Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Saints-Vikings Matchup Most Likely to Open Up 2010 Season

For those of you that don't know, the SuperBowl Champion always opens up the regular season the following year at home on a Thursday night. Based on the possible opponents the Saints could face to open the 2010 season, rumor has it the Steelers and Vikings are the most likely season opening opponents for the Saints. On the Saints Nation poll, fans voted 63% in favor of the Vikings in a rematch of the 2009 season NFC Championship over the Pittsburgh Steelers. We'll find out soon enough! Thanks for your participation and please vote in the new Saints Nation poll on the right side of the site: Which free agent are you most willing to part ways with this offseason?

Saints Nation's Top 15 Plays of the 2009 Season: #8 Reggie Bush's Touchdown Leap @ Dolphins

This play is just amazing. I mean, can anyone in the league do a better job of finding a way to cross the goal line? This is good enough for the 8th best play of the season.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saints Nation's Top 15 Plays of the 2009 Season: #9 Jonathan Vilma's Game Winning Stop @ Falcons

Vilma deserves props for winning this game not once, but twice. First he intercepted Chris Redman late in the 4th quarter with the Saints up 3. Then, after a boneheaded decision to fake a field goal which was unsuccessful, Vilma stood up Chris Snelling on a 4th and 2 short of the first down to seal the game for good. This is my #9 play of the season. You can view his plays towards the end of the game highlights above at the 4:03 mark.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Saints Nation: More New Orleans Saints Players Tendered

Several more of the restricted free agent Saints players have been offered contracts. The tenders are as follows per

Jammal Brown: 1st and 3rd round tender compensation
Roman Harper: 1st round tender compensation
Pierre Thomas: 2nd Round tender compensation
Lance Moore: 2nd Round tender compensation
Anthony Hargrove: 3rd Round tender compensation

Per "They also offered undisclosed deals to defensive tackle Remi Ayodele, linebacker Marvin Mitchell, safety Chris Reis, tight end David Thomas and receiver Courtney Roby."

This leaves the following restricted free agents not yet tendered: Mike Bell, Jahri Evans (pictured), Leigh Torrence, Jeff Charleston and Kyle Eckel.

In all cases I think the Saints are pretty safe in that they can match any offer made to any player they've already tendered. I'd say that the player most at risk is Pierre Thomas, who could easily be worth a 2nd rounder in the eyes of some teams. As mentioned previously, though, the Saints could match any offer sheet he signs. The fact that the Saints have yet to tender Mike Bell is somewhat surprising. They have until March 4th to formalize all of their offers, so there's a chance he could still be made an offer by them. Some speculation has been made that the Saints are letting him go to open up the roster space for Drew Brees' former teammate and long time friend LaDainian Tomlison. I'd say that at this point that's a little premature.

As for Jahri Evans, rumor has it the Saints are working on a long term extension. Evans is arguably the best offensive guard in the NFL, and there's is absolutely zero chance of the Saints letting him go anywhere. I think it's safe to assume that, at the very least, he'll be offered a 1st & 3rd round compensation level tender like Jammal Brown, if the two sides can't agree on a long term deal first.

Saints Nation's Top 15 Plays of the 2009 Season: #10 - Lance Moore's 2 Point Conversion in the SuperBowl

This gets my #10 play of the season. I think we all remember this one very well. Seriously, how did he make that play?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Saints Nation: Jermon Bushrod offered 2nd round tender

Jermon Bushrod (pictured) has been offered a contract to return to the team at a 2nd round tender. Like Strief and Usama Young, the Saints can now match any offer that's made by another NFL team, and they will receive a 2nd round draft pick as compensation should they choose to let him go. Sounds like Bushrod will be back in 2009. It remains to be seen what they will do with injured starter Jammal Brown now that Strief and Bushrod are likely to both come back. (Story HERE)

Saints Nation's Top 15 Plays of the 2009 Season: #11 - Mike McKenzie Returning to Intercept Tom Brady vs. Patriots

My #11 play of the Saints' 2009 season can be seen on the video link above. The play in question happens at around the 53 second mark. This play had more special significance than most, as Mike McKenzie was a old time Saints that was brought back the week of this game. McKenzie was a long time Saint, and his return to the team had a special meaning for many of the fans. He didn't disappoint, either. McKenzie had a fantastic game throughout, and he intercepted one of the best all time quarterbacks in NFL history in Tom Brady.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Saints Nation: Zach Strief and Usama Young offered contract

Converted Free Safety Usama Young (pictured) and backup tackle Zach Strief were both tendered by the Saints today, a move which likely signals the return of both players to the Saints in 2010 (story HERE). While neither move comes as a surprise, Strief and Young both qualify as very valuable role players and backups that helped build the current team's foundation. The move is a good one as it's a step towards securing both players. Strief played a significant amount of time this year as an extra blocker off the edge, and Young provided both depth in pass coverage and standout play on special teams. Young also filled in this year for Darren Sharper at free safety on occasion and was impressive, recording an interception.

