015. Also, if the Saints tweak the offensive line, and find a cornerback they’re right back in the mix.
The email that sparked my blog “Semper Why” turned out to be one of my favorite conversations in the last 10 years. Jerry, a listener and fan, reached out to me again and extended the apology below:
I just wanted to apologize for my heartless criticism about your service to our country.
I'm a progressive and am tired of hearing these right wing chicken hawks wanting to push us into a holy war over ISIS. I had been broiling for quite some time over this issue and took it out on you. Not calling you a "chicken hawk" and I don't know your politics, but you didn't deserve it…and, again, I want to tell you I'm sorry.
I truly think you're one of the most talented voices on WWL. I love listening to you on sports, because your opinions and point of view seems to mirror mine...and I think sonically you have one of the best voices out there. (You know how you hear someone's voice on the radio and you kind of form a mental picture of that person based on sound and language and grammar?) Your likeness and your voice DO NOT correlate, and I think that's a good thing. I love learning new things and challenging my perceptions...
For the third time, I'm sorry and sometimes I still spew a knee jerk reaction to something and wish just after I could take it back....
NEW RULE....NEXT TIME, YOU'RE SENDING AN OPINION....SAVE IT AND IF YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY THE NEXT DAY THEN 'SEND IT'.
Let’s get right to Jerry’s “I'm sorry and sometimes I still spew a knee jerk reaction to something and wish just after I could take it back.” This is powerful on a number of fronts. Marines are prideful human beings, and we don’t like admitting flaws. Jerry admitted his initial email was wrong. I appreciate his apology, but it wasn’t necessary. I mean that. I really wasn’t offended by as much as I was enlightened by the conversation “Semper Why” launched.
We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all said something we wish we could take back…like Jerry. It happens to me frequently as a radio host, a father, and a son. I’ve said some things I regret. However, I’m not so sure I’m willing to admit mistakes in judgment as Jerry is; that’s truly a trait I admire.
I’m particularly impressed by the last line, “NEW RULE....NEXT TIME, YOU'RE SENDING AN OPINION....SAVE IT AND IF YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY THE NEXT DAY THEN 'SEND IT.”
Jerry, you proved your point very clearly. While you believe in your opinions, you’re open to others. It’s safe to say you too were shaped by your service to our country. Once again, Semper Fi…always faithful! Apology accepted, but not required.
I can’t and won’t take credit for the title, because it’s the subject of an email I received from someone Sunday morning during my show “It’s Just Sports.” The email came from a very faithful listener, who gave me plenty of things to think about…and talk about.
See Jerry’s email below.
You're always pushing your service in the Marines, on your site, in commercials ...when were you in the Marines and where did you serve out of country... Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, the Falklands, Germany...? If you joined up and stayed in the states....then you need to stop punching up your bio about the Marines. Sorry Kristian, that's just being fair...I loved that you served in the Marines, but if you spent your time, hanging in the states, then please stop yourself aggrandizement …please,
drafted Vietnam Vet.
P.S. You're a great sports commentator for WWL. To keep busting and endorsing your service in the Marines...a Marine would never use that to better his situation. If you were a true service member, you wouldn't have to keep endorsing this. Your skills are better than your history...
For those who listen to me on WWL or 3WL 1350am, I sign on and off the radio with “Semper Fi,” which is short for Semper Fidelis. It’s a Latin phrase that means “always faithful.” The phrase is often passed from United States Marines to former and currently serving members of the Corps. I use the phrase for a number of reasons. For one, I’m very proud of the time I spent in the United States Marine Corps from 1997 to 2001. I’m a third generation military service member in my family. My father and grandfather both served in the Army. My dad retired from the Army in 1998, and my grandfather saw extensive military action as an infantryman in WWII.
When I sign on the radio with “Semper Fi,” it’s not rubbing anyone’s face in the fact that I served OUR country. I’m simply paying homage to the men and woman who have or are currently serving OUR country. Semper Fi is a salute of sorts, and I have a great platform at WWL Radio (that reaches 5 states daytime and over 38 states at night) and feel obligated to salute our troops as often as possible. I’ve explained this “Semper Fi” sign on and off before on the radio, and just wanted to put it in writing, especially after this email from Jerry.
I rarely if ever talk about my service in the Marines in commercials, and occasionally manage-ment refers to me as WWL’s “resident Marine.” They are proud of my service, and other military service members should feel good that WWL/Entercom Communications take such pride in trying to highlight and salute our veterans.
