After a 7-9 season kept the New Orleans Saints out of the playoffs in 2014, head coach Sean Payton said this week improved leadership is one area the team will be focusing on for 2015.
"I think the price of that experience and leadership hurt us some," he said. "I think there’s gonna have to be a few guys we look at in free agency. I also think we have a good, young nucleus of players, a good locker room, by and large. And yet you can never take that for granted."
Last season was the first since 2008 in which Payton did not coach the Saints in the postseason. He was suspended for the 2012 season as a result of the NFL's bounty investigation, and then led the Saints to an 11-5 record and postseason berth in 2013.
In 2014, New Orleans' offense led the NFL with 411.4 yards per game, but the defense dropped from fourth in 2013 to 31st, allowing 384 yards per game. Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis retained defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but hired former Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen as senior defensive assistant to work alongside Ryan. In total, Payton added seven new assistants to his staff earlier this month.
The Saints also lost four games by three or fewer points last season, and finished the season a half-game behind the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)
"It's easy to say, 'Well, we lost a number of close games.' But there's a reason why," Payton said in the interview with Pro Football Talk. "And that kept repeating itself."
- Mike Fiammetta