With the tenders they've offered each player, the Saints can now match any offer made by another team that tries to pluck either player from the Saints' roster. If the Saints decided not to match in that case, they'd get a 2nd round draft choice in return for Strief and a 3rd rounder in return for Young. It's hard to imagine teams will be willing to make that kind of trade, so my bet is both will sign their qualifying offers.

Saints Nation's Top 15 Plays of the 2009 Season: #12 - Reggie Bush's Punt Return for a Touchdown vs. Cardinals

The #12 top play of this season was this punt return that Reggie Bush took to the house. Incredible speed on the play, and the best part was Arizona's punter completely giving up on the play.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Saints Nation's Top 15 Plays of the 2009 Season: #13 - Courtney Roby's Kickoff Return for a Touchdown @ Rams

The Saints struggled mightily in this game against a bad team they should have beaten handily, but Courtney Roby broke a 14-14 tie to start the second half thanks to this dazzling kickoff return. Look at that speed! This is good enough for the #13 Saints play of the year!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Saints Nation's Top 15 Plays of the 2009 Season: #14 - Bobby McCray's Hit on Kurt Warner

My pick for #14 is the monstrous hit that Bobby McCray put on Cardinals' quarterback Kurt Warner following a Will Smith interception. That hit likely encouraged Warner's decision to retire after this playoff game.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saints Nation's Top 15 Plays of the 2009 Season: #15 - Drew Brees' 75 yd Touchdown Pass to Devery Henderson vs. Patriots

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting one by one my top 15 plays of the Saints' 2009 season. My pick for #15 is Drew Brees' 75 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Devery Henderson against the Patriots. You can watch the touchdown at about the 1:01 mark on the video clip above. The big play was a microcosm of the game, which saw the Saints embarrass the mighty New England Patriots on the national stage 38-17.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Saints Nation: Pierre Thomas, Darren Sharper and Roman Harper on "Jimmy Kimmel Live"

Below is a skit that the three SuperBowl Champion Saints players participated in on "Jimmy Kimmel Live". Kind of stupid if you ask me, but blame the writers, no our guys!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Saints Nation: Tracy Porter on ESPN Chat

Check out a Q&A that SuperBowl hero Tracy Porter had with fans today on by clicking HERE. He seems to think that Darren Sharper will "definitely" be back. I didn't realize he ran a 4.29 40 yard dash! Wow. That's scary fast. The amount of attention he's been getting with his incredible playoff performance is staggering. What a great addition he's been to the team.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Saints Nation: Saints to Franchise Tag Darren Sharper?

My prediction is looking pretty good all of a sudden. 


NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reports that the Saints are expected to place the franchise tag on impending free agent FS Darren Sharper.Sharper, the NFL’s active interceptions leader by a wide margin, is a logical candidate for the tag because he’s 34 and not worth investing in long term. Still, the Saints may approach Sharper about a two- or three-year deal before the July 15 deadline for franchise players to sign multi-year contracts. Ideally, they won’t have to pay him $6.5 million for just one season.

This is great news because the Saints really need to bring Darren Sharper back for 2010 at all cost.

Happy Mardi Gras from Saints Nation!

What a better way to celebrate Mardi Gras than with a Lombardi Trophy!? I hope everyone has a safe and fun Mardi Gras. Make sure you load up on some king cake today. Thanks for your support of Saints Nation and check back soon for offseason news.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saints Nation: Darren Sharper's Tweet Is Reason For Optimism

Darren Sharper spent a little time on his twitter account today, and if you're one for reading between the lines, then it's reason for optimism. The soon to be unrestricted free agent posted: "I would like to thank the entire WHO DAT nation for helping us realize all our of dreams," followed by, "Now let's party and think about repeat. And yea I said it, repeat!".

