I wasn’t going to write until after the draft. I don’t get into player study, or game tape analysis, or whatever the hell we’re calling it now. This isn’t going to be about the draft, though.
Today, I realized something. Something happened this offseason. Something momentous. Something world-changing. And we fucking missed it. It happened so quietly, amid a cacophony of offseason changes, that we didn’t even realize a single man had fundamentally altered a paradigm that we take for granted every March, April, May – we missed a shift in the very structure of football’s competitiveness. Parity has been stricken a paralyzing blow without anyone taking notice.
Loomis broke the fucking window.
Look, I know, plenty has been said about the magic Mickey’s worked this offseason. We went in with no money, signed a bunch of guys, and came away with more money; it doesn’t make any sense, Aristotle turns in his grave, math is unreliable.
I get all that. But that’s not my point. Not exactly.
It helps, perhaps, to distill this offseason to one position. An illustration of the direction of the NFC South, if you will. In a division where the last three division winners are led by a hall-of-fame quarterback with a crop of underappreciated receivers, a fairly good quarterback with a crop of very talented receivers, and a hype-riddled phenom that, admittedly, is pretty fucking good at both running with and throwing the ball (however barren his field of targets may have become), a fair choice for examination would be the defensive backfield.
Let’s summarize quickly.
The Saints cut Roman Harper, and let Malcolm Jenkins test free agency. The Falcons added Javier Arenas. The Buccaneers cut Darelle Revis. The Saints, surprising everyone, signed Jairus Byrd in free agency. The Bucs replaced Revis with Alterraun Verner and Danny Gorrer. They have not made a move at safety. The Falcons parted ways with Thomas DeCoud and Asante Samuel, and signed cornerback Josh Wilson. The Panthers picked up Harper, DeCoud, and cornerbacks James Dockery and Antoine Cason, while losing Captain Munnerlyn. The Falcons offered a contract to Rafael Bush, the Saints signed Champ Bailey, and when it looked as if Bush was gone, they signed him too.
Jesus Christ. Good luck with that offensive line, though, Atlanta. Have fun with the receiving corps, Carolina.
That was a lot of names that perhaps you haven’t heard before. Maybe we could come up with a more succinct summary. Let’s give it a try:
1. The Panthers lost a good corner, picked up the most-ridiculed player on statistically the worst defense in NFL history of 2 years ago, and added the second-best safety on a 4-12 team in 2013.
2. The Falcons and Buccaneers, who tied at 4-12, somehow each managed to make their secondaries substantially worse.
3. The fourth-ranked defense in 2013 returns its best safety from injury, replaces the league-leader in missed tackles with the league-leader in interceptions, keeps its best shutdown corner, adds a first-ballot hall of famer to the other side of the field, and retains a backup safety who is probably good enough to start for any other team in the division.
That’s a lot of noise for one offseason, at only 4 of 22 starting positions, but still, it drowned out the real truth about the 2014 offseason. The bit we all missed.
The beginning of these changes, the signing of Jairus Byrd, came as a bit of consolation. It helped us forgive the loss of some real fan favorites. Darren Sproles, Lance Moore, Jabari Greer. That’s tough. Those cap casualties are painful to watch, and the signing of a premier free agent helps. The signing of all those guys, while the rest of the division flounders in free agency, does more than provide forgiveness – it allows us to forget.
And that, Saints fans, is the magic of this offseason.
See, while we were all standing around lamenting the loss of Lance Moore’s touchdown celebrations and debating the Real Position which our favorite tight receiver plays, while we agonized over the coming of the Closing of The Window, while we worried how many years Drew Brees might have left in him, it happened.
The window shut.
This year was the reckoning. This was it. It really was over. We had to let skill players and pass rushers and role players alike hit the curb. Cap hell is not a coming reality, it is 60 days in our past.
The window slammed shut, and we barely noticed. A slight change in pressure, a draft fading away, a barely perceptible change in atmosphere. Loomis, calculatedly as always, let it be known that Jairus Byrd was coming in for a visit. A murmur grew. And we all noticed when Mickey smoothly eased over toward the window.
He’s just going to prop it open, we thought, and we went back to our conversations.
A few hours later, a picture on twitter: Jairus Byrd, casually lounging in Loomis’s office. The deal is done. A cheer rose. Music played. We ordered another round.
And, when our collective attention was elsewhere, Loomis decided that letting a little air in wasn’t enough. He smashed the fucking window. He broke the glass, ripped the window from its frame, destroyed it beyond recognition. The window was no more.
We were too excited to pay the scene a moment’s attention.
If you just stop and look, consider the circumstances: a franchise quarterback receiving obscene amounts of money, a franchise tight end looking for wide receiver money (presumably), a franchise pushed to the limit, forced into letting go of players whom fans around the league are familiar with, a team that nonetheless got significantly better in spite of all of the above, without yet drafting a rookie, you may just take a look over your shoulder at that window we spend so much of our time agonizing over, and realize it is no more.
The gaping hole in the wall is peace of mind. Realize, now, that when the fans of that other team comfort themselves with the idea that the run is over in 2 or 3 more years, it is no more than reassuring delusion.
Picture it, just for a second – a general manager that is capable of annihilating the accepted model. Imagine a window that never shuts, a world where the biggest worry is who follows in Drew Brees’s footsteps, and not how the team can possibly pay him.
Imagine a window without sides.