To go further in trying to answer Jerry’s questions about my military service here goes:
I served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1997 to 2001, graduating from boot camp in Parris Island South Carolina in 1998 before attending School of Infantry in the spring of 1998. Later I was assigned to 1st battalion 8th Marines (2nd Marine Division) Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During my time as a 0341 (Mortar man) as a member of Weapons Company in 1/8, I served overseas in Okinawa Japan, returning state side for 2 years, before ripping up my shoulder in a training exercise. Because of a badly torn labrum, I was declared physically unable to deploy for the final 9 months of my 4-year enlistment contract. After shoulder surgery to repair my injury (six anchors in my left shoulder), I completed my 4-year obligation with an honorable discharge in 2001.
I served during peace time; I was fortunate to a degree. I got out of the Marines literally 2 days before 9-11; more on that in a moment. Peacetime or wartime doesn’t make your tour of duty any less significant in my eyes. I signed up with the expectation of potentially going to combat. I knew it was a very real possibility and was certainly okay with that possibility. By in large, I was disappointed that at the end of my four years I didn’t go to combat, or serve in a military operation overseas, because I trained for that moment, and never got a chance to exercise that tough, Marine Corps training.
For those men and woman who have served or currently serving in combat, and certainly for those who paid the ultimate price for our country, you are heroes, honorable men and woman with distinguished patriotism, and valor. Thank you! Jerry served during Vietnam, and to you Jerry I say…thank you! You’re a brave soul. I do believe, however, Jerry is no more or less brave than others who served during peace time, including me. I followed orders, and would have been willing to go to combat, if the order came down. Within minutes of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York on 9-11, I called my command and asked them if I was going to be recalled, and volunteered to go back. My command told me they would call me if they needed me. I never received that call.
When I first received the email from Jerry, I have to admit I was a little aggravated. Then, I realized why Jerry’s able to send that email. It’s because we live in a great country. We can debate the issues facing America today, but it’s still the best country on earth, period cut and dry.
I’m in love with America for a number of reasons. Jerry’s email speaks volumes about why. Even though I disagree with much of his commentary, he’s entitled to his opinions, and hell…Jerry, the Vietnam vet, fought for our country and earned the right to speak out to another military service member.
With that said; I don’t say Semper Fi to better my position. I never use the fact that I am a discharged Marine with my employer. My work speaks for itself with Entercom and WWL/3WL. However, I do highlight my time in the Marines because it shaped me into the man I look at in the mirror every day, and feel really good about the person staring back at me. It helped to shape me into the person, father, and son I am today. I say “Semper Fi” as a salute to the “Tomb of the unknown Soldier,” to the petty officer at the Naval Air Base in Belle Chasse who listens to WWL, and to the young men and women currently serving our country at home or abroad, and those men and women who are considering enlisting or joining our great military to become the next American hero.
Another question I field a lot: Can I as a caller say “Semper Fi” to you even if I didn’t serve?. Absolutely! I don’t look at it as a Marine thing, but a thank you. I’m proud that I did things most wouldn’t dare and gave up some things most Americans wouldn’t dare give up. But, that doesn’t make me a better person, it makes me a Marine, nothing more! Some people are meant to serve, some are not. Some serve in combat, some don’t. But it doesn’t diminish the sacrifice either way.
In closing I would like to respond to Jerry’s final comment. “Your skills are better than your history.” While I’m humbled by the kind remarks, I beg to differ. My skills were created by my history; a history that was shaped by my service.
Thank you and Semper Fi! If you call me on the air or address me on line, please don’t hesitate to use the greeting Semper Fi!
UPDATE: Jerry emailed me again and apologized. You can read our correspondence and my reaction clicking the link below.
With the dismissal of the domestic violence criminal charges, Galette is no longer subject to the NFL's six-game domestic violence suspension. The league could still choose to independently investigate Galette in light of the civil suit and issue a lighter punishment under the new personal conduct policy, but the six-game suspension appears to be off the table.
An alleged victim has filed a civil suit today against Saints linebacker Junior Galette, following an incident that Galette was arrested for in Kenner back on January 5th. The alleged victim is accusing Galette of false imprisonment, simple rape and drugging her in the process.
The NFL has not contacted the victim. Since the league unveiled a new personal conduct policy with a "more extensive list of prohibited conduct" and independent investigative procedures, that means Galette could be found innocent of any criminal charges or found not to be liable in the civil case, but could still face punishment under the league's policy.
The new conduct policy calls for a suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse or other forms of family violence and sexual assault. In a simple way, the league will conduct their own investigation of the alleged criminal acts of Galette and could decide to enact a six game suspension.
Galette signed a four year $41.5 million dollar contract extension just before the start of the 2014 season. The new contract guarantees the Saints linebacker $23 million. Galette finished last season with 10 sacks, and also served as one of the teams defensive captains.