Call me crazy, but Sharper can't think about a repeat unless he re-signs with the team first. Call it a hunch, but I think it's a pretty clear statement that he intends on sticking around in New Orleans. Sharper's contract is officially set to expire in a couple of weeks, and I wouldn't be surprised if a handshake agreement is already in place. My prediction is that Sharper will sign an extension with the Saints on the first day of free agency. 

And in case you missed it, you can listen to my one on one phone interview with Saints' fullback Heath Evans by clicking HERE.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Saints Nation: One on One Phone Interview with Saints' Fullback Heath Evans

We've got a special treat for the Saints Nation fans today. Saints' fullback Heath Evans (#44 pictured) was nice enough to sit down with Saints Nation and field a variety of questions. Heath discussed the current status of his knee injury, replacing Mike Karney, winning the SuperBowl, the importance of his position in the NFL, the New Orleans SuperBowl parade, Saints fans, his foundation and more! You can check out my interview with him by clicking HERE (20 minute interview, I'm surprised he didn't hang up on me!). It turns out he's a super nice guy and very nice person, the Saints are lucky to have such quality individuals like him on the team. Hope you enjoy! Below is a transcript of the conversation in case you're at work and you prefer to read it.

Thanks again to Heath Evans for taking the time and please visit his website HERE for more information about the Heath Evans Foundation.

(on his injury):

Heath Evans: “The injury was miserable to say the least. Rehab is going well. It came at one of those times where I was really having the best year of my career and probably having more fun than ever with this particular team, and obviously we finished the way we wanted to finish and the way every team dreams to finish, but the whole year after my injury was kind of bittersweet. The competitor in you wants to be out there but I couldn’t be happier for our city, our fans, our team and our ownership. The rehab is going well, I’m on track and looking forward to getting back on the field next year.”

(on the timetable of his injury) 

Mini camp will be the first time where we’re out there kind of full speed, working out the kinks, and after OTA’s and Mini Camps I’ll have a six to seven week period to work on all the issues I need to overcome.

(on replacing Mike Karney)

It’s funny, ignorance is bliss as they say. When I got there I knew Mike was a great fullback and I respected the way he played the game, he was a hard hitting guy that did a lot of things at a high level. So, honestly, when the Saints called in the offseason I was surprised to get the call. I knew what Mike had accomplished and fullbacks follow each other, so to speak, but when I had sat down with Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton to get a feel for what they were looking for and how they were looking to add a few different dimensions to their offense it kind of made sense, the move. Coming into training camp I still had no idea how much Mike was loved but I figured it out real quick. I kind of took my lumps from the fans during training camp, then when the lights came on week one my play and my effort and a lot of the intangibles that I bring to the table kind of spoke for themselves. You know it doesn’t hurt scoring three touchdowns in six weeks that I was healthy, so my thing is I want to be a huge part of the city. Beth Ann and I are working on our foundation as we speak and really just trying to become engrained with the New Orleans culture and the people, and really dive in. We’re selling our home in Florida, we really love (New Orleans), we don’t want to go anywhere, and we want to finish our career there. Hopefully it’s another five or six years.

(on the fullback position being overlooked)

Yeah, it’s kind of become one of those positions that a lot of teams try to do without. A lot of times teams are able to pull that off. At the same time, I think you always lose something. A lot of teams have gotten to the point where they don’t want to sacrifice a roster spot for a guy that can just run block. That was one of the things that they mentioned to me right in free agency, it’s a different dimension catching the ball out of the backfield, playing a one back set if need be – you know I didn’t get a chance to do that quite this year, I was still more or less kind of learning the whole offense even in the fullback role and some of the one back stuff that I was doing and even the special teams area of my game that I’ve played for the last nine years. Teams just want an athletic fullback and that’s why you only see maybe 10-12 teams that actually have a fullback on their roster. Believe me I’m not tooting my own horn, but you just don’t find a lot of guys that are willing and able to slam their head against linebackers every down that can catch balls in the flat and guys that are athletic enough to be a substantial help on special teams. It’s kind of one of those positions that teams do without, and almost in defense of those teams rightfully so, if you can get by without them you can carry another wide receiver or another offensive lineman or something.

