Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rick Cleveland: Is it over for the Saints?

Just when everyone was about to write the obituary for the 2016 New Orleans Saints, the San Diego Chargers happened.

Playing at home, leading by two touchdowns with six minutes to go and possessing the football, the Chargers fumbled the ball and victory away. The Saints, to their credit, took advantage of back-to-back Chargers fumbles for an unlikely 35-34 victory.

Had the Saints lost, they would have entered this bye week as one of only two winless teams in the NFL. As it is, the hapless Cleveland Browns, still paying the price of Johnny Manziel, own the dubious distinction of being the lone 0-4 team.

Two ways to look at these Saints:

• One, Sunday's most unlikely of victories, just prolonged the inevitable. The Saints are a fading shadow of the ball club that won the Super Bowl seven seasons ago. New Orleans ranks No. 32 of 32 teams in points allowed and No. 31 of 32 teams in giving up yards. Offensively, they don't protect Drew Brees well enough, they drop too many of Brees' passes and don't run the ball particularly well. They are a team on life support.

• Two, for all their weaknesses, the Saints are tied for second only two games out of first place in the NFC South. Injuries, particularly in the secondary, have decimated the ball club, but the Saints should get some of those guys back. Keep in mind, the Saints lost by one point to the 3-1 Oakland Raiders and by three points to the New York Giants. The Saints could have beaten the division-leading Falcons, if it were not for a fourth quarter pick-six. Thanks to the victory over the Chargers, there's hope.

•••

Because of their proximity and their history, the Saints remain the NFL team of most Mississippians. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys, especially now with rookie Dak Prescott, and the Giants, with Eli Manning, have much support in the Magnolia State. But the Saints remain Mississippi's most favored NFL team.

Mississippians suffered through those early years when the Saints played football as if they were starring in a Saturday Night Live skit. You know: When they played in old Tulane Stadium. When they had an astronaut for a general manager. When Billy Kilmer was booed like Christians in the old Roman Colosseum and was sacrificed like one, too. When the halftime shows were more entertaining than the games. When they did not have a winning season for their first 20 years of existence.

We were sacked along with Archie Manning. We ached with Deuce McAllister's knees. We endured Hurricanes Camille and Katrina along with the black and gold.

And then we exulted in 2009 when Sean Payton and Drew Brees guided the Saints to the NFL Championship. The Black and Gold were champions at last.

•••

Since that 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 31, 2010, in Miami, the Saints have gone 11-5, 13-3, 7-9, 11-5, 7-9 and 7-9. The trend is not positive. And that brings us to the current 1-3 Saints.

What to make of them?

Drew Brees still plays the game at an extremely high level. Given protection, a semblance of a running game and competent receivers, he's still one of the elite quarterbacks in the sport.

But Brees lacks all that support and the injury-decimated defense, statistically the league's worse, stays on the field far too long.

Complicating matters, Brees makes one of the league's highest salaries, as well he should. The Saints salary cap situation is among the league's worst. Brees' contract, even restructured as it is, does not help in that regard.

It probably should be time to think about starting over, getting what they can for Brees and building for the future. The unlikely victory over San Diego probably delays those discussions, but for how long?

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Regurgitates the already known. Yawn.

Anonymous said...

This nitwit wants to sell/trade the only really good player on the team. Without Brees the past three seasons, we would be winning 2-3 games per year. Without Brees you can forget about a sold out Dome, or any national attention for the team. They would truly be a joke.

Thank God Cleveland is not the Saints general manager.

Kingfish said...

Playing Devil's Advocate. The Colts dumped Peyton and got Luck, the Packers got Rogers and dumped Favre.... you get the idea.

Oddly enough, the WSJ had an essay yesterday asking if Romo was about to get Bledsoed.

Anonymous said...

Saints should have dumped Brees and Payton after last season. Stop delaying the inevitable rebuild. The defense IS a joke.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't 'want' to sell/trade Brees but asking if it is the best long term strategy. NO has to get some defensive players and needs salary cap flexibility.

I love watching Brees and yes he is the most popular player since Archie. But there are other qbs out there that might not be as good as Brees is/was but would be a hell of a lot cheaper. And yes, NO won't be on top the next year but maybe get back into the competition within the next three.

Messick said...

Luck is carrying the Colts. That organization - starting with that whack-job of an owner - is a dumpster fire.

Anonymous said...

Been saying Rick's sentiments for a while. Rick is right. 3 7-9 seasons in the last 4 and heading towards 7-9 or worse. They could pay Drew 10 million a year for the next 10 years and he could break every all time passing record, but it's already been shown that none of that matters if they don't cobble together a defense. They are paying him too much for too long. If he's interested in going out a winner, he needs to restructure again. Saints have drafted horribly also, particularly on defense. The shine has worn off '09, it's time for Sean and Mickey to go.

Anonymous said...

Dump Brees and trade for Dak. He's the best quarterback in the league right now.

Anonymous said...

Almost everyone here is off their rocker to some degree.
1. Saints don't have a Luck or Rogers waiting in the wings.
2. If you "dump" Brees, you still have the hit on the salary cap.
3. Even if you traded Brees, NOBODY will pay him what the Saints are paying him because they probably can't take the salary cap hit. Even if they did, there are ways to structure the deal so that the Saints still absorb a hit on the cap for him.
4. Prescott is four games into his pro career and you pronounce him "the best in the league." Come back in January after you have sobered up.
5. Agree about terrible defense. Injuries are no excuse for four years of crap.
6. Regarding poor draft selection, that is with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. Drafting is like reading tea leaves; if you do it right, you are a prophet. If you are wrong, you need to be fired. Sean and Loomis were geniuses when they drafted Colston, Jahri Evans, Roman Harper, Meachem, Jimmy Graham. Now all of a sudden they are draft idiots?? Give me a break.

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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.


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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.

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