Welp, that happened. Not sure what it was supposed to be, but hey, the Saints "won" so… um… cha-ching? Or something?

There's been an awful lot of talk this week about the desire to hasten the transition between the remaining grizzled veterans on defense who (surprise!) still ain't getting the job done and ain't ever gonna get any better from here, to a handful of guys waiting in the wings who may not exactly be "ready" just yet, but at least offer glimpses of something resembling hope going forward. And I'm sure you won't be surprised when I tell you I couldn't agree more. For crying out loud, if you're gonna revamp, get on with it and revamp already.

Ralph, Reid and Bradley have already pretty much said it all as far as making the fans' case for it, and I'm gonna assume that what they said is probably what most of us were already thinking. And I could be wrong, but I've got a hunch that Coach Heisenberg and The Dude are already thinking it too. (How could they not be, right?)

It's a process though. It's a hell of a lot easier for us fans to arrive at our conclusions and call for action than it is for coaches to arrive at similar conclusions and then actually act upon them. They just can't afford to be as quick to action as we fans would often like them to be.

For starters, I'd assert that for most coaches, the default is to err on the side of veteran experience. It's important, after all. Guys on the field need to know what they're doing, when and how to adjust, all that stuff. And there's no substitute for it. Taking experience off the field (or off the roster entirely) is by its very nature a "sacrifice" and I imagine it takes quite a bit of increased athletic ability to compensate for that sacrifice of experience. Especially given that nothing is as maddening to a coach (and nothing can more quickly and thoroughly fuck shit up) than mental mistakes because a guy doesn't understand his assignment or didn't make an adjustment that he should have known to make.

So I think that most coaches by default would prefer to have as much experience on the field as possible, and therefore are almost always inclined to give veteran players every chance to prove that they can compete physically until it's obvious that they can't, and that the athletic shortcomings outweigh the advantages of experience. It's at that point that a guy gets beaten out. But it takes time to fully evaluate that. Snap-decisions are rarely wise, after all.

The flip side of that is that it also takes time to determine whether a younger guy is just "flashing" or whether he's the real deal and can be depended upon on a week-to-week, day-to-day, play-to-play basis. Whether or not his athletic superiority over the veteran is enough to make the mistakes that will inevitably come with inexperience worth having to deal with in actual games when it really matters. Whether that athletic superiority is reliably consistent or whether it's just the occasional "flash." You can't draw intelligent conclusions on that without a significant sample, and establishing that sample takes time. It takes live game reps, and lots of 'em.

I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know, of course. (Do I ever?) But I think sometimes we fans get impatient with changes that seem obvious to us ought to be made, and we get frustrated because it seems the coaches are doing everything they can to avoid making those decisions, and it can be easy for us to forget that it's a process that needs to play out. It's not that they don't see what we (think we) see, it's just that they need to see more of it. They need to be goddamn sure. Anything less would be irresponsible.

The good news is that regardless of what it looks like right now, that process is most assuredly already well underway. That's what preseason is for, after all. Will Smith in particular probably accelerated the process quite a bit last Friday, and I suspect it might really kick into high gear this Friday. Some people have been calling it a "conspiracy theory" that Payton and Ryan are letting Smith "play himself out of a job" and I do think that's kinda-sorta what's happening here, but I don't think there's anything "conspiratorial" or devious or otherwise sinister about it. That's just how the process works. The veteran has "earned" the opportunity to demonstrate that he can still get the job done, and only after he's demonstrated that he can't does the door truly open for a younger guy to beat him out.

Same with Kenny Vaccaro. Everybody knows they drafted him to replace Roman Harper. That much is obvious, no matter what they say about it. And he will replace Harper, sooner rather than later. But that process needs to play out. Not only does Vaccaro need to "earn it" as opposed to it just being handed to him, Harper deserves to be "shown respect" as well. Nothing good can come of forgoing either of those things (in preseason, no less) just for the sake of instant fan gratification.

Meantime, I'm assuming that most of us still have the utmost confidence that Sean Payton is in fact still running a meritocracy here.

So we can take solace in that while we try to be as patient as we're capable of being over the next three weeks or so. There's still plenty of time for Payton and crew to get themselves convinced and comfortable with the inherently counterintuitive notion of implementing a full-blown youth movement while still attempting to remain a legitimate championship contender. But there's still plenty of time left for that process to play out and for the evidence to establish to their satisfaction that going all-in with the young guys now is the more prudent course of action. And we all know damn well that they're gonna use every last minute of it. Anything less would be wasteful.

They'll get there though.

Until then though, brace yourselves, because the "starting defense" (or whatever's passing for it at this point in the preseason) might very well look like total dogshit once again Friday night. After all, they're still without Martez Wilson and Beard Al Gankabitch for the time being, and we're all pretty sure that's a big deal, right? And I'm sure there will still be plenty of Will Smith and Roman Harper. But that's okay. It's all part of the process. Pinpointing weaknesses, confirming concerns, that kind of thing. Establishing the necessity of accelerating the transition and/or broadening its scope. It might not look like it, but that in and of itself is bona fide progress. That's why they play the fake football. (Well, that, and because FUCKIN' ROGER!!!)

But once the ball really gets rolling, I've got a hunch that it's gonna happen quickly. Hell, circumstance is already doing its part to hasten the process. Akiem Hicks is presumably already in at RDE for keeps. Jonathan Vilma might very well have caught himself one of them there sports hernias (BREAKING: or "a knee" apparently) opening the door for a guy like Kevin Reddick to stake his claim. It's just a matter of (a very short period of) time until Vaccaro's in for good. Same with John Jenkins. Eric Martin, Glenn Foster… their doors are just beginning to open, but they're opening, for sure.

One thing I do know with absolute certainty though is that Sean Payton ain't gonna just stand idly by and watch 2012 happen all over again on defense.

Coach Heisenberg: That is not going to happen.


Meantime, for now maybe our best course would be to… tread lightly.

They'll figure it out. Enough to get by, at least. Hell, for all we know, they might already be halfway there and have just chosen not to lay all their cards out on the table just yet. Or, far more likely, they're just not finished yet with the process of making up their minds about how best to proceed. But we've seen enough to "know" that there are options. Promising options. It's just a matter of sussing out the proper chemistry. 

Wait for it… wait for it…

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