Not For Long

Saints can’t continue season starting stumbles

We’ll tell our kids and grandkids about the time the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. While head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees are with the team, there will always be an ember of hope that the Black & Gold could once again torch the NFL on their way to a second championship. But more and more, it’s looking like the glory days are over.

Just two games into the season, the winless Saints are again. Diehard fans may not like the tone of this and many news articles in the media currently, but the fact is that since 1990, only 12 percent of teams to start season 0-2 went on to the playoffs.

The Saints are 1-11 in September since 2014. Not surprisingly, they haven’t had a winning record since the end of the 2013 season.

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How did it get to this point? Salary cap issues, dead money, busted drafts, poor free agent releases and signings…. It goes on and all adds up to the current situation. 

Drew Brees is an elite quarterback and, in this market, deserves his pay. Unfortunately, it tips the balance on the franchise’s ability to build a team around him. It has forced the Saints to sign castoff and backup players, who are expected to fill starting roles in New Orleans.

Bringing in talented young players who can make the roster and establish an NFL career in New Orleans has been a thorn in the Saints side. The team currently has all 12 selections from the 2016 and 2017 drafts on the active roster or practice squad. Only four remain from the 2015 class (OT Andrus Peat, LB Hau'oli Kikaha, CB P.J. Williams, and DT Tyeler Davison), two from 2013 (S Kenny Vaccaro and OT Terron Armstead), and none from 2014 or 2012. Gone are 2014 and 2015 first round picks WR Brandin Cooks and LB Stephone Anthony, 2014 second round pick CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, and 2015, 2013, and 2012 third round picks QB Garrett Grayson, DT John Jenkins, and DT Akiem Hicks.

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The Saints have made a habit of looking like they are not in sync to start the season.  For the fourth straight year, the team opened 0-2. While it’s understandable to not want your star players to risk injury, maybe a little more on-field action in the preseason would do the Saints’ starters some good. Instead of crisp, focused play, the Saints have looked groggy and slow on both sides of the ball.

Unfortunately, this offense isn’t strong enough to put the team on their backs and carry the Saints to victory. So far this year, Brees seems to miss the familiarity of working with the same receivers he has for the past several years. The Saints had arguably the best wide receiver trio in the NFL last season with Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, Brandon Coleman, and Willie Snead. Snead is serving a three game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy with a DUI arrest over the summer. Cooks, of course, was traded to New England in the spring.

The excitement of adding future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson has fizzled. In two games he has 14 carries for 44 yards and zero touchdowns. That would be a slow half’s worth of stats for the vintage Peterson. Mark Ingram leads Saints backs with 69 yards on 14 carries. Rookie Alvin Kamara has gained 21 yards on eight carries, and was utilized as a wide out against the Patriots last Sunday.

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The defense remains an enigma. It hasn’t been competitive since the bounty scandal and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ dismissal from the team. No matter who is on the field or coordinating from the sideline, the results have remained among the worst in the league.

USA Today’s Steven Ruiz has blistered the Saints in his “For the Win” column, writing, “The Saints aren’t making the playoffs. They might not have a win by the time Week 7 rolls around.”

He may be right. The Saints go on the road to Carolina this week, then to London to face the Miami Dolphins. After a bye week, they get the Lions (3-0 against the Saints in the last three seasons) at home and the Packers (seven consecutive post-season trips and counting) at Lambeau Field.

Ruiz believes the Saints will be “somewhat competitive” as long as quarterback Drew Brees is under center, but argues that in order for the team to compete, it needs a complete makeover in his article, “It's time for the Saints to move on from Sean Payton and Drew Brees.”

He makes a lot of strong points.

Although he was head coach of the rival Atlanta Falcons and Houston Oilers, Jerry Glanville had some fantastic sayings. One was that NFL stood for “not for long,” as in succeed of be gone.

Winning the Super Bowl was exhilarating, and, for many, could, be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’ll tell our kids and grandkids. But it’s evident that the Saints aren’t what they once were. Payton and Brees will go down as the most successful at their positions in team history. Their achievements will be lauded for as long as the franchise exists.

But if there is to be a second act for Super Bowl glory, it needs to start immediately. Alas, the end of an era may be at hand.


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