A tough, bone-crunching defense is nice, but give me the elite quarterback any day of the week! The New England Patriots and Tom Brady proved that an elite signal caller makes the difference in the pursuit of a Super Bowl title. Brady and company knocked off the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX 28-24 after Brady performed surgery on the Legion of Boom secondary in the second half of the game.
Seattle has the best defense on paper in the NFL, but owning one of the best quarterbacks in the league is more important.
For those that argue defense wins championships, you’re not wrong. Look at Malcolm Butler's game clinching interception as proof. However, if Brady wasn’t quarterback the Patriots that game is a blow out in favor of Seattle. Defenses can have an impact on a singular game with a big play.
The defense doesn’t always have to play big to win if you have an elite quarterback. The elite quarterback always tips the scale. Saints fans can take solace in knowing they have one of the elite quarterbacks in the game, and a return trip to the tournament is not far-fetched, with a slightly improved defense in 2015.
The Saints are structured a lot like the Patriots. One or two big names on defense, one big playmaking tight end and a bunch of complimentary pieces that aren’t special but very good. Yeah, I know Brady restructured his contract to give the Patriots more cap space recently, and you feel Drew Brees should provide the same for the Saints... that’s a conversation for another day, and keep in mind the Saints haven’t approached Brees about re-working his deal yet. I would be willing to bet that Brees is amenable to such an idea if it works for both sides.
Finally, just know with Brees, a few upgrades to the offensive line, and a bounce-back year from the defense, the Saints have just as good of a shot to win next year as the Patriots, Seahawks, Packers or Ravens. Elite quarterbacks are the tried and proven method to winning a Super Bowl!
With Drew Brees celebrating his 36th birthday last week, the Saints might be in the market for a quarterback this off-season, via the draft. Backup QB Luke McCown is scheduled to become a free agent in March, and Ryan Griffin is entering his third season as a pro QB.
One player to keep an eye on at this week’s Senior Bowl is Baylor signal caller Bryce Petty, who says he would love an opportunity to study under Sean Payton and Drew Brees. “If I get that opportunity it would be great! I want to come in and play. At the same time if you can learn from a guy like Brees that knows the ins and outs of the league - that would be awesome.” Petty is projected as a second round talent according to NFL analyst Mike Detillier. “He can absolutely throw it, and he’s big.. he will likely be the third QB taken in the draft behind Marriota and Winston.
Petty is also out to prove the critics wrong, and show that he’s not just a system quarterback. “It’s about showing these guys what I can do, and not what I can’t do.” At Baylor, Petty took most or all of his snaps in the shotgun, but is certainly not short on confidence heading into the NFL. “I plan on taking this thing over, and that’s not arrogant. That is just the confidence I have in my ability.”
Petty doesn’t have any current scheduled meetings with the Saints, but says he would love to talk to them. Petty enjoyed two solid seasons as Baylor's quarterback, leading them to an 11 and 1 record this past season, completing 63% of his passes for 3,855 yards and 29 touchdowns. He’s impressively built at 6'3" and 230 lbs. Petty is on several watch lists heading into the draft and he could see his draft position skyrocket with a strong showing in Mobile.
The Saints continue to re-tool their front office, making it official today at the Senior Bowl that they’ve added a senior member to their football operations/front office. “Jeff Ireland has agreed to come on board. I’m excited about his experience, and his pedigree,” explained General Manager Mickey Loomis. Ireland is the former General Manager of the Miami Dolphins.
Loomis made the decision to bring Ireland to the organization “This is my hire, but look, Sean (Payton) and I talk about the personnel we bring to our staff. He’s got first hand experience with Jeff (Ireland) and that was great information,” Loomis added. Payton and Ireland both worked with Bill Parcells in Dallas.
Loomis said he hopes Ireland can bring some new things to the table. “There is nothing wrong with having fresh ideas. I feel like we’re expanding our knowledge exponentially.” Loomis wouldn’t expand on Ireland’s official title with the team, only saying he would head up the college scouting and Terry Fontenot would continue as the teams Pro Scouting director “The titles aren’t as important as us getting on the same page,” Loomis said. Ireland and Fontenot will both report to Loomis.
The decision to fire Rick Reiprish as the college scouting director yesterday was a little bit of a head scratcher. Why did the Saints wait so long to make a move on Reiprish? “It was tough to let Rick go, he did a lot of great things for us. After losing Ryan Pace to Chicago, I felt like we needed to add some experience, an evaluator from outside the building and I felt it would be good for us to get some fresh ideas,” Loomis explained. He also said it is never an ideal time to fire anyone: “That’s a process that I had to get through, and it just took a little time.” Loomis also said he considered promoting from within the organization but thought it was best to go outside the organization.
