4 Reasons Why the Saints are 4-1
Yes, it's a little early to go overboard. But the Saints have already surpassed their win total from last year. There has to be more than one reason for this. It's easy to point to individual players on the field who have done well. The players themselves have a lot to do with this. But they had to get to where they are somehow. So, looking beyond the surface, who has the most to do with the resurgence of New Orleans Saints football? These four men come to mind:
MICKEY LOOMIS: This man has caught a ton of grief. He was put in a difficult situation, having to replace the popular Randy Mueller. And a lot of his moves during the Jim Haslett era could be classified as downright horrible. I don't know--Jonathan Sullivan comes to mind. Of course, there are many more (Courtney Watson, Orlando Ruff, Dwight Smith also come to mind). But look at what he has done since the end of last season. He got Drew Brees here. He got rid of Aaron Brooks. He got three good linebackers on the cheap. The draft yielded (through pick, trade, or undrafted free agent) Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jeff Faine, Hollis Thomas, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston, and Steve Weatherford). He resisted the urge to trade away a shot at Reggie Bush for a bunch of draft picks. Even the LeCharles Bentley departure didn't come back to haunt the team, like many of us thought would happen.
SEAN PAYTON: The difference between him and Jim Haslett is night and day. This team plays hard. This team plays smart. Haslett had his favorites (Aaron Brooks and Rick Venturi come to mind), and he spent more time griping about the refs than he did making a game plan. Payton expects results, and it doesn't matter who you are. If you're a first-round supertalent like Donte' Stallworth, and you don't want to be here, fine. Get the hell out. We'll put a seventh-round rookie in your place, and he'll outperform you and won't complain about his hamstring every five minutes. It's the same everywhere else. The two youngest and least experienced safeties start. A Division II rookie starts at guard over several veterans. He likes smarts and attitude over pure talent. All of the head cases are gone, and you can tell by the way they play ever week (so far).
CHARLEY CASSERLY: This guy will be forever linked to the Reggie Bush/New Orleans Saints fortunes. I don't have to rehash the story one more time. But here's the gist of it. He had the first pick in the draft, and he passed on Reggie Bush. There were reportedly two reasons: he would be hard to sign, and they already had a good running back in Domanick Davis (who was placed on Injured Reserve before the season began). So they went for Mario Williams. So far, so good for the Saints. Williams has had one good and three bad performances so far this year for the Texans. Bush is averaging over 6 receptions a game, and he is responsible for this week's victory over the Buccaneers. Sure, he hasn't figured out how to be an NFL running back yet. But we haven't needed him there yet, and just his presence on the field makes other teams change their defensive schemes.
NICK SABAN: Don't forget what The Grinch Who Stole LSU's Christmas did in this resurgence. He's the reason why Drew Brees signed with the Saints. Don't forget the whole free agent quarterback derby this off-season. It came down to Miami and New Orleans for Drew Brees. He came to New Orleans first, had a good visit, but left for Miami without a signed contract. Everybody figured it was over. Miami was considered a quarterback away from being a Super Bowl contender. Most people thought that, because of that, they could have him if they wanted him. But Saban (and presumably his G.M. Randy Mueller--how ironic is that) didn't want him. One day after his visit, the team traded for Daunte Culpepper. If the Dolphins take Brees, the Saints would have gone for a cheaper free agent quarterback (Josh McCown?), and drafted Vince Young or Matt Leinart instead of Reggie Bush. Fast forward to October. The Saints are 4-1 and Drew Brees is the unquestioned leader of this team. The Dolphins are 1-4, and Daunte is on the bench after being sack-prone and generally ineffective. I'd like to think that it's karma coming back to catch up with Saban. This is payback for being a coward and leaving LSU on Christmas Day--and not doing it before getting on the airplane bound for Florida. For the record, I still like Saban and appreciate what he did for LSU. But it's nice seeing him being served a helping of humble pie.
So, there we are. There's still a ways to go for this team. It's not a Super Bowl contender yet. But considering where the team was last year at this time (52-3, anyone?), it's very nice. This team is young, smart, and has a future if everything goes well. But if the Saints do make it to the post-season this year (my guess is that is almost a 50-50 proposition right now), just remember who to address your Christmas cards to.
WEEK 5 RECAP: THANKS HOUSTON! Saints 24 Buccaneers 21.
TAGS: NFL, New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton, Charley Casserly, Nick Saban, Mickey Loomis