NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Saints may have finished the season 7-9 overall but it's the 3-1 home stretch that is providing cause for optimism.
Thursday, general manager Mickey Loomis met with reporters to discuss his plans for the team in the offseason. The following is a copy of that conversation, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
Tomorrow is Drew Brees' birthday? Do you have a contract extension ready?
"No, look, I would say this in terms of our offseason plans, we have a process that we follow. It is no different this year. You know we've got some evaluations to go through. Coaches are doing that. We'll meet next week. We'll go through those evaluations and then we will begin to formulate our offseason plan."
Is it safe to assume that you can't really do anything else until you figure out what you'll do with Drew, with his cap number being so high?
"No, I wouldn't say that. Listen, I know this, Drew's going to be our quarterback. I read these (reports) and you guys do too and it doesn't get generated from here. I understand that. It's these national guys or somebody in another city puts something on a blog or one of the national guys that writes something and they always write it like this could happen, so that they are never wrong, and then I get that you guys have to ask those questions about that, but you guys know me. Listen, I'm not going to answer those rumors and things like that, particularly during the season, but Drew is going to be our quarterback and we'll figure out how we are going to handle (his) contract, whether it stays the same or just remains right in place or whether we do something different. That's all part of what we have to figure out in the next coming weeks. And I keep reading how we are in dire straits with the cap and this, that and the other, and look, it's not a great cap situation, but it's not as dire as sometimes I think it gets painted out to be. We know where we are at. We know what we have to do, and some of that gets taken care of or our plan gets a little more dynamic depending on our evaluations and what our offseason plan is. That's definitely a factor though."
How Drew performed this year, did that make you feel better about extending him this year compared to last year?
"Well, just because the way you phrased the question, I'd say no. Look, he has had a great season every season. You know sometimes (it's) just been a little better than others or a lot better than others and look I get the question because it's because of the age, but man he had a great season and it's just normal Drew Brees you know. That's what we have come to expect, and probably take it for granted, but we'll go through that process here in the next few weeks (and) figure it out."
What do you think the number is going to be, (in terms of) cap number? Do you have any idea?
"The cap number for each team or the league? We do (know), it's a little higher than we expected, but I don't remember it exactly to give you a quote. I don't remember what the number is exactly, but we have an estimate. It's just an estimate right now. They haven't given us a final number, and the estimate we last got was higher than what we had planned for."
Last year you talked about the cap and being up against the cap every year and how you guys like that every year. Are you comfortable with where you are?
"We don't like it every year, but we're used to it. Maybe (I) stated that incorrectly, I don't like being up against the cap or being over the cap, but I'm comfortable in that area because we've been that way and when you're a good team and you're paying guys that circumstance is going to happen so that is not really any different."
How do you look at what Tom Brady did, taking so much less than market value late in his career? I know contracts always set precedents, is that something you have to throw out the window?
"I think every team and every circumstance is different and the players are different and so I'm worried about the New Orleans Saints, our players and our team and so I'm not referencing that one specifically. Do we know what the contracts are around the league? Absolutely we do. We know what the precedent is for different teams and different positions and it has nothing to do with Drew (Brees) specifically. We just know that. We have access to it and so we study it."
In your early evaluations, what can you pinpoint that are some positions that you guys need to upgrade, address on the field?
"Yes. Look, I don't want to get into that because we are in the early stages of that process, so I'd rather not get into that. The other thing about that is even afterwards, we start talking about that, then we are basically laying out our strategy and our plan, and you know in the offseason that really isn't a good idea."
When you had those discussions after the season with Sean Payton, did it ever reach the point where you were contemplating what would be appropriate compensation if he were to go elsewhere?
"I know you guys were going to ask this. Not really. Here is what I can tell you, I never had a discussion with another team. No one called me and I didn't call anyone else."
Was it a situation where you asked Sean what he wanted to do?
"No, look, when we met, here's what typically happens on the Monday after the season is (over). There are a number of players that come up and meet with the head coach. I also have a targeted few guys that I want to speak with before they go out of town, so we did that. When that was over, Sean and I started our meetings, the same meetings that we have every year, but his first statement was 'Hey, I want to be here, I want to be the coach for the Saints,' so I never really went beyond that. Then it was just a matter of how are we going to approach this season. What are the things that we, (on) the surface, need to do and let's get going."
