New Orleans is looking for answers as the Saints end their home-slate at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
There has been little to consistently cheer for in an anxiety-filled season that has left the Saints faithful questioning the future of the ball club. Flashes of success were always pounded into the sand by waves of futility on the field, and head-scratching decisions on the sidelines. Drew Brees, once again, filled the stat lines with exemplary numbers, but was far too often left standing and watching the final seconds tick away, or desperately chucking the pigskin deep down the field in another loss. The season quickly turned into a circus of suspicion – every loss on Sunday was followed by a week-long parade of questions: Who’s getting benched? Who’s getting fired? Is Sean staying after the season? Do the Saints even want him to stay? And so on, and so on.
And so, as the Saints wrapped up the home slate with a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, instead of a shoulda, woulda, coulda piece I thought it would be best to just look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
It’s amazing to even bring it up at this point, but remember back on week one when everyone was asking if Drew Brees still had “it,” and if he still had the arm to lead the team? Yeah, no one talks about it anymore, but I assure you it happened. Brees, going into the last week of his 10th season with the Saints, has piled up 4,547 yards and 31 touchdowns against 11 picks. His passer rating of 100.7 ranks him as the fourth best passer with over 400 attempts on the year. So, what I’m saying is…good luck to the Saints brass as they head into contract negotiations with Brees looking for a "hometown discount."
My favorite story, like many other Saints fans, of the season has been the emergence of Delvin Breaux. The New Orleans-born defender has gone from a “rookie” with high expectations to a top 10 ranking cornerback in the span of 15 games. Breaux ranks fifth in the league for passes defensed. On Sunday, one of Breaux’s four passes defensed led to a Bobby Richardson interception. A few drives later Breaux would jump in front of Blake Bortles pass for his third pick of the year. It was a Breaux Show, folks.
The Bad…and the Ugly
Saints management. There’s really no other way to put it. The team only walked off the field victorious in 13 of their previous 31 games. That’s tailspin material folks. Especially considering you still have one of the top quarterbacks in the game. Some teams have draft picks that are busts, the Saints have entire draft classes that are busts. On top of that, the Saints have signed free agents Brandon Browner, Jairus Byrd and C.J. Spiller to contracts with guaranteed money totaling 40 million dollars. Jairus Byrd’s annual salary of 9 million dollars has garnered the Saints one interception over the past two injury-filled years. Brandon Browner’s $5 million a year contract has landed the Saints a defensive back that leads the league in penalties. C.J. Spiller has…wait, who is that? I remember a pretty explosive back out of Buffalo with that name, but can’t recall if I have even seen this guy in New Orleans? I mean, there was that one play in the overtime victory of the Dallas game, but…what else.
Byrd’s play has been decent once he could finally get onto the field. Browner has been horrible all around. There’s a reason he was the only player greeted by boos during the announcements for the Jacksonville game. His defenders can talk “new scheme” all they want, but if you’re making $5 million a year, it seems a given that you should be able to play man-to-man defense. With that said, and this is on management, how many teams were jonesing to give Browner that kind of money, anyway? With all of that said, however, the signing of Spiller is mystifying at best, and fire-worthy on a lot of other teams. Spiller has been healthy, and seemingly ready. The coaching staff just hasn’t utilized him. Was he supposed to be a change of pace running back? If so, where was his package of plays in the offense? Or, did the Saints completely misread Mark Ingram’s ability and bring in a high-ticket item to replace Ingram, only to realize Ingram was the better back? Not that these are the only options, but C.J. Spiller’s lack of involvement in the offensive game plan this year is baffling.
It is what it is, I guess. There are always plenty of questions to be answered on a team that has posted two losing seasons in a row. It’s big-time sports, so the reasons are always the same – “cap issues,” “dead money,” “free-agent busts,” and “coaching issues.” These stories play out across many cities every year, every season – unfortunately, it has now taken root in the Crescent City. And, of course, all of this recalls yet another old sport saying –
There’s always next year.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing – Biloxi Brewing Company’s “Black Gold”
Playlist Recommendation – Stone Roses – “Fools Gold”
Around the Way
The Tulane’s Men basketball team still seems to be figuring itself out.
The Green Wave seemed to be on the way to its biggest victory of the season against a very beatable Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-5) team, but ran out of gas at the three-quarter pole in a 69-59 loss. The 10-point loss belies the early performance by the men in Green, as the Green Wave surged to a 54-45 lead half way through the second half after opening the half on a 20-5 run. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs would clamp down on defense and hold the Green Wave to only five points the rest of the way. Sophomore forward Dylan Osetkowski put up 20 points, his career high.
Coming off that loss, the Green Wave made quick work of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (2-8) in a 59-40 victory. Senior guard Malik Morgan dropped in 15 points, and junior guard Cameron Reynolds added 10 points off of the bench.
The Wave is entering an important season-defining set of games this week. They play Memphis on the road today, and will tackle the top 25 UConn Huskies at home this coming Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Devlin Fieldhouse. This is a real game folks, you will want to be there.