One of the questions that I kept hearing this season was why didn’t the Saints use RB Deuce McAllister more. There were several third and short situations where McAllister represented the best option but Coach Payton didn’t use him. There were also games where the Saints ran a few plays with McAllister and then seemed to forget about him.
For the season, McAllister finished 50th in the league with 418 rushing yards. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, the same as Matt Forte with Chicago and Ryan Grant with Green Bay. LaDainian Tomlinson with San Diego averaged 3.8 yards per carry. McAllister had five rushing touchdowns – the same as Joseph Addai with Indianapolis, Willie Parker with Pittsburgh, and Larry Johnson with Kansas City.
2008 was McAllister’s eighth season in the NFL – all as a New Orleans Saint. For his career, he has 6,096 rushing yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry with 49 rushing touchdowns. LaDainian Tomlinson, who started the same year as McAllister, averages 4.4 yards per carry for his career. McAllister is also the all-time Saints touchdown leader with 54 total, a record that he set this year.
What we know now that we didn’t during the season was that McAllister has been playing hurt. After tearing both ACLs twice, most players would have retired. Not Deuce. He went through the painful rehabilitation two years in a row. However, his knees continued to swell during the season, limiting him.
McAllister is also very popular. Several times, his teammates have been quoted about what a great guy he is and what he means to the team. Chants of “Deuce” are heard each home game and #26 seems to be one of the team’s most popular jerseys.
However, now as the season is over and the talk moves to changes for next year, it is unclear whether Deuce is a part of the picture. He is due $5.3 million in salary and bonuses which would limit any offer the Saints can make in free agency to get a featured defensive player.
The Saints have other running backs: Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Aaron Stecker, Mike Bell, and Lynell Hamilton. With the emphasis on the passing attack and the obvious need for an improved defense, it is very unlikely that the Saints can afford to keep even five running backs.
Is he getting too old? Maybe. Has he become ineffective? No, but he does not break off for the runs that he used to get. Would it be better to use his salary to either keep some of our free agents or get some key players that will get us over the .500 hump? I don’t know.
I want the Saints to keep him but I know that I am a sucker for sentiment. I thought that it was a mistake to let Joe Horn go after all he had meant to the team. It turns out that we have done better without him than he has without us. My gut tells me that McAllister is gone. Despite the show of affection by Payton when Deuce broke the touchdown record, I think that Payton wants something else. Payton is ambitious and you don’t get called a football genius for running between the tackles.
What do you think? Should the Saints keep him or is it time to look for something else?