Did he say that because of the reports?
"Well, listen, those reports happened for two months, you guys know that, and I get that you have to ask questions and follow those, but golly that kind of reporting is really irritating to me, because no one asked me. When that started, no one ever asked me and I don't think anyone directly asked Sean other than after the rumors came out."
Did you ever feel compelled to make a statement or issue a statement?
"Well, look, there is always that discussion about should we address these things or not, but you guys know me, how many times have I addressed a rumor? I don't think I ever have other than maybe that wiretapping. There is one every week. It's something different every week, and we are not the only team that deals with that. No, I didn't feel compelled to do that."
There seemed to be something different though, clearly just the nature of Sean's press conference and the recommitment, reenergized fashion. Something was considered before that day. How would you characterize it?
"I think this, I think we both got energized by the possibilities because I think we see our team differently than we did (last year) and Sean referenced this in his press conference. It's a different feel. That 7-9 felt different as opposed to last year, and I think we have a lot of energy and excitement about that and optimism about that."
Did you two have to hash anything out about the working relationship, even Jay Glazer said that?
"Well, Jay is overblowing that. Listen, I think there was some of that, but I don't think it was much different. The only thing that was different was the rumors kind of hanging out there you know, because, look, we have differences of opinion and we don't always agree and yet we have had a great capacity to have disagreements and resolve them in a good way so that we always have the same goal in mind and have a lot of respect for each other's opinions. I don't know that I am answering the question directly or the way you want it, but it's overblown to say we had to (hash things out)."
There will be no changes in structure and what is that structure?
"No, I'm the general manager and he's the head coach that is the way it has been from the very beginning, and from the very beginning we have come to a mutual conclusion. We have never had to say hey it's my final say or it's his final say. We don't ever get to that, at least we haven't yet."
There is a perception from fans that you and Sean don't have anybody to answer to with everything else going on. What would you say to fans that think that?
"There is accountability, absolutely. I answer, and we answer, to Mr. B. Absolutely we do, and I can't help perception, but he entrusts the football people to make football decisions and I think that's worked out pretty well for us over the last 10 years. Are there mistakes? Yeah, absolutely, and we always own them. We don't shy away from any decisions that I have made or that we have made that did not turn out (how we wanted them to). We also don't trump at the ones that do work out either."
Is there a pressure to get this offseason right because you signed players to contracts the last couple of years haven't played as well as you and Sean would have liked?
"Well, I think, yes, sure. I'd say yes there is pressure, but there is always that pressure. There is pressure after a 13-3 season. Not just as strong after (two) 7-9 seasons, but it still exists. Look, our league and you guys in particular, I don't mean you specifically, I mean the media in particular, has a great capacity just to absolutely forget all the good things that have happened last week and focus on all the negative things that might occur or have occurred, so that pressure always exists."
How does that complicate the team building when some of those free agent signings don't work out?
"It complicates it, sure. Look, you don't have as much cap room. You don't have as much margin for error. That exists."
Has that made it harder to build the depth in the middle class of the roster?
"I don't know that. You know what makes it hard to build depth is having two draft picks taken away from you. I mean two second round draft picks. That makes it hard. I'd say that is more impactful than making a mistake in a contract and making a mistake with a contract for a player is harmful, right. We all have those, just like we have draft picks that don't work out, and we have other guys that work out. We are all focused on the ones that didn't work out and we don't pay attention to the Delvin Breaux's who come out of nowhere and perform really at a high level. It's a credit to our scouting staff."
When you review the season, do you think maybe there is more value to be had not going for the big fish in free agency?
"Well, (it) depends on how you define the big fish. I think one thing you have to do is you have to be real careful separating the injured from the talent decision, but for every good decision, for every good signing and everyone that doesn't pan out, we have to pay attention to both of those and how they occurred and the process that it was to get there, and so we are constantly reviewing the dude that was really good in this particular case or what did we do that we missed. Was there a red flag that we should have seen? We pay attention to all of that and that is all you can do, learn from your mistakes and repeat your successes."
