As my colleague, Gus Kattengell, noted yesterday: pretty much any defensive player the Saints chose with the 15th overall pick in the NFL Draft would have been an improvement on last year's historically bad defense. So New Orleans surprised no one by picking a defensive player and chose someone many consider to be the best safety in the draft, Kenny Vaccaro of the University of Texas.
Obviously, less than a day since he was drafted, it's impossible to tell what kind of impact Vaccaro will have on the Saints' secondary. Now, college football and Saints experts and die-hard fans can tell you all you need to know about Vaccaro's Longhorns career and what pundits are saying about his athleticism. But since all parties involved want this to be a long-term and prosperous relationship, it's appropriate we go a little deeper. So here are three facts about the Saints' new Safety.
1. He has over 40 tattoos, most of which are religious — Last season, some idiot wrote a ridiculous article about San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and his tattoos, once again proving that stereotypes die hard. Physically speaking, a glance at Vaccaro can remind you of the 49er's quarterback. Like Kaepernick, Vaccaro's arm tattoos are mostly about family and religion. Texassports.com reported that Vaccaro's tattoos "include a depiction of [Jesus] Christ reigning on earth through a sketch of Jesus holding the world together, the quote, "Walk by faith, not by sight," and the recognition of sin existing in the world by an image of the earth being broken open." Vaccaro's ink also references his mother and late father.
2. He has two connections to the Washington Redskins - Remember the Saints opening game last season? The one that proved to be Redskins' quarterback Robert Griffin III's coming out party and the first evidence that the Saints season was going to be a bad one? Yea, you'd be forgiven if Who Dats have blocked that one from memory. But while at the University of Texas, it's likely that Vaccaro was watching the game and rooting for Griffin. That's because they grew up together and have been friends for most of their lives. Now Vaccaro is playing for the team Griffin lit up for 320 passing yards last season.
Vaccaro's connection with Washington go even deeper. His uncle, A.J. Johnson, played on the 1992 Super Bowl Champion Redskins as a defensive back.
3. He's a prolific Instagrammer - Since joining the social picture site six months ago, Vaccaro has uploaded over 260 photos (and counting). The pictures range from memes to adorable shots of his son to humor and even an artsy piece or two. OK, it's not high art or a professional photographer's Instagram, but he's young and already has more photos online than any other Saints player. So there's that.
New Orleans Saints fans no doubt see the start of the NFL Draft as finally a turning of the page to a forgettable and gut wrenching season. As Saints players conclude their second week of “voluntary” offseason condition programs, the team is hoping to once again find talent that will help build a winning football team.
The Saints have five picks as they head into the draft. The 15h overall pick in the first round, the 75th overall pick in the third round, the 109th pick overall in the 4th round, 144th overall pick in the fifth round and in the sixth round the 183rd overall.
A QUICK LOOK BACK
Start planning your Sundays and your prime times, New Orleans ...
Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo announced a long list of supporters co-signing a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting marriage equality and challenging California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.
In a statement, former New Orleans Saint Scott Fujita said, "Football is a macho sport, but we've found many players to be accepting. We hope to create an environment where a player who is gay will be treated like any other teammate."
Among the co-signing supporters for the "Athletes' Brief" are Saints linebacker Scott Shanle, as well as former Saints players Steve Gleason, David Kopay and Kawika Mitchell. Other supporters include Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, WNBA coaches and players, university athletic directors and others. Kluwe, Ayanbadejo and Fujita are Ambassadors for Athlete Ally, an organization aiming to end homophobia in sports — you can read the organization's brief in full here.
The brief's introduction includes the following:
The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA, at the league level, team level, and individual level, are finally speaking out against homophobia and intolerance of LBGTQ individuals. More and more of us realize that using demeaning slur words like “faggot,” “queer,” and “gay” can have serious, negative consequences. ... Not necessarily consequences for us. Instead, consequences for the children and adults who look up to us as role models and leaders. Consequences for children and adults who mimic our behavior when they interact with others. And consequences that can be severe, long-lasting, and not infrequently lead to suicide and other serious harm.
