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JOESAM2002 05-17-2003 11:43 PM

One writers take on Haz....
 
I found this at Pro Football Weekly. Thought ya'll might like to read it.







Turning up the heat


Focus falls on Haslett as Saints improve defense
By Ken Bikoff (kbikoff@pfwmedia.com)
April 14, 2003





They were the little engine that couldn’t — again.

The Saints fell short of the playoffs last season thanks to a late-season collapse that ruined a 7-2 start and left fans wondering what went wrong for a second straight year. QB Aaron Brooks was blamed for playing with a shoulder injury that would eventually require surgery, the defense was blamed for being more generous than Kirby Puckett’s jury and nobody seemed to know what direction the franchise was heading.

The collapse of 2001 at least seemed to have some concrete reasons behind it. The Saints’ locker room chemistry made the Portland Trail Blazers look like a kindergarten class, and general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Jim Haslett went out of their way to clean up the image of the team in the offseason. The collapse of 2002 isn’t quite as easy to explain. The Saints didn’t execute down the stretch and blew their final three games, choking on at least two opportunities to clinch a playoff spot in the process.

But despite consecutive Hindenburg landings for Saints, Haslett has remained relatively blameless throughout the last two offseasons. Somehow he has avoided the wrath of the fans and the media in New Orleans even though he hasn’t exactly been at his best down the stretch of the last two seasons. When the clock was winding down, Haslett completely folded.

This season should see high expectations for the Saints as well, and rightfully so. They have improved a defense that ranked in the bottom 10 in the league in nearly every major defensive category by signing CB Ashley Ambrose and MLB Orlando Ruff, and S Tebucky Jones finally signed a contract that had been in the works for weeks over the weekend. The secondary — an opposing quarterback’s dream last season — could become a strength if players live up to expectations. There never has been anything wrong with the offense, but WR Donté Stallworth should be ready to play a bigger role, and a healthy Brooks should give the Saints a leader they can lean on.

But it won’t come together if Haslett doesn’t get everybody on the same page, and he should go into the season under the microscope. In his three seasons as the top dog with the Saints, he has posted a 26-22 regular-season record, which can only be considered OK when compared to the struggles the team has had over the years. Haslett is third on the team’s all-time wins list, one behind Bum Phillips for second place and light years behind Jim Mora (93) for the top spot.

Lower expectations can make four games over .500 seem pretty decent.

Haslett is a decent enough man, but it is ridiculous that in an NFL that demands immediate results, Haslett has made it through the past two seasons generally unscathed. He may not have been responsible for the soap opera that existed in his locker room two years ago, but he could have got the situation under control before it destroyed the team. Last season, he failed to keep the pressure on his team to avoid another collapse, saying over and over again that history was not repeating itself because circumstances were different. And he was right. The circumstances were different for last season’s collapse, but that doesn’t mean it should be excused.

If anything, last season’s crash and burn was more troubling than the 2K1 version. When a soap opera involving rumored marital infidelity and teammates and illegitimate pregnancies pop up, the solution is pretty simple. Even if the rumors are true or not, the players that are the focus of the talk can be moved and the problem swept out the door. But the solution isn’t so easy this year because there isn’t any one thing that can be pinpointed as the problem besides the defense. The “Dââ‚ ¬? has been improved, so now the pressure is on Haslett to prove that he can be a leader for the team and actually keep the team focused for 16 games.

Sure, Haslett won the 2000 NFC West title with a 10-6 record, but that was a long time ago in NFL years, and the fact that he does own a championship is what makes the last two seasons all the more frustrating. The 2000 Saints may not have been dominating, but they kept it together for a full season. Haslett kept everybody together. That hasn’t been the case recently.

New Orleans boasts a talented team. The Saints feature one of the most explosive offenses in the league, RB Deuce McAllister has emerged as one of the top runners in the game, Brooks can, at times, look like a superstar-in-the-making and the defense should be much better this year. On paper, they should compete with the Falcons and Buccaneers for the NFC South title. If they don’t, if there is another year of failed hopes and dreams, Haslett needs to get his own piece of paper.

The pink kind.



deadflatbird 05-18-2003 06:00 AM

One writers take on Haz....
 
Did anyone see how the Offensive cordinator suckered Haslett into changing his mind on a 4th down... I read his lips... \"We\'ll get the first down\", and didn\'t produce it.


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