Ladies and gentlemen of the Who Dat Nation, I don’t think anybody needs to remind you: The Saints have been very good for the last several seasons. Last year, this was an exceptional team, one that went 13-3 and broke ALL THE RECORDS, at least on the offensive side of the ball. But still there was that heartbreaking loss to the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs, one that watched the offense explode to make a dramatic comeback, only to have Alex Smith—Alex Smith!—lead a game winning drive in the end. This team can get back to that highest level of play, to the point at which it’s competing for the ultimate prize. That is the point, isn’t it? But what will it take to get us there? Just a little bit of new blood, that’s what.
Luckily, the Saints have a history of finding diamonds-in-the-rough, unwanted or unknown players who make key contributions and become Louisiana folk heroes. We’ve seen how that’s worked on the offensive side of the ball, with San Diego’s castoffs, Drew Brees and Darren Sproles; spectacular undrafted players, Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore; and low-drafted, small school superstars, Jahri Evans and Marques Colston. If the Saints make the jump this year, it’s going to be because of a combination of unknowns, unwanteds and newbies, but this time, all on the defensive side of the ball.
A little over two weeks ago, I moved away from New Orleans after about 4 1/2 years living there. I wrote over a thousand words on my personal Tumblr about why I pursued a job in New York, why I accepted it and how I felt leaving New Orleans, with several asides reifying the city and its culture and the people that make it what it is. But I didn’t publish it. Because really, as always, it all comes down to the Saints.
When I took this new job, I knew I couldn’t afford to hire movers and none of my possessions was worth renting a Budget truck. So I moved in my car, selling most of my big items, giving away others and donating a number to Goodwill. But when I was finally packing up my car the day before leaving, it became clear that Istillhad too many possessions, so I started offloading even more stuff, with a large amount of that going to my neighbor, the godmother of the 3000 block of Dumaine Street, Ms. Barbara.
Among everything I offloaded to Ms Barbara was a pair of 8”x10” Saints pictures—one of Marques Colston, my favorite athlete ever, and the other of Scott Fujita, both purchased for 20 bucks from Wal Mart in early 2009—that just couldn’t fit in the car. So I asked Ms. Barbara if she or her son Will, who is in his 30s and lives the other half of Ms. Barbara’s quintessentially New Orleanian double shotgun, would want them. She said, “Oh, honey, yes. Give those to me. Will’s got a whole room filled with Saints stuff, he’ll love these.” So I gave them to her.
You know what, that’s not half bad. The Vilma thing is tough but not unexpected. (And if you buy the Black & Gold Review Prequel Edition on Kindle, you can see my take on why that’s not even a problem. To sum: Lofton, Hawthorne, Casillas and Dunbar.) And losing Smith for four games hurts, but hey, we’ve lost him before. I’m sad about Tony Hargrove’s suspension, because that guy went through so much shit to get back into the league. If any of these guys are victims in this, it’s him; having spent so much time out of the league and being grateful for the opportunity afforded him by Gregg Williams, it’s easy to look at him being led astray. And Fujita? Oh well.
Will Smith’s four game suspension is the only one that will really affect the team’s performance, I think. He’s our most experienced pass rusher, and during his suspension the Saints have away games against two teams with great passing games, the Panthers and the Packers. The season opener, a home game against the Redskins, seems easier, but who knows what type of passing game they’ll have with RGIII at quarterback. A vicious pass rush in that game will be extremely helpful in throwing the rookie off his game.
So, time for the other guys to step up, give a gigantic middle finger to the NFL and show the league (and the proverbial “haters”) that there’s more to the New Orleans Saints than bounties and suspensions. Spags, lead this defense to greatness.
It’s funny that at this point in the Saints bounty mess, pretty much any accusation anyone makes is taken as gospel. Steve Smith’s story could very well be true. But could he also have an agenda in making up (or exaggerating) claims like this? Absolutely. Does a journalist have a responsibility to at least try to verify this before printing it? Again, absolutely.
What do we get instead? “We’re past the point of being surprised by the Saints’ activities at this point.” Okay, so this is absolutely true based on what, one extremely hot-headed player’s accusation? Awesome.
Of course, what should we expect from “journalists” who are employed by the very league they’re covering? Sports media are the WORST.
Former Atlanta Falcon Ray Easterling died on Thursday from a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. He was 62 years old and had long suffered from depression, insomnia and dementia—three ailments that occur in rates far greater in football players than the general population. And in addition to occurring more often, dementia—along with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, another illness appearing more regularly in retired football players—often takes hold much earlier in life. These are all relatively rare, old-people’s ailments; for football players, they’re common, young people’s illnesses.
“It’s bigger than the New Orleans Saints. It’s bigger than any one of us as football players. It’s bigger than the game itself. It’s about our community. And we know, being here in New Orleans, some of us longer than others … this team would be nothing without this community.”
—Lance Moore, #16, wide receiver for your New Orleans Saints.
I just realized that my current franchise in Madden has reached the year 2021. The only players from the current, real-life squad still on my team are:
Brian de la Puente, though I’m using him in a reserve capacity (despite his 94 rating) as I train up a recent draft pick. he’s 37.
Jermon Bushrod, whom I’m also keeping around to back up more recent draft picks. Or as I like to think, in my over-investment in this team, he’s providing veteran leadership to younger players. He’s 38.
Malcolm Jenkins, who just like in real life cannot catch an interception to save his life. He’s 34.
Cam Jordan, whose rating has gotten all the way up to 99 and is a force on the defensive line. He’s 33 and has 6 years left on his current contract.
Jimmy Graham, obviously. He’s also 33.
Thomas Morstead and Garrett Hartley, who are both 36.
Again, I’m way over-invested in this. Because I play too much Madden. But it’s very important to me that current, real players retire as Saints, hence keeping de la Puente and Bushrod around. But it’s really weird to think about these players, all of whom are in their mid-20s right now, pushing 40. It’s also weird to think about the year 2021. In 2021 I will be 35. Oof.