Read the brief's full introduction below the jump.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton filled another position to his coaching staff on Monday as Wesley McGriff was hired as the team’s secondary coach.
McGriff spent last season serving as the co-defensive coordinator / cornerback coach at Ole Miss. McGriff has coached collegiate football for 22 years and was a part of a turnaround season at Ole Miss as the Rebels went from a 2-10 season in 2011 to a 7-6 season.
Payton fired defensive coordinator Steve Spanuolo and secondary coach Ken Flajole a day after joining his staff in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl. The Saints defense gave up an NFL record 7,042 yards of total offense last season. Poor tackling, lack of coverage and overall ability to make plays plagued the defense last season.
Which leads us to the letters page of the Post this morning, where a reader complains "The political-correctness police have started their ritual" and goes on to wonder:
Are there no more important issues these days? There are many NFL team names that may offend thin-skinned and hypersensitive people: Do atheists hate the Saints?
Weigh in here, atheists. Chime in, New Orleans Secular Humanist Association. Do you hate the Saints? (And we're not talking about last season's defense, but the team as a whole.)
Thomas spent the last four seasons with the Saints and was a key part of the offense as he played alongside tight ends Jimmy Graham and Jeremy Shockey. “This was an extremely difficult decision to make with David today,” said Loomis. “Since he came here in 2009, he’s been an important part of our team, both with his performance on the field and with the outstanding veteran leadership he’s provided for us.”
“David has been important part of our team since the day he arrived here immediately after the 2009 preseason and we appreciate everything he did for us these last four seasons,” said Head Coach Sean Payton. “With his dependability, intelligence and work ethic, he was someone our players and coaches could always rely on. On the field, he would set a physical tone and his versatility proved to be a great asset for us.”
Quarterback Drew Brees was franchise tagged last season and we all saw how well that went. Teams place the tag on players more as a way to buy time to work out a longer term deal than it is in hopes of having the player play for the franchise tag salary. A player franchised is guaranteed the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position, a pretty penny yet routinely players tagged see it a sign of disrespect or insulting.
The Saints don’t have any obvious players like Brees that could be franchise tagged out of their 11 unrestricted free agents. Those players being: tackle Jermon Bushrod, wide receiver Devery Henderson, quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver Courtney Roby, tackle William Robinson, on offense. The defensive free agents are: defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, linebacker Scott Shanle, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, defensive end Turk McBride, cornerback Elbert Mack and linebacker Ramon Humber.
The Time-Picayune minutes later confirmed the report and said that the team will make the announcement official later in the morning and indeed an hour later the team released the statement confirming the hires.
“I’m pleased the opportunity has presented itself for us to be able to add both Rob Ryan and Stan Kwan to our coaching staff,” said Head Coach Sean Payton. “In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature. We’ve had the chance to visit with each other and talk about our visions for our team and I’m excited about moving forward as we prepare for the 2013 season.
Rob is enthusiastic about joining our team and getting right to work. Stan is a veteran coach that understands all nuances of the special teams games and will work closely with Greg McMahon. He has a wealth of knowledge and I believe he will be a good fit on our staff.”
This is Ryan's fourth time being a defensive coordinator having led defenses in Cleveland, Oakland and Dallas previously.
The search for the new New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator will not include a member of the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. Reports from the NFL Network and the Times —Picayune say the 49ers did not grant the Saints permission to interview secondary coach Ed Donatell.
“To interview you have to get permission,” Payton said in the interview in regards to wanting to talk to what he said could be between 2-4 candidates. “Just because it’s a promotion it’s not a given that they would grant that permission. There’s a couple of those requests out there to other teams in regards to a position coach that we would have interest in interviewing as a coordinator.”
Tuesday night it was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter and tweeted by Fox Spots Jay Glazer that the Saints planned on hiring former Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Subsequent reports have the team interviewing Ryan on Friday and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on Thursday.
“I think we’ll know in a week,” Payton said in an ESPN radio interview on the Mike and Mike show Wednesday morning.
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