METAIRIE, La. – Mickey Loomis reluctantly discussed some of the actual positive things that happened for the New Orleans Saints in 2014 when prodded during his season wrap-up news conference on Tuesday.
But he didn’t dwell on them.
“There was a lot of discussion about our inability to win on the road for a while and we were able to win some games on the road,” Loomis said of a Saints team that started 0-4 on the road and finished 4-0. “We beat three division winners in Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Carolina. So there are some good things. We had some individual performances -- Mark Ingram comes to mind immediately. We like the things we saw out of Brandin Cooks and some other players as well that made improvement [and] progress.
“It’s hard, though, to get too excited about that when you’re 7-9. That doesn’t feel very good. That’s the thing that we’re all focused on. We have to do better than that.”
Cooks, the Saints’ first-round draft pick in 2014, is absolutely near the top of the list of things to be excited about going forward. The rookie receiver was leading New Orleans with 53 receptions (for 550 yards and three touchdowns) when he suffered a season-ending thumb injury in Week 10. And the dynamic speedster was just starting to come on strong as a deep threat in addition to a short-yardage weapon.
Ingram’s success, however, is more of a Catch-22 because he’s due to be an unrestricted free agent. Ingram emerged as a bona fide No. 1 tailback around midseason after injuries to teammates Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas. Ingram finished with career-highs of 964 yards, nine TD runs and four 100-yard games.
The Saints probably love to see that kind of progress from a player that they developed after trading up to get him in the first round of the 2011 draft. But they rarely invest heavily in any one running back, and other teams might value him more on the open market. Or Ingram himself might prefer more of a permanent, every-down back role.
As for Loomis’ disinterest in dwelling on the positives, he insisted he would have felt similarly even if the Saints had won one more game to win the NFC South and make the playoffs.
Loomis said he’s both proud and jealous of the Carolina Panthers for winning their first-round playoff game. But he said the Saints don’t want to just be 8-8 and they would take look at their team with the same “critical eye” this offseason to figure out why that happened.
“We want to be the No. 1 seed and get into the playoffs and have a great chance, an increased chance at getting to the Super Bowl,” Loomis said. “So 8-8 is not going to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC.”