The addition of Ireland to the front office shouldn’t disrupt the work already done on this year’s draft class. “Most of the work on the college process has already been done, and Jeff will jump right in to that, and I don’t think we’ll miss a beat,” Loomis said. The Saints will, however, have a slight adjustment period with Ireland in house now.
Sean Payton and the coaching staff are not currently in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, instead the staff is back in New Orleans doing some “self scouting” as Loomis put it. “Sean felt like his staff would be better served being back in New Orleans working on those aspects opposed to being here,” he said. Loomis would also not confirm the addition of Dennis Allen to the coaching staff, deferring questions to coach Payton. Payton and the Saints coaching staff will likely attend the NFL scouting combine next month in Indianapolis.
One final note, Loomis said he has not met with linebacker Junior Galette following his recent arrest on domestic violence charges and simple battery. "I'm concerned about it. We all should be concerned about it, it's a serious matter and we're going to wait until the legal system runs it's course, and the league will do their investigation. I think we're in a waiting manner right now," Loomis said. Galette is a team captain and signed a $41 million dollar contract extension last season.
The Saints have fired Director of College Scouting Rick Reiprish. The team informed him of that move earlier today at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Reiprish has been a member of the Saints organization since 2004, and said he was "surprised" by the move. Coach Sean Payton vowed changes were coming to the Saints organization a day after the Saints wrapped up the 2014 season at 7 and 9. Reiprish didn't want to comment further at the Senior Bowl, saying "Mickey Loomis will have to explain it," and that he was still trying to digest the information.
Earlier in the week I wrote about Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton. He’s a massive guy at 6’2 and 339 and a perfect fit for a team that runs a 3-4 defense. NFL analyst Mike Detillier describes Shelton as “A Vince Wilfork type player.” Wilfork is a five time Pro-Bowler with the New England Patriots. “Shelton has a huge lower body and anchors well against the run” added Detillier.
Danny is scheduled to meet with the Saints this week at the Senior Bowl. “I’m open (to either position) coach has me jumping from a one technique or a three technique.” In other words the Senior Bowl coaches have Shelton working at defensive tackle and nose tackle. Shelton had a solid first day of practice, and powered past several offensive linemen in one on one pass rushing drills.
Another name to keep an eye on throughout the week on defense is Washington Linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha. He’s more of a “tweener” player, a hybrid of sorts between a defensive end and outside linebacker in a 3-4. Like his Washington teammate, Kikaha has already met with the Saints at the Senior Bowl and is scheduled for a second visit tomorrow. “This is a great spotlight to be under. It’s important to show them what I can do, and how they can use me,” Kikaha told me after practice.
I caught up with former Saints tight ends coach Terry Malone today. Malone was let go by the Saints early after the season ended and said he hopes to catch on with another NFL team. He also told me he was “totally caught off guard” when he was informed that he was being released from the coaching staff.
The who’s who of the NFL are in Mobile, Alabama this week for the 2015 Senior Bowl, and among them are Saints scouts coaches on the prowl for the senior crop of talent. While many experts feel this might be a heavy underclassmen draft class there is still some solid talent on display here in Alabama. “Make no mistake, the Juniors will dominate this class, but there is usually a big time pass rusher and wide receiver that emerges from this game every year,” says NFL analyst Mike Detillier.
Auburn Wide Receiver Sammie Coates is an intriguing player to keep an eye for the Saints. I know the Saints drafted Brandin Cooks last season and already have another young stable of wide outs with Kenny Stills and Nick Toon, but Coates is that big physical receiver that can get down the field and really fits the Saints offense well. Coates made a living on big plays at Auburn, and the Saints are in need of a big play threat on deep balls in their offense.
Two LSU Tigers will participate in the game this Saturday. Fullback Connor Neighbors and offensive lineman La’ell Collins. Neighbors is a third generation senior bowl participant, which is a first for any player. The fullback position is kind of a forgotten position in today’s pass-happy NFL but some folks around the league feel Neighbors compares to Green Bay FB John Kuhn.
The senior bowl has produced solid talent in years past, and one player in particular is on his way to a second straight Super Bowl appearance in Seattle Seahawks QB Russel Wilson. I remember Wilson in Mobile back in 2012, and how he took over interviews with NFL teams making strong impressions on several teams aside from the team that drafted him (Seattle). Who’s going to be the rising star this week? We’ll know more by the middle of the week, but this week in Mobile is one of the more interesting in the NFL.