(Note: He was facing southwest at the time.)So much for the Saints being "philosophically opposed" to taking tailbacks in the first round, eh J-Dunc?

Since people seem so curious about what number Ingram is gonna wear as a Saint, I have a suggestion. How about 25?

In retrospect, I suppose it should have come as no surprise that the Saints made such a bold move. It's perfectly in line with the way the Saints have approached the whole offseason so far. Aggressive, balls-out, going for broke. High five!

To me, that's the best part of all this. The message it sends. Clearly, these guys ain't scared of it. They're not afraid to take a chance on an aging veteran DT with red flags about his weight and work ethic. They're not afraid of being second-guessed about the decision to "overpay" for a player not everybody is sold on, at a position that most people inexplicably still refuse to acknowledge as a bona fide "need." They're not sitting on their hands and hoping that these issues fix themselves. They're not being timid and playing it safe, they're not worrying about the future at the expense of the present. They're all-in for right now.

"Our Time" indeed. It's not just a slogan. It's The Mission.

Furthermore, there was something for everyone in this draft. The front-7/pass-rush people got their defensive end. The "Reggie Haters" got the best tailback in the draft. The "Shanle Haters" got their strongside linebacker. Five of the six picks were used for defensive players, and I'll assert that the one offensive player might end up being the one who helps the defense most of all. At least two of the picks are likely to be special teams upgrades as well. The consensus seems to be that all four non-7th round picks were selected well below where they "should have" been taken, which people seem to equate with "value." And they filled needs on both sides of the ball in the process. What's not to love?

Not that there aren't qualifiers, because there are. All indications are that Cameron Jordan isn't exactly the double-digit sack guy most Saints fans were hoping for. The Ingram pick carried a hefty price tag and overloaded the backfield, at least for the time being. Lots of people aren't sold on Ingram specifically, and think they could have done just as well with a tailback in the later rounds, or no tailback at all. Martez Wilson may or may not be able to step in right away on the strong side, and he's more of a traditional 43 SLB as opposed to The Next Pat Swilling. The Johnny Patrick and Nate Bussey picks weren't the sexy "name" kind of picks Saints fans had quickly gotten used to after the first three picks. And the assumption seems to be that Greg Romeus was a "see you in 2012" kind of pick. So the Saints left plenty of room for fans to still bitch and moan and complain if they want to. Mighty considerate of them to be so fan-friendly about it.

Still, it was an absolute A+++ home run of a draft as far as I'm concerned. They killed it. They've been killing it all offseason. And I'm gonna go on record right now and call it that Loomis has another trick or two up his sleeve for whenever free agency finally rolls around.

It'll probably come as a shock to you that my favorite pick wasn't the Ingram pick.

Aw, who the hell am I kidding? Of course it was the Ingram pick.

Oh, I know, I know. Sure, maybe Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas both play all 16 games this fall. Maybe Chris Ivory is The Next Jim Brown. Maybe Ivory and Lynell Hamilton would have combined for 1500 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns this fall. Maybe Mikel LeShoure or Shane Vereen or Stevan Ridley ends up leading all rookie tailbacks in rushing yards.

Yeah, and maybe Jeff Charleston and Junior Galette combine for 25 sacks this year. But I don't see anybody counting on it. Maybe Pep Levingston ends up being the best rookie defensive end out of this class. Don't see anybody counting on that either. Maybe Scott Shanle makes the Pro Bowl.

Maybe the Saints didn't need to make nearly as big an investment at the position as they did. Maybe. But the Saints were 28th in the league in rushing last year. TWENTY-EIGHTH! And you want to risk wasting a chance at a championship by rolling the dice that that's just gonna fix itself, or that a mid-round or late-round guy would have been just as effective a fix as the consensus best tailback in the draft? No thank you. It was high time that the Saints invest in a blue chip stock at tailback, rather than buying fistsful of lottery tickets (again) and crossing their fingers.

Screw next year's first. Oh, I know we're all gonna be jonesing for that pick this time next year. Even if we're still celebrating a second championship. But so what? There's a difference between habitually "overpaying" and acknowledging that occasionally there are situations when, for you, at that particular time, a specific commodity warrants a premium price. It's not "overpaying" if you get what you paid for.

"Yeah, but the Saints traded a first round pick for what amounts to a fourth tailback." Bullshit. They used their 2012 first round pick a year early on something they didn't have and desperately needed: a true #1 tailback. The notion that Mark Ingram is gonna be the "fourth tailback" is just absurd.

"Yeah, but Sean Payton doesn't run the ball anyway, so they traded a first for a guy who's gonna get a max of 10 carries per game. There's not enough carries to go around in a Sean Payton offense." Bullshit. The notion that there's a hard ceiling to the number of rushing plays Sean Payton is willing to call in a given game is nonsense. It always has been nonsense. Sean Payton is perfectly willing to run the ball when he has a tailback he trusts to make it worth his while, always has been. He had that in 2006 and he had it in 2009. Fortunately, he'll have it again in 2011.