How long and hard did you think about paying Junior Galette the bonus?
"Not hard enough. (I) Should have thought harder about that. That is my mistake."
How much do you feel Dennis Allen can change the results of the defense next year?
"I think this, that is all part of what we are going to be doing over the next few weeks. Any comments that I would make about that are not with a full data bank of information. That is for a little later I think. I think Dennis is a really good coach."
When you look back on cutting Junior Galette, was that the hardest player decision you had to make as a general manager?
"Again, I don't want to make any comments about Junior specifically. I'd rather not comment on it."
Have you guys discussed an extension with Sean Payton?
"It will come up. Listen, if you go back and look, Sean said this, I think it took more than ten minutes total, but we have been able to do those contracts in the past. Most of them (have occurred) when he has a couple years remaining or at least a year, so that will come. I'm not worried about that."
You don't consider that something that you have to get done now?
Did you guys find you did anything better looking at the draft than in years past?
"No, I would not say that. I think it is too early to evaluate drafts. It is too early for that, and yet I felt like this draft class, we just had did a lot of good things and I think there are guys that maybe did not get as much of an opportunity this year that we have high hopes for. We had a number of changes in our personnel department last year, and you don't feel the effects of that for a couple years down the road, and yet I'm pretty fired up about the guys we have and the institutional knowledge that a guy like Jeff Ireland or Jon Sandusky or Brendan Prophett and some of the guys that have been here that we're empowering a little more. I'm pretty fired up about where we are going with that. I'm fired up about the job Terry Fontenot is doing in our pro scouting department because I think we have seen some of the fruits of that early, although we are not happy with the end result of 7-9. I still see some pretty good things coming. One of the things we had is a lot of play by first-year and rookie players. I think the most in the league if my memory is correct. So that is encouraging on the one hand because, look, we like the talent, but we have room to grow here with these guys."
How concerned are you about Damian Swann? With the concussions he suffered in his rookie year, how do you approach that moving forward?
"That is in the hands of the medical people. Obviously, it happened in a short period of time. We're going to see this offseason. I think he is feeling really good right now. I am concerned any time a player gets injure, first for the player, and then secondly, how does that affect his availability to us. I wouldn't say that it is any greater or lesser (of a concern) than some other injured player."
Do you sometimes have to save a player from himself? Players want to play through everything but maybe you make that decision as a management group?
"I think that is the charge that we obviously give our medical team. We're always conservative. I think we are always conservative here. We pay attention to what our doctors say and what the medical people say. You don't ever want to put someone at greater risk than they'd have ordinarily."
I know one of the other stories that you hear, and you addressed this last year, was the unique capacity that you are in overseeing both franchises here. I think last year you said that you watched planet Pelicans from orbit and that you were firmly entrenched on planet Saints. Does it take away from your responsibilities in any way?
"I don't feel like it does, but look, I have to pay attention to that. I am fully engaged in the Saints and getting us to the next level, and I have said to you guys that my role with the Pelicans is probably overblown. We've got a general manager and a head coach there that we have a lot of confidence in to get that ship righted. I don't feel that (it takes away from my responsibilities), and yet, I have to pay attention and make sure that that is not happening."
What is your review on the two most expensive signings this year with (Brandon) Browner and (C.J.) Spiller? Do you still expect them to do well or has it been a disappointment?
"That is part of the process that we are going to be going through here over the next couple of weeks, the evaluation of what our players have done this past season and what can they do for us going forward, and then matching that with our resources. I can't really answer that today."
Both you and Sean (Payton) talked about feeling better about the culture after this season; does that influence your decision when you are looking at guys like (Marques) Colston, (Zach) Strief, Jahri (Evans) or even Benjamin Watson who is a free agent? Do you have a different view of those players than you maybe had two years ago?
"I don't know that it will or not. I think you're right, we do feel really good about the flip in culture just in the last year. The group that we brought in, regardless of the end result, was really good in our locker room. But we still have to evaluate each player based upon how they can help our team going forward. It is a factor and it is a variable. Leadership and the intangibles are definitely factors in the evaluation, but it is not the only factors."
