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Saints must drag themselves out of quagmire of mediocrity

It probably could have been said at any point this season or at any time over the past two years.

It doesn’t matter who said it or how. The important thing is that someone finally came out and pointed out one of the Saints’ biggest problems. They are too talented a team to be squandering away another season.

“I think   more guys need to want to be great,’’ defensive back Kenny Vaccaro told the New Orleans Advocate after Sunday’s 27-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. “I feel like accepting mediocrity, being average is starting to float around here.’’

Vaccaro may have a point. Back in the early days of coach Sean Payton’s tenure, it was easy to see the Saints were always playing with intensity and hunger. They won the games they were supposed to and even some they weren’t supposed to. I can’t think of the moment it all changed for the Saints, but they clearly haven’t been the same team the last three years.

I think Vaccaro’s spiel sheds light on the state of the Saints. He questioned whether the effort was still there and used the word mediocrity.

“Why would you want that for yourself,’’ Vaccaro said. “Doesn’t everyone want to be great?’’

Let’s be clear, Vaccaro in no way said the Saints are intentionally losing games. He simply suggested they aren’t doing everything they need to in order to win games. Losing locker rooms aren’t a lot of fun to be in. But they often are the place where honesty comes out and it spewed from Vaccaro.

He characterized defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s unnecessary roughness penalty in the fourth quarter as a stupid play and he didn’t stop there. Without naming any more names, Vaccaro said the Saints need to be more accountable.

“When you’re a repeat offender on film over and over, you just don’t care,’’ Vaccaro said. “To me you don’t care. I think guys on this team need to look themselves in the eye and really, truly, analyze yourself. ‘Are you helping the team or are you a selfish player right now?”

Vaccaro wasn’t the only vocal player in the locker room. He was just the most emotional. Quarterback Drew Brees, safety Roman Harper and offensive tackle Zach Strief all expressed thoughts on what they think is wrong with the Saints. Many of their theories went hand in hand with what Vaccaro had to say.

Strief said the Saints are lacking something they had a lot of during the glory years. That’s confidence.

“I think what’s happening right now, honestly the way I feel … you start questioning whether our perception of ourselves is not skewed,’’ Strief said. “I think there might be guys on his team that don’t think we’re as good as we are, as good as we’re capable of being right now. Because I would tell you on the road, tough environment, against a god team, we couldn’t have done worse and we had a chance to win the game. I think we need to change the confidence because this team is better than they think they are.’’

Brees is the closest thing the Saints have to a perpetual optimist. There was some of that Sunday but there also was a positive message. Brees was asked if he worries about the team becoming disheartened.

“No, no I don’t,’’ Brees said. “It’s better than getting blown out, No. 1. And No. 2, we know that we can compete with anybody anywhere. I still feel like we are an ascending team and we’re getting better.’’

Brees may have a point. But, before the Saints can ascend, they need to play with more effort and confidence.

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