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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The season didn't officially end for the Saints Thursday night, which is kind of a shame.The next two weeks are going to just prolong the agony for the fans of one of the NFL's underachieving teams this season. They're also going to prolong the inevitable -- the change that comes when things don't go as expected.
That's already started with a report that offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Doug Marrone will be leaving for the head job at Syracuse, where he played in college, and the fact Deuce McAllister, arguably the most popular and best player in franchise history, didn't even dress for the game.
It's obvious Marrone and McAllister won't be back, but does it really matter?
Marrone was a good offensive line coach, but you can find others. As a coordinator, he really wasn't one. He didn't call the plays -- that job has belong to head coach Sean Payton, although Marrone had some of a coordinator's planning duties during the week. McAllister hadn't really been an integral part of the offense since 2006, missing most of last year with a knee injury and not playing much of a role this season.
Age and injuries have caught up to McAllister and it's been obvious for a while that the Saints would stick with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush this season and, perhaps, look for another running back in the offseason.
That's not all the Saints (7-7) will be looking for because Marrone and McAllister won't be the only ones leaving. It's going to be time to, once again, overhaul a defense that was overhauled last offseason. That defense has allowed more than 20 points in each of the last four games and it's really no different than last year.
Does defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs become the scapegoat and take the fall? Maybe, but I don't think it was the coaching as much as the personnel and lack of defensive depth. The Saints need to blow up their secondary and start from scratch and it would be nice if they could find a guy or two who can actually put pressure on a quarterback.
On offense, we mentioned the running back situation, but what about tight end Jeremy Shockey? The guy's a talent, but he didn't produce much. Maybe it was because of his injuries or maybe it's time to move on. On special teams, it's time for the Saints to invest in a solid kicker and a solid punter and not go through a season cutting and signing guys.
Across the board, it looks like the Saints, who came into the season looking like the NFC South's most talented team, need change. They might as well start making plans now.