'I expect us to be better than last year'
Sunday June 22, 2003
Mickey Loomis' first offseason as general manager of the Saints was a busy one. In the past five months he has signed, drafted or traded for 42 new players. He negotiated five trades, drafted seven rookies and signed six unrestricted free agents. He also re-signed three key free agents from last year's team -- John Carney, Jerry Fontenot and Willie Whitehead. One day after the Saints concluded their three-month offseason program, Loomis sat down with staff writer Jeff Duncan to discuss the club's offseason and upcoming regular season.
When you started the offseason you had a to-do list. How'd you do?
We had a 20-point plan to start the offseason, and we did 19 out of the 20. That's pretty extraordinary. The plan was developed by (Coach) Jim (Haslett), (director of player personnel) Rick (Mueller), (senior football administrator) Russ (Ball) and myself. Each of us had a task list, and we got it done. The last thing on the list was signing Jerry Fontenot, and we completed that.
Is this the team that you will take to training camp July 25?
We're not opposed to improving our team if something comes available to us. But we really don't expect that.
Where do you see this team in its development?
I don't think anything has changed. We're a talented team. We're a talented offense. We have a pretty good group of core players. We've added to that on defense. We've changed the mix a little bit on offense. We've obviously gotten a lot of new people on defense -- bigger, faster, stronger. I fully expect us to be better than we were last year. I think everyone in our organization expects that.
It's been said that every team has a window of opportunity to win a championship. Is this team in that window now?
I think we're in the very front end of it, yes. Our core players are all young, just at the front end of their peak years.
One of those core players is quarterback Aaron Brooks. How big a year is this for him?
Every year is a big year for a quarterback. They are the guys that get the credit and the blame for the things that happen to your team. Every year is going to be a big year for Aaron. That pressure exists for any starting quarterback, particularly when the team has made a commitment to him and he has made a commitment to the team. We don't need Aaron to single-handedly win games. We just need him to do his job the best that he can, and be the leader that he has shown he can be.
Has improving and developing his leadership skills been a point of emphasis this offseason?
I instituted (the decision to attend the John C. Maxwell Leadership seminars). It really wasn't aimed at Aaron as it was targeted at our whole organization. We've got a young team. Anything we can do to speed up the maturation process is important. All the great quarterbacks -- Elway, Favre, all of them -- they go through a process. It takes them two, three, four years of starting and playing before they get to the point where they can really lead their teams. Aaron has started only two years. To his credit, Aaron knows that a lot of the team's success is going to ride on his shoulders, so anything he can do to improve himself, he's in favor of. A lot of us attended those seminars, and I think they were beneficial.
The head coach, like the quarterback, takes the majority of the credit and the blame for a team's success or failures. That said, is this a make-or-break year for Jim Haslett as coach of the Saints?
I wouldn't say that. I don't see it that way. We have expectations every year. Last year the expectations were not very high. Most of the prognosticators had us as a six-win season. We far exceeded those prognostications.
You have received some public criticism at various times during negotiations this offseason. Are you comfortable wearing the black hat that often accompanies the GM position?
You have to be. That's part of what the job entails. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions, decisions that affect personal issues with people. You can't get out of it. You have to do it. (Negotiations are) almost all art, very little science. Ultimately the bottom line is, does the deal make sense for the Saints in the long-term? And if it is, we're going to treat guys fairly and be above board with it. It doesn't mean we're always going to agree. Sometimes players and agents are going to have a different viewpoint than we have. That's going to happen. That's what creates a 'no deal." That's what happened with Joe Johnson, and that's what happened with Kyle (Turley).
Do you regret anything that happened during the Turley negotiations? Do you regret making the response that you did in the sportsillustrated.com article?
No, I don't regret my response. I felt like we have given him the benefit of the doubt in the past. The owner and the team did a lot of things for Kyle over the years that never came out. We didn't try to tout it. He didn't get what he wanted. He became a disgruntled employee. He decided to go public with all that. He went public a number of times, and we took the high road on every occasion. The last article, I said, 'This is enough. I've had enough from this guy.' So I made a response to it. That's over. I don't care about Kyle Turley. He's on somebody else's team. I care about the guys that are here and want to be here and are looking forward to being here.
How is this team a better football team without Kyle Turley?
The most talented teams don't always win the Super Bowl. Often times it's not the best athletes that win the prize, it's the best teams. In our view, we're a better team without Kyle Turley.
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