Why do you think that you guys got away from that culture?
"Probably by not paying close enough attention to it. That's me, or Sean (Payton) and I as much as anyone. It is us, and that is our responsibility, to make sure that we are bringing the right guys into the building. It has been referenced to (be) like a garden and you have to pay attention to the garden. That probably got away from us a little bit."
When you say just not paying attention, is it their character?
"It's everything. Character encompasses a lot of qualities. It's coachability, it's off-the-field character, and it's a lot of different things. It is not just one thing. It's a lot of different things. You have to pay attention to all of it, you really do."
How do you evaluate guys like P.J. Williams and Davis Tull, who you have only seen for a little bit before they got hurt?
"That's difficult. We saw a little bit from Davis (Tull) after he came back from his college injury. I think we were pretty excited about what we saw there, but it was (a short amount of time) before he got hurt again. We like the prospect in both of those cases. We didn't really get to see a lot of P.J. (Williams) but we saw some in training camp, and I would say that physically, we saw what we expected based upon the college evaluation. There is not enough there to evaluate in terms of going forward, but we're excited to have them as prospects."
What is the thought process about going back to the Greenbrier for training camp?
"That will all be part of the discussion in-house here. That's one of the topics. It is no different than some of the other ones that we've got, in terms of players and such. We'll discuss that."
Over the last decade, you guys have kind of bounced from place to place (for training camp); when you come back, like when you came back from Jackson (Mississippi), is that to reconnect with the fan base here a little bit?
"I think that is one of the benefits of it. My philosophy is that every so often you need to do something different to change it up. I think that was probably more important under the old CBA rules when you had two-a-days and you had some of the things that you can no longer do. Then, you have to pay attention to the technology that you have available at your facility that you don't have available on the road, or that is difficult to duplicate on the road. There are a lot of factors there – the weather and how does that impact the physical health of your team. There are a lot of things that are involved in a decision about training camp. I think we do a great job of connecting with the fans here and I think that is as much because of the fans and their interest level and the history that the Saints have with the fans here in New Orleans and in Louisiana as it does with us. I do think that the business side of our building does a great job of making sure that we are connecting with the fans. But I think that is going to exist whether we have training camp here or away. We came back and had a practice at Tulane. I thought that was fantastic. We loved it and that was a good way for the Uptown crowd to come out and see the Saints. We went out to Mandeville a few years ago. We've been out in Destrehan. I think we'd like to do more of that if we can, because I think that going to these areas of the community is good for them and is good for us. The answer is yes, there is a benefit, but it is not the primary reason why we have training camp here or somewhere else."
There were some players that actually said that this is one of the harder training camps that they have been through. When you evaluate (where to have) training camps, does location take precedence or is it the training camp program itself, such as how many sprints they are running after practice?
"Those things can be done anywhere. It is all a factor. There is a team-building aspect to training camp. There is the mental and the physical aspect of training camp. You're just looking for the best environment to do all three in a short period of time. Under the rules that we have now, we have so fewer practices than we used to have in a training camp, our coaches have to cram all of this preparation, and all of the evaluation of the new guys to cut the team in less on-field time. That is a tough burden for them. We're just looking for the best environment to accomplish that."
Do you have one year left on your current agreement there?
I know Sean (Payton) said things in his press conference last week about how sometimes it is what you need to hear as opposed to what you want to hear. He references Bill Parcells all the time; is there anyone that you look to (for feedback)?
"Yes, there are some people that I'll bounce things off of on occasion. It has probably been less as I have gotten older, and it probably has to be more. There are a few people that I have talked to. Frankly, I have lost some of them. Mike McCormick was a guy that passed away a year or two ago. I don't want to name them but there are some guys, and they are not all in football. Some of them are in other sports."
When you guys evaluate position groups going forward, how do you look at a position like cornerback, where you guys seemed so deep at the beginning, only to be hurt by injuries?
