Pete Carmichael Jr. took over for Sean Payton this season as the offensive play caller and while the players on the field are carrying out the plays, I wanted to look out how this offense has compared in 2012 to all the other seasons when Sean Payton was either calling all the plays or at least overseeing the team.
The Saints are averaging 26.8 points per game offensively this season. In 7 seasons with Sean Payton (counting this one), this would have ranked 4th best. Payton in 6 seasons running the offense combined has averaged 28.1 points per game.
The Saints are completing 61.9% of their passes this season. The worst it's been in any season Sean Payton coached was 64.1%.
The Saints are averaging 4.2 yards per carry, which is better than all but two seasons (2011 and 2009) in the Sean Payton era. Despite this they are only running less than 35% of the time. Sean Payton in 6 years has never had a ratio that skewed. Even in 2007 and 2008, his ratios were 37.5% and 38.5% runs. Those were the least balanced teams under Payton. In the Saints most successful years, 2006, 2009 and 2011, the ran the ball 44.9% of the time, 49.2% and 47.7% respectively. So despite averaging more yards per carry than 4 of the 6 Sean Payton era teams, Pete Carmichael had a higher passing ratio than Sean Payton ever has in 6 seasons as a playcaller.
Drew Brees is getting sacked 4.3% of the time he drops back for a pass. That is by far the highest rate in the Sean Payton era in seven seasons. No season even comes close. Surely the offensive line is partly to blame for that, but maybe the defenses know all too well the pass is coming?
Mark Ingram leads the team in carries despite a 3.6 yards per carry average. Pierre Thomas averages 4.8, Chris Ivory averages 5.4 and Darren Sproles averages 4.5. That's right, they all average more than a FULL YARD more per carry than Ingram except Sporles (who averages 0.9 yards more per), yet Ingram is the primary runner.
The Saints average 7.5 yards per pass. That is 3rd worst in the 7 years under Sean Payton.
So while there's plenty of blame to go around with the defense, the offensive line, Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham's drops – I think it's fare to say the drop off from Sean Payton to Pete Carmichael Jr. has been significant. First of all, he passes way too much. a 65-35 pass to run ratio is borderline insane, and it's the biggest disparity in New Orleans Saints history. It's led to a less efficient passing game (lowest completion percentage in Sean Payton era, highest sack percentage in Sean Payton era, 3rd lowest yards per pass) despite the fact that the run game has been decent (3rd best in yards per carry). And the run game has been decent despite the fact that the worst performer is getting the bulk of the carries.
Is Pete Carmichael a horrible play caller? Of course not. Is he worse than all six years Sean Payton was the Saints' play caller individually? Yes. It's a high standard of course, but one that he didn't meet despite the same weapons. Some could argue the weapons are in fact much more pronounced than they were in the early Sean Payton years, and Drew Brees is certainly more developed. I'm not sure expecting anything else would have been realistic, but at the end of the day I'm inclined to say that Carmichael overall has failed in his duties this season. Picking up Sean Payton's slack wasn't going to be an enviable task for anyone, but Carmichael didn't meet it.
When you consider Pete Carmichael inherited the greastest offense in NFL history a year ago, looking at these numbers I'm more convinced of two things:
1. The Saints miss Sean Payton every single bit as much as we think they do and should pay him the most money in NFL history for a coach immediately.
2. Pete Carmichael isn't a good enough play caller (yet) to get a team to the playoffs. Imagine if he hadn't been handed the keys to the best offense in NFL history. Imagine if he was calling plays for the Bills offense!
Yes, the defense has been horrible all year. The worst ever. Hopefully they can use these last four games to avoid that distinction permanently. But let's not allow that to cloud our judgment that Carmichael has been largely mediocre too. When you look at it that way, Carmichael and Spagnuolo were the ones supposed to pick up the most slack with Sean Payton gone. In fact, neither was made head coach so they could "focus" entirely on their duties as play callers. Safe to say they both kind of blew it.