May 7, 201205:12 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
If You Think the Saints' Off-Season Has Been Rough, Remember the Season of '05
When the NFL finally announced its player suspensions due to the “bounty” scandal last week the good news was that the bad news was over, at least on this particular issue.
As bad as things have been, however, I keep reminding myself that nothing could be worse than the season of '05.
Most of us were in our Katrina exile that season and not much was going well, including the Saints games.
Ideally the team should have provided some relief from our misery, but during that season, instead they added to the worry. The franchise was playing its home games in San Antonio. With the Superdome practically destroyed and the population of New Orleans dispersed, there was concern that the team might not ever come back. The phrase “San Antonio Saints” made me quiver…
So did listening to the games. One Sunday, while others shopped I sat in the car outside a Marksville, Louisiana strip mall on a hot September day listening to the Saints game on radio. Not only was the team playing poorly but the broadcast quality of the central Louisiana station that carried the broadcasts sounded as though the signal came through a hose. Jim Henderson and Hokie Gajan seemed to be in a box as their words of despair echoed.
About the only advantage to listening to the game on radio rather than watching it on TV is that I was spared seeing Saints quarterback Aaron Brooke’s maddening grin every time he dropped the ball, which he did often.
I realize now that as painful as the losses were I was really in a lose-lose situation because deep down inside I probably wanted the team to lose. Winning might have made the Saints more attractive to the folks in San Antonio, where the mayor there was already talking about securing the franchise. Subconsciously I might have been hoping for the old boring Saints whose misery would be even more apparent if Aaron Brookes would only stop smiling.
A couple of Saints games were played in Baton Rouge but the experience was more like going to a wake than a celebration. Since Roman times we’ve known that Saints and Tigers should not be housed in the same coliseum.
In the end the Saints won only three games; an opening day victory at Carolina, another on the road against the Jets and a fourth week “home” match-up against the Buffalo Bills. Thankfully the folks in San Antonio only got to witness one victory. Included among the losses was a 50-3 pouncing by the Green Bay Packers and a defeat by the usually anemic Detroit Lions.
Once the season was over the situation began to look even worse. Head coach Jim Haslett was fired but, instead of the Saints finding a replacement with head coaching experience, they came up with a little-known assistant coach from the Dallas Cowboys named Sean Peyton. Mercifully Aaron Brooks was let go, but here again the team seemed to fail, instead of finding a seasoned starter they signed a too-short Quarterback who the San Diego Chargers had released because of a bum shoulder named Drew Brees.
From the perch of the Season of ’05 one could have envisioned seven years into the future and seen New Orleans as a town that had fallen not just in size and esteem but in being a major league city. (Even the Hornets seemed bound elsewhere, to Oklahoma City.)
By season’s end it seemed evident; the Saints would be playing elsewhere having finished their tenure in the city of their birth without ever winning a post-season game.
Who could have imagined that, only four seasons later, when the Lombardi trophy was lifted, it would not be Aaron Brookes, but the world, that would be smiling?