This is called a “retrospective” but it’s hard for it not to be a “presentspective” given the events of the last few weeks. If you have been paying attention the last few years you have heard whispers of New Orleans being a bit dirty, but at the end of the day when you thought of the Saints you pictured Drew Brees carrying his son with confetti falling from the sky.
These days, our visual is a bit different.
One of the things that have driven me nuts the last few days is this idea that we are supposed to re-watch every hit their defense dished out over the last few years with a different perspective. As if it’s possible that if we slowed down the film enough we can see Jonathan Vilma shivving a guy mid tackle. When ESPN talks about the scandal they show a continuous loop of hits, and most of them are legal standard NFL tackles. I refuse to be shocked or outraged by the idea that NFL players put money in a pool for big hits or interceptions.
The part of the story that really shames the Saints, however, is when the NFL came to the team and basically said “hey look, just stop it and it’s all good” and then it continued for years. And please, let’s all save our outrage over Sean Payton’s one year suspension. He knew what was going on, he didn’t stop it, and then he lied about it. At that point he took his fate out of his own hands and into the hands of one crazy ass commish. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the punishment fit the crime in Sean’s case, but it is obviously in the best interest of the league to send the strongest message possible. And as the most profitable league in pro sports, the NFL has plenty of reasons to protect itself in this case.
But hey, this piece isn’t all doom and gloom. Brees broke one of the most significant passing records in the game, they swept the Falcons, and the home crowd got to see a playoff victory. So let’s not cry over a little spilled Favre, this is your 2011 Saints Retrospective!
Team Highlight: As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s single season passing yardage record. It was a great moment and it really ruffled a lot of Falcon feathers. They were all like, “we can’t stop you, please don’t score and break the record we’ll complain about it later blah blah blah sportsmanship” and Drew was all, “I DO WHAT I WANT!” A lot of people like to point out that the eras that Brees and Marino played in are vastly different and that’s true, but if that alone were such a factor wouldn’t the record have been broken by now? Of all the quarterbacks in the league, and there are a few great ones, I still don’t think anyone scares me as much as when Brees gets a rhythm going.
Team Lowlight: The Saints loss against the Niners in the playoffs was brutal for several reasons. There was the crushing realization that a promising season had been flushed down the drain, the seemingly endless wave of turnovers, but one moment in particular stood out to me. They allowed a 27 yard rushing touchdown to Alex Smith. Yes that’s the same Alex Smith who had averaged 104 yards rushing per season the first six years of his career, and then ran for over a quarter of that on a designed QB sweep. In the fourth quarter. Of a playoff game. Obviously they should have had a bigger bounty on that guy.
Team MVP: I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Jed Collins.
Needs: First of all, probably going to need someone to coach the team. But beyond that the Saints have already filled holes at guard (Ben Grubbs) and defensive tackle (Brodrick Bunkley) and re-signed Marques Colston. Other than one of the biggest controversies in the history of pro football, it’s been a pretty good offseason so far!
What Wire Character do the Saints Most Resemble: Look, sometimes I just run out of creative ways to talk about how football fans are getting drunk, so I like to relate anything I can to the HBO original series The Wire. The answer is obviously Howard “Bunny” Colvin who in season three actually legalized drugs for a small section of Baltimore. Much like the bounty system, a lot of people on the inside thought it was alright. But once the story starts to leak the whole goddamn thing spins out of control and ol’ Bunny lands himself in quite a bit of hot water. I’m sorry if that spoiled something for you, but if you haven’t watched The Wire I got another spoiler alert: you watch shitty TV shows.
Jango Scale of Scandal Likelihood:
So then Lance Moore says, “This might be bad timing, but I killed a man.”
Entirely Too Early Prediction for 2012: I will say 11-5. People keep guessing a four game suspension for Vilma and other key defensive players, but wasn’t that the same amount that people were guessing for Payton? I think the Saints are still a playoff team but this scandal will affect them. I think the chemistry that Brees and Payton had was worth at least one win per season, and the division will be tougher. The Saints will rally around Bounty Gate but I still have a hard time seeing them winning multiple road playoff games and with five losses in the NFC that would very likely be their fate.
Only 8 teams remaining! Come back next week when we cover the AFC West.