New Orleans Saints' Pete Carmichael has firm grasp of the plan of attack
The attitude at Saints camp isn't exactly, "No Payton, no problem," but it's awfully close when it comes to the status of their record-setting offense. From management to players to the fan base, there seems to be no doubt in anyone's mind that the offense won't miss a beat with coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. taking over while Coach Sean Payton serves his season-long suspension.
Eliot Kamenitz / The Times-PicayunePete Carmichael Jr., right, has worked closely with New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in developing the team's offense since 2006, when he was hired as part of Payton's original staff as the quarterbacks coach.
It helps that Carmichael proved his worth during an unexpected audition last year when he took over play-calling duties after Payton was sidelined by a severe leg injury in Week 6 and remained in the role for the rest of the year.
It helps even more that Carmichael, 40, has worked closely with Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in developing the team's offense since 2006, when he was hired as part of Payton's original staff as the quarterbacks coach.
"We definitely think the offense is in good hands," Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said, complimenting not only Carmichael but the entire staff of veteran offensive assistants.
"No. 1, he's really intelligent, and I think he's got a good demeanor," Loomis said of Carmichael. "He's been here from the very beginning with Sean. So I think one of the advantages is that he's in tune with Drew, and he's in tune with Sean and what he is looking for offensively in terms of rhythm as well as scheme.
"Sean's been able to mentor him as he's come along. He's grown each year, and he did a fantastic job last year when Sean was down. If not for that, I think that would've been an uncertainty with us -- we'd think Pete could do a good job, but now we know."
As Loomis pointed out, Carmichael has known Brees longer than anyone in the Saints organization. Carmichael worked as an offensive assistant with the San Diego Chargers from 2002-05 before he and Brees decided to join the Saints.
And since then, the level of trust and respect between Carmichael and Brees has been evident.
"Nobody knows Drew Brees as well as Pete. Nobody knows Pete as well as Drew Brees," Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. "They were tied at the hip in San Diego, so they speak a common language and common verbiage.
"After Sean got hurt, Pete called 95 percent of the offense a year ago and had to install a lot of the offense during the week. This is not uncharted waters for him, and it's not uncharted waters for our offense. Are we going to miss Sean? Absolutely. He's unique in what he does. But I think Pete has proven, and our offense has proven what they can do when Sean's on the shelf."
Carmichael's degree of difficulty has been increased by the fact that Brees also is gone this offseason as he and the Saints remain in a contract standoff. Next week, Carmichael will be installing the offense on the field for the first time when the team begins organized team activities, and he'll do it with backup Chase Daniel behind center.
However, Carmichael vowed to plow ahead with the players who are here in camp.
"Obviously, we want him in the building. We just have to go forward with what's here right now," Carmichael said. "Obviously, as Joe Vitt said, Drew and Mickey are going to get this worked out. We can't spend time worrying about it. We have to move forward. We're going to keep the same volume of what we're going to install and just go from there."
Carmichael said he has stayed in touch with Brees this offseason, mostly just "as friends." But he said Brees will also occasionally throw out a few plays he would like to run.
Honestly, though, those conversations aren't even necessary.
Payton, Carmichael and Brees don't all share the same mind, but they have unfiltered access into each other's brains.
They've spent so many hours together over the past six years that they can finish each other's sentences in meeting rooms. ESPN captured that on film last year when it was allowed rare access into one of their pregame meetings before "Monday Night Football."
"Pete's got his own ideas. I wouldn't want to say he's just a clone," Loomis said. "Yet all their ideas come from a basic core philosophy that they believe in and how it can be successful."
Carmichael doesn't have to rewrite the Saints' playbook this year. He estimated Monday that about "95 percent" of the Saints' offense is carried over from past years, "and then five percent or maybe 10 percent is maybe something new that you put in the year before that you liked."
And most of those tweaks were added before Payton's suspension went into effect last month.
"This is going on year seven for us with Sean's offense. The progression is pretty smooth," said Carmichael, who said his own confidence was boosted last year when he filled in for Payton.
"I think what I've been doing since I've been here every year, more and more, has been more responsibility," said Carmichael, who served as quarterbacks coach for three years before being promoted to the offensive coordinator job in 2009. "I feel comfortable going into next year; I don't think the job's going to change too much."
The transition was smooth last year. In Carmichael's first week on the job in Week 7, which Payton began in a hospital room, Carmichael installed the game plan and called the plays that led to New Orleans' 62-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
By the end of the regular season, Brees broke the NFL record for passing yards in a single season, and the Saints' offense broke the NFL record for total yards gained in a single season, among others.
That's a big reason why Carmichael went from one of the NFL's best kept secrets to one of its rising head-coaching candidates. The Colts and Oakland Raiders reached out to him about their vacancies, and they won't be the last.
It's crazy to believe that Payton's offensive mind won't be missed, since he has cemented a reputation over the past six years as one of the league's most innovative and aggressive strategists.
But no one could have designed a better backup plan.
New Orleans Saints' Pete Carmichael has firm grasp of the plan of attack - New Orleans Saints Football NFL News - NOLA.com
It's great that Pete got a good mind in offensive strategy, I think for us to be successful he needs to know the things that Payton learnt the hard way. General leadership is tough to teach, you either have it or you don't
Paytons presence and his reaction on the sideline will be missed and Pete needs to learn to be how payton was
What I found sort of settling is that Pete and Drew actually have a tighter bond than Payton and Drew.
pete + drew = 75% of SP
so we should be good. there will be the key moments in a game where SP will be dearly missed. i fear we will be a bit more predictable this year.
Carmichael will probably be less likely to be as aggressive as SP
on the other side of the ball, SS will definitely be less aggressive, which might have a bigger impact
Well I've said this before, but when Pete Carmichael showed up is when the Saints' offense went from "oh yeah, that Saints/Payton offense is really pretty good" to "OMG we have never seen anything like this before on earth" type scary level of good. They were good before, but that's when all the record-breaking stuff really started happening.
Sometimes when you think something that happened is the worst thing in the world you find out later it was a blessing. Drew busting up his shoulder seemed like the end of the world. Payton going down seemed devastating at the time. You just never know.......
Carmichael "might be" less likely to pull out that
stack-right, triple-reverse, toss-back to the tackle-eligable thingy...
on 3rd and 1.
At least I hope so.
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