And then there's the elephant in the room. How is this gonna affect REGGIE?!?!? Sigh. It's always about Reggie.

What we do know for sure is how Reggie thinks it's gonna affect Reggie. Naaah, I'm sure that tweet was about the Lakers beating the Hornets. Right? Riiiiight. Yeah, I'm sure that was it. Or something. See, if you step back about 10 feet, close one eye, squint with the other one, tilt your head and read it backwards, you can clearly see how the comment was totally misinterpreted. Surely it wasn't what it looked exactly like.

And really, when you think about it, it's not Reggie who needs to worry. The Ingram pick really affects Pierre more than anybody, right? Because after all, Ingram's basically a rich man's version of Pierre. Ingram makes Pierre redundant. Reggie, on the other hand, is a special snowflake whose skillset brings a whole other element to the offense that can't be replicated by anyone else in the league, let alone the roster.

Hey, makes perfect sense to me. Clearly the guy who just got a long-term contract and a fat raise is the guy whose job is in danger, and the guy who everybody's already known for months is gonna get released unless he agrees to take a pay cut by at least half doesn't have anything to worry about. Perfectly logical conclusion.

"But Loomis and Payton keep saying over and over and over again that they want Reggie back and that he's crucial to the offense and they love him and he's fucking awesome and he's totally in the plans for the future." Right, because it's not like that's pretty much what they have to say for as long as he's still on the team. I mean, it's not like there's any reason for them not to just go ahead and shout it from the rooftops now if Reggie's not really in the plans, right? After all, Loomis and Payton are pretty much an open book. Impeccable track record of being perfectly honest and forthright with what they tell the media. Surely their comments can totally be taken at face value.

Look, I'm not saying that Loomis and Payton have already decided that Reggie's out. I don't doubt that they'd like to have him back for $2-3MM/yr. But I do think that they've resigned themselves to the notion that they're not gonna get him back for less than somewhere around double that, and that they already know that there's no way in hell they're gonna go that high. So for all practical purposes, it's a foregone conclusion. All roads have been leading to it for at least a full year now.

But if that's the case, why all the posturing? Well, for one thing, despite the constant refrain from the Times-Pic, Reggie's not "UNTRADEABLE!!!" Sure, nobody's gonna pay him $11.8MM next year, but nobody has to. What the T-P conveniently glosses over is that it's just as easy for the acquiring team to reneg Reggie's contract as it is for the Saints. There's no cap (right at the moment) and even if there were, it's not like there are prorated signing bonus cap implications anyway, he's in the last year of his contract. The only things making Reggie "UNTRADEABLE!!!" right now are…

  1. EVERYBODY's untradeable right now because of the lockout
  2. Certain teams would just as soon wait for the Saints to release him and take their chances on the open market, which the rhetoric coming from Loomis and Payton is at least partially intended to mitigate
  3. Reggie has a de facto no trade clause at this point, because he can effectively veto any trade by refusing to reneg with a potential trading partner he doesn't want to acquire him

Otherwise? He's no less tradeable than anyone else. The $11.8MM is all but irrelevant, because that's gonna be renegotiated regardless of where he ends up, and Reggie knows that. He could always refuse to negotiate with anybody and force the Saints to release him. And in that sense, he really is untradeable. But until all other avenues are explored, there's no sense in showing your cards.

But moreso than that, it's a public relations issue. Loomis and Payton know that there's gonna be some degree of backlash when Reggie's no longer a Saint, no matter how it ends up going down. But by continuing to gladhand Reggie in the meantime, they're framing the situation so that when they make him a lowball offer, and he refuses, and they trade or release him, it's on Reggie and not on the organization. They're orchestrating this so that when the inevitable split finally happens, the perception will be as favorable to the organization as possible, with minimal backlash.

After all, Reggie's the second highest profile player on the team, and there's a subset of fans who'd sooner criticize Drew Fucking Brees (for crying out loud) than to utter a discouraging word toward The Reg. They're really up against it here from a PR standpoint. They need it to look like Reggie broke up with them and not the other way around. That's what this is all about.

Meantime, screw the "different skillset." Who cares if Ingram and Pierre are "basically the same kind of back" while Reggie is some magical all-purpose "weapon" who's so ahead of his time that conventional stats can't measure his true value? This offense is gonna be far better off with two and a half Pierres and zero Reggies, versus one of each. Far better off just handing the damn ball off and running it down the opponents' throats rather than having to jerryrig and scheme and overthink in an effort to figure out how to wield some crazy-ass "weapon" from the future. Or, as has increasingly been the case lately, choosing not to wield it. Because, by golly, it just doesn't work very well. Give me redundancy on something that works over variety, half of which doesn't work, any day.

Ingram isn't just a tailback. He represents an impending sea change in the way this offense operates. A fundamental shift from pass-happy one-dimensionality and a gimmicked, smoke and mirrors rushing game, to a genuinely balanced offense that's all-but-impossible to defend.

You wanted the Saints to run the damn ball. Now they will. Guaranteed. And it's gonna win them another championship.

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