Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rick Cleveland reviews the 2015 Saints

The NFL playoffs are well underway and the New Orleans Saints, the team for whom most Mississippians cheer, are watching on TV for the second consecutive season.

Yes, and for the second straight season, the Saints finished with a losing, 7-9 record. What to do? We'll get to that. But first, some history...

For long-time Saints fans, 7-9 doesn't seem so bad. New Orleans had a franchise for a dozen years before the Saints finally won as many as seven games in 1978. Many of you may remember. Archie Manning was the quarterback, running for his life.

But recent seasons have brought much better results and much higher expectations. First Jim Mora — and then Sean Payton — lifted the Saints into the upper strata of the NFL.

For those fans who have jumped on the black and gold bandwagon here in recent years, these last two seasons have been a study in frustration. It seems that everything that can go wrong, has.

Mainly, the Saints haven't stopped much of anybody. Most problems have been on the defensive side of the football. Let's put it this way: Third down has been a most productive down for the opposition. The Saints gave up 29.8 points per game, which ranks 32nd of 32 NFL teams. You can't go lower.

The Saints fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in mid-November and inserted Dennis Allen into the job. Coincidentally or not, the Saints won three of their last four games, winning twice on the road. So, there's hope.

The Saints, at 4-8, in November, could have phoned it in. Payton could have lost them completely. Instead, Payton coached his rear end off and the Saints finished respectably.

The first decision that had to made at season's end concerned Payton, who was said to be on several other teams' wish list. He is staying in New Orleans, which is a good thing. The Saints were not likely to find another coach better than Sean Payton.

The second decision was easier. Quarterback.

Drew Brees, Saint Drew to Saints faithful, led the National Football League in passing. He will turn 37 this week, but he can still spin it as well as anyone and better than almost all. Doesn't seem to matter who his receivers are, either. The Saints traded tight end Jimmy Graham because of salary cap issues, so journeyman Ben Watson suddenly becomes the tight end putting up Pro Bowl numbers. Marques Colston is getting long in the tooth, so Brees starts throwing to Brandon Coleman as if he were Marques Colston. Willie Snead, an undrafted free agent out of Ball State, caught 69 of Brees' throws.

Say what you want about the Saints, but know this: Here in the Gulf South, we have for the past 10 seasons watched the position of quarterback played at its highest level. Brees has been a joy.

Playing with a bruised rotator cuff and a torn plantar fascia in his right foot, Brees completed 68.3 percent of his passes for an NFL-best 4,870 yards, 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions, which tied for his lowest in any season with New Orleans.

Still, the Saints have all kinds of issues, on the field and off. Perhaps the biggest is with the salary cap. The Saints have no money to spend in free agency, which, considering their track record recently, might not be such a bad thing.

Brees goes into his last season under contract, counting a whopping $30 million toward the salary cap. To free up some millions, the Saints and Brees must renegotiate and extend that contract. I think they will.

Brees and Payton have formed a close bond. Both insist they intend to remain Saints. Fully expect Brees' contract to be extended, lessening the immediate salary cap hit. Next: Spend any available money on improving that defense. Find more bargains like cornerback Delvin Breaux. Draft wisely. Draft defense.

It's either that or start over. And when you have a quarterback of Brees' caliber, who wants to start over?

Reach Rick Cleveland at


Anonymous said...

Other star QB's around the league have given up money to allow the team to spend elsewhere to improve. Brees did not last time.

The Saints should have lost those last few games to move up in the draft.

Anonymous said...

The Saints aren't going back to elite until the hard decisions get made. Brees needs to be cut, not extended. There is no need to wait to start the inevitable rebuild. Playing cap games for a player his age only extends the period of time the team will remain a joke. Brandon Coleman? What team was Rick Cleveland watching this year? Cleveland probably thinks C.J. Spiller had a great season too. Take the lumps of the rebuild now.

Anonymous said...

Brees had a top 3 season and you want to cut him? That is silly.

Anonymous said...

Career seasons mean jack squat without any money to retool the defense. Creating more dead cap money over the next 3-5 years of a Brees contract extension isn't silly, it is absolutely stupid.

You and Cleveland will have plenty of time to fondly reminisce over all those great Brees statistical accomplishments during those offseasons out-of-the-playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Brees had a top 3 season ...

Top 3 in what?

Anonymous said...

Led the league in passing. And he missed a game too.

Davey Jones' Locker Room said...

What good is 'leading the league in passing' when you lose games?

The ship that sank the quickest was the one that fired the most rounds off the port side.

Anonymous said...

"Moving up in the draft" is a consolation prize. At mid-season, nobody really covets having first pick in the draft.

Anonymous said...

Top three in 7-9 losers

Anonymous said...

Saints need to clean house.
Too bad they couldn't get any other team to take Payton.

Anonymous said...

The Saints paid Drew Brees too much and are now annoyed with him about it

Anonymous said...

Brees seems more concerned with setting records than winning games.

Anonymous said...


If by other star QB's you mean Brady, it appears he's still getting his money:

Anonymous said...

When your defense is getting gouged to the tune of 30+ points almost every game it is easy for even average quarterbacks to have good statistical years.

Anonymous said...

Alabama fans can thank the Saints for their recent titles and Nick Saban. If the Dolphins had been able to sign Drew Brees instead of the Saints, Saban may have never left the NFL.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS