News:: The 2006 New Orleans Saints

Sports content here on the hill has been pretty minimal for the last few months as we focus on taking over the music world. However, I couldn’t let the elimination of my beloved Saints in the NFC Championship pass without mentioning it on the hill. The fact that they were even in the NFC Championship game, for the first time ever, was simply amazing. Perhaps you’ve heard of a little something called Hurricane Katrina? Pretty big Hurricane, almost wiped New Orleans off the map? Well the aftermath of that disaster meant the Saints future in New Orleans was in serious doubt, nevermind the fact that they became football nomads and had a predictably terrible season that led to a cleaning house of the coaching staff and the roster.

So what was expected of the Saints in 2006? Not much. And really, the bigger question was does football even matter in a city that lost half its residents to one of the worst natural disasters in American history? Well I think what we learned over the course of this season is that football, and professional sports in general, do matter. I’m not an idiot, I realize in the grand scheme of things, a surgeon who helps save lives or a teacher who helps children learn to read should are functionally more important than athletes. But the simple fact is, humans need distractions. The grind of modern life is a soul-sucking experience. To get through life, people need an escape, and for many, many people sports provide that. Football provides that for more people in the US than perhaps any other sport. It lets people who might feel like a nobody in their everyday lives identify with a winner. I think this is what the Saints gave to the people in New Orleans and the Gulf South this year. The fact that they had their best season ever in a year when many of their fans desperately needed a reason to cheer on Sundays is absolutely best reason to feel good about the Saints 2006 season. I’m proud to be a New Orleans Saints fan when I think about the passion the fans in the Gulf South area have for their team, and I hope they’re given even more reason to cheer for the Saints in the next few years as the Saints help the city and the region build itself back up.

That being said, I’d like to give a quick rundown of my accumulated thoughts from this season on the organization and its players:

The NFL
The NFL’s handling of Katrina’a aftermath was as smooth and effective as the government’s was half-assed and half-hearted. They made sure the Saints got back into New Orleans and I think they’ve made a real effort to helpp be a part of re-building the city and the region. Now just help make sure the Saints never leave.

Tom Benson
Ole Tom got it right in the end. The Saints owner went from super-villain to hero in the course of a year after making noises about moving the Saints to then committing to keep the team in New Orleans for the foreseeable future and hiring Sean Payton to lead the on-field turn around.

Sean Payton
Coach of the year. Really, just a great job. I know Haslett was coach of the year in his debut season too, and also won a playoff game, but I don’t think it’s the two are comparable. I think Haslett had some luck and plenty of the smoke & mirrors that first year, and could never replicate the success despite plenty of talent. I don’t get that feeling with Payton. I think he’s just a solid coach; he just gives me a confident feeling when I see him on the sidelines. So I’m looking forward to next year, can’t wait to see our offence with a full off-season of Payton in charge.

Drew Brees
I owe Mr Brees an apology. I think I actually groaned when I heard about the contract the Saints gave him. I believed h was an average QB coming off a serious shoulder injury, didn’t really think he could have a season anywhere lose to the one he had. Well that’s why I’m a chump writing about football on a music blog, and Payton is the COTY. Brees is just a great QB, and a great leader. I finally got to see what it was like to have one of those all-pro QB’s run your offence. Brees can make all the throws, and he does all the little things right. He makes quick reads, gets rid of the ball quickly, is elusive in the pocket, and hardly ever makes those game-killing mistakes. Plus, not once did he throw a pass backwards. He was great to watch this year, I hope he’s our QB for years to come.

Deuce McAllister
To borrow a phrase from the Euro football, Dulymus is pure class. And I mean class in every sense of the word. Not only is he an elite running back, but he his a top notch person. Deuce is the Saints all-time leading rusher, but they still brought in all-world phenom Reggie Bush in the off-season. Did this bother Deuce? By all accounts, no. Even though Reggie reduced Deuce’s touches a great deal, the Deuce still welcomed Reggie aboard and cheered for him the whole year. No complaining, no asking for the ball, just pure team-first attitude and still the same effort we’ve counted on since he took over from Crazy Ricky. Dulymus is one big reason why I’m proud to be a Saints fan, and a huge reason they had the season they did.

Reggie Bush
The phenom. Reggie is the possessor of breath-taking talent, and we saw glimpses of that throughout the season. It took him some time to get adjusted, but soon he was proiding us with the highlights we expected from him. Nevermind what stodgy clowns like Peter King say, Reggie’s finger point on crossing the goaline was an exception for him, he’s a good kid and learning from Deuce can only help him in every way. Reggie has shown already that he’s figuring out how to run against NFL defences, so I’m guessing next year his rushing numbers will match his gaudy pass numbers from this year.

Marques Colston
Rather impressive when you can go from being the 4th last player taken in the draft to the best wide reciever in that draft. Colston was a revelation, showing a combination of speed, size, and hands that killed DB’s all year. Kudos to Mickey Loomis for drafting him, and even more kudos to Sean Payton for realizing that Colston was simply the best WR on the team, and deserved to be starting. Another one of Payton’s good qualities, he simply plays the best guys, regardless of who they are.

The O-Line
Like Bress, I owe this group an apology. I figured for sure thes guys would struggle. Not one guy was in their current position last year, but it didn’t matter. This was the most solid group we’ve had in years. Gone were the penalties from the Haslett era, in was solid play on both pass and run plays. Anchored by Jammal Brown after his move to Left guard, and newcomer Jeff Faine at center, they gave Drew plenty of time to throw and opened holes for the running game too. Plus rookie Jahri Evans glasses in the pre-game lineup pics always made me laugh. I expect them to be even better next year.

The Linebackers
Not a bad year from a group that was assembled mainly through trades in the pre-season. Scott Fujita signed in the off-season, and anchored the defence all year. Mark Simoneau was brought in via trade with the Eagles for Donte Stallworth, and Scott Shanle was obtained for a bag of footballs I believe. But these guys played great and were certainly a pleasant surprise. Considering how porous we were last year, they did a great job.

Fred Thomas
Bye Fred. Thanks for all you efforts, but it’s time for a serious corner update when everyone in the stadium know they’re throwing at you. The secondary is the one area where we are in need of a major upgrade in the off-season.

So that’s it, a tremendous year for the Saints and their fans. As I said, hopefully the Saints helped distract the folks who are still struggling and perhaps provided a bit a happiness for a couple hours on Sunday. I know I enjoyed watching this team, and I hope next year we see more of the same.

Go Saints. Go New Orleans.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 at 2:08 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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