"It kind of depends on the type of injury that exists and what the prognosis is going forward. We're relying a lot on medical people for that. You'd have to be specific to the person, in terms of how we might view that. We know what the history is of certain injuries and the success rate of coming back from it, and how long it takes. Even knowing all of that, sometimes it turns out differently."
With three surgeries now, are you concerned about Keenan (Lewis) at all?
"I'm concerned that he wasn't available as much as he has been in the past. I don't think it is any different than any of the injured guys. We're going to have to go through and listen to our trainers and doctors, hear the prognosis and understand when they are going to be full-go, whether that is day one of the offseason program, the OTA's or training camp. Those are really the three milestones that we have in the offseason – the beginning of the offseason program which is mid-April, the OTA days which begin in May and then obviously Training Camp which is late July. It'll be different for different guys depending on the extent of their injury. We'll cross that when we go through these evaluations. The medical is part (of the evaluations)."
Last offseason you guys were very aggressive in making moves, cutting players or trades; how do you evaluate each offseason, whether to be extremely aggressive or to not make as many moves?
"That is all part of this next two-to-three week process here as we evaluate our team and we make a decision upon the contributions that we expect from each of our guys. Where do we need players – we go through this musts, needs and wants process. There are going to be musts, or things that we have to get. There are going to be needs of things that we need to get, but they are not as critical as the musts. Then, there is the wants and the wants are usually depth issues. We're going to go through that process and that will, in turn, kind of determine what we need and we have to figure out where we are going to go to get it, whether that is through the draft, free agency or via some kind of trade possibility. It's a puzzle. Then, you factor in the salary cap situation."
Safe to say that, because of how much you like the young guys, that this offseason maybe won't be as aggressive as last offseason in that sense? Maybe there won't necessarily be as much turnover?
"I don't know that yet. I don't know the answer to that yet. I think on the surface you would say probably not as aggressive, because there are a lot of young players in the pipeline that we like the prospects of, more so than maybe a year ago. But, we've got to go through that process still."
In a perfect world, would you rather be trying to keep that pipeline going, rather than having to spend that big money in free agency?
"I think that we have tried to use all three avenues of getting players: free agency, the draft and trades. I believe in using all of them. But, you've got to be pretty cautious when you are going out and signing the really top, high-end, expensive free agent. You have to be cautious. I think we have been cautious for the most part, and yet some have worked out and some haven't. I don't know that that philosophy is going to really change. What changes is what resources do you have available. Ultimately, you are going to have enough to go get one high-level guy or three mid-level guys. It all depends on this process that we are going to go through here."
Do you learn anything from those misses?
"Yes, absolutely. I think we learn from everything every year. Sometimes, you repeat mistakes. You learn from that too."
What is Jairus Byrd? Does that come as a miss?
"He (was) injured. I don't know how you judge that, when a guy tears up his knee and he hadn't done that before. That was unfortunate, and yet he came back and played and got in about three quarters of the year, and did some good things. Hopefully he can play at a high level."
Do you feel that you have a good sense of why that defense has seemed to lag so far behind the offense in most of the last 10 years? Some of it is probably because Sean (Payton) is so good at offense. Do you talk to him about big picture things that need to change philosophically to close that gap?
"That is a complicated question. There are so many variables. One of the variables is that our offense is so good that when teams come in here, they know that they have to produce at a high level on offense, so you're getting a different type of game sometimes. There is a lot to it. We talk about those sorts of things, there is no question that we do."
How confident are you moving forward with Sean (Payton) as your head coach?
"100 percent. This guy is a great head coach. He is a great head coach period. I have seen it first-hand. Look at his record."
How valuable is the experience that someone like (Area Scout) Brendan Prophett or (Assistant GM/Director of College Scouting) Jeff Ireland had as a GM or in higher positions?
"It is pretty valuable. A lot more valuable than I would have expected honestly, because Jeff (Ireland) has been in the seat. You asked a good question about mentors and who I bounce things off of. Well, I have someone in the building now that I can ask and say hey, what do you think about this, how did you handle it or did this ever come up. Jeff (Ireland) has a little bit different perspective. It is good to have a guy in the building that has been in this seat. I think it is really valuable."