First place in the NFC South. It feels good to be able to finally type that, so good that I’m going to do it again but louder – FIRST PLACE IN THE NFC SOUTH!
It’s been a long road back and I’m soaking up every bit of it.
Today I was reflecting on why we started this website and the peaks and valleys that followed. In 2011/2012 after the soul crushing loss to the 49ers in the playoffs the spring rolled around and even though the loss still stung I knew that team was the best team built under Sean Payton. They were so good I just figured next season the Saints would just hop back on the bulldozer and start flattening opponents again.
Then it happened, as I was leaving work the news of a Saints bounty program broke. I knew it wasn’t going to be good and it was pretty big news but as the weeks passed by it was literally unbelievable with some of the accusations being hurled at the Saints organization.
Christy Chauvin who owns and runs this website made this comment to me “nobody is questioning the NFL, what if they are lying?” she was right, almost every media outlet (locals included) had put a dagger in the Saints without a shred of evidence. She (we) wanted a voice and out of this mindset WhoDatWarriors was born. (I could write a whole article on this alone)
Even with the black cloud of looming suspensions lurking that included players, coaches and the general manager I thought with that much talent on the roster they still might be able to make their mark on the upcoming season….I couldn’t have been more wrong. That 2012 season would turn into a complete disaster.
The Long Road Home
By the time 2013 rolled around Sean Payton was back in the saddle with a new defensive coordinator (Rob Ryan) and things got off to a bang reeling off five straight wins en route to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. But there was one game that exposed the underlying cracks of this team – a week 13 blowout loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. It wasn’t that they lost, it was how they lost. They were dominated in every aspect of the game and this game had huge playoff seeding implications, it raised a red flag that I didn’t want to see at the time but this was not the same type of team that we had become accustomed to from 2009 to 2011. Yes the overall record was good but the killer instinct was definitely lacking.
And then overnight it seemed Sean Payton had morphed into Jeff Fisher with three straight 7-9 seasons (2014 – 2016) the magic was gone.
It’s hard to point to just one thing on why they became a below average team seemingly over night. It was a multitude of things starting with bad drafting, the 2014 draft class was a disaster with nobody from that class on the roster today, that was three short years ago. The Saints tried to cover their roster holes by digging a deeper hole with bad free agent signings. Just to name a few – C.J Spiller, Brandon Browner, Jairus Byrd, Erik Lorig, Victor Butler…..you get the picture and don’t get me started on bad coaching, Sean Payton at times is loyal to a fault with his staff.
As I sat at training camp this past summer doing my reports during the ramp up to the seasons start I’m optimistic on what could be, but in the back of my mind I know once the season starts and the gloves come off the season can go sideways in a heartbeat. It seemed that would be the case after two uninspired losses to open the season, it was as bad as it has gotten under Payton.
I’m thinking here we go again.
Then like flipping a switch, the light came on and the Saints looked like a completely different ball club winning four straight games. What gives? why such a night and day turnaround? For one it was an off-season move that is hardly talked about, the coaching staff changes. Joe Vitt, Greg McMahon, Bill Johnson, James Willis and Stan Kwan were all shown the door this past January and its paying dividends today. The defense and special teams are much improved from just a year ago.
The Saints also hit on some middle tier free agents in A.J. Klein, Ted Ginn Jr, Alex Okafor, Manti Te’o and Larry Warford. One word that I would use to describe this group of players is solid and finally Loomis didn’t put the Saints in cap hell to achieve it.
But to me the one thing that sticks out in this turnaround is the 2017 draft class. The scouting department knocked it out of the park with this class.
It’s truly remarkable to have four draft picks starting on opening day – Ryan Ramczyk, Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams and Alex Anzalone. Mix in the Dynamic Alvin Kamara and rotational play of Trey Hendrickson and this class has the makings of something special. It could be better than the great 2006 draft class, time will tell.
At this point can anybody tell me who in the NFL is playing better at the cornerback position than Marshon Lattimore? Nobody is. It’s a remarkable feat that only six games into his NFL career that Lattimore is on the verge of being an elite island corner….let that sink in.
So here we are sitting at 4-2 with the Bears coming to town this Sunday, this is a game the Saints should win with no problem, will there be a letdown? I don’t see it. There’s something about this team I can’t put my finger on and that’s okay. This team is believing in the coaches and more importantly, they are believing in themselves. You can feel the fun these players are having and it’s snowballing throughout the organization. (not to mention the fan base)
There’s a sense that they are on the brink of something special and with everything that has happened over the last five years its time to enjoy every last bit of it and with that, as always…WHODAT!