(on how David Thomas fared replacing him as the Saints’ lead blocker)

I was a guy that kind of stood on the table for David Thomas. Obviously I played with him in New England, and when we had our tight end injury issues early and throughout training camp we really weren’t able to get guys healthy. Then, losing Billy Miller in the last preseason game… (the Saints) came to me and said “hey how about these guys in New England, they seem to have a plethora of tight ends up there” and David was a guy I kind of stood up on the table for. He’s really just one of those good football players. He can do anything you ask him to do: he’ll play special teams, he’ll catch, he’ll run, he’ll block, and he’s smart as anything so I knew he could pick up the offense in a week where he’d be ready to go week 1 versus the Lions. Obviously he’s not a fullback, but I think he did a great job managing all year everything he had to manage and I think our team wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good and we would have been in big trouble without him.

(on the SuperBowl win)

You know the funny thing is everyone knows I spent four years in New England, so they always assume that I’ve got multiple trophies. Well, I got to New England in ’05, so the only thing I’ve got on my SuperBowl record before last Sunday was the 18-1 debacle that we had versus the Giants back in ’07. So, this win on Sunday was sweet. The only way it would have been sweeter was if I was playing in it. To kind of help get that bitter taste out of your mouth from that 18-1 loss was huge. I’m looking to come back next year stronger than ever and put towards being part of a SuperBowl run for the whole year, not just seven weeks.

(on if losing out on 16-0 this year was worth sacrificing for a SuperBowl)

Yeah, for sure. And I’m not a believer in losing games on purpose. If we would’ve been healthy, if Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer would have been able to play the whole season I think we would have finished undefeated. We had an injury bug kind of come up and bite us late in the year and we hit a lull, but we got everyone back at the right time and we were able to re-peak. We hit our peak that Patriots week about week ten and were really able to soar there and then we kind of went into a lull there where we had to find our edge again and find our niche of offense, defense and special teams that we were going to roll with for the playoffs, it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

(on if the team felt like they were in a position late in the season where they coasted)

I think that last week for sure, week 17. But before that we just got beat a couple of times. No one wanted to lose to Tampa Bay, no one wanted to lose to a team that had struggled like they had struggled this past season. We just got beat. One of my, call it “coaching points”, that I kind of stood up for late in the year was “guys, we kind of lost our edge. We started the year trying to prove we belonged, trying to prove to the world that we were one of the best teams in this league and that we weren’t just a bunch of front runners and we weren’t just a high scoring offense. That we had a good defense, that we had good special teams, that we had the key ingredients to make  a SuperBowl champion. And after we smoke the Patriots the way we did in front of the world on a Monday Night Football stage, we kind of lost that ‘let’s prove the world wrong’ edge that we kind of carried with us, that chip on our shoulder that made us a nasty, mean and aggressive football team. We lost it.” And I don’t think the coaches lost it, I think the players lost it. The gameplans were there to beat Tampa Bay and to beat Dallas and we just didn’t have that nastiness that we carried with us into the playoffs.

(on the SuperBowl New Orleans Parade)

The parade was like nothing I have ever seen before, you talk about craziness. It was six hours straight of pure yelling and screaming. We got there about 3:30 and the parade started at 5 but we had people hovering around the floats an hour and a half before the thing even started. And once we got moving it was just sheer madness. And you really see the love that the people of Louisiana and the Saints fans have for their football team.

(On if the bond with the Saints and their fans really is different that anywhere else)

No question about it. Anyone that has known me long enough whether in the media or a friend knows that I’m not going to lip serve anybody, I’m going to tell it like it is. This bond between these people and their dome and their football team is really better than college football. Playing in the SEC, when I came to the NFL I never thought I would see this kind of love and passion for a football team. It is special, I’m telling you, the people love their football team in New England, but nothing like this. You don’t have the Red Sox and the Celtics and everyone else kind of distracting from one cause. Here that one cause is the New Orleans Saints, period, the end.

(on the Heath Evans Foundation)

It’s real simple: we’re a one stop shop for children who have been sexually abused. People always tell me, what do you mean you’re a one stop shop for children who have been sexually abused? Well, my wife was abused as a little girl and marrying her and coming into a relationship with her you see first hand really the pain and the consequences and the agony that followed her into adulthood. Knowing that she’s not the only one that’s been affected by this tragic style of abuse, once we got her the healing she so needed and deserved, we took off and said “man, we’ve got to use this NFL platform and this badge I get to wear on my jersey every week to really raise awareness about this and do something about it.” Obviously, we’re very financially blessed and we have an opportunity to bless others with those finances. So we started the Heath Evans Foundation and really the main goal is to help children and kids get into counseling after they’ve been abused so they can start to heal the emotional wounds that come with. The physical wounds will heal in time but the emotional wounds have to be dealt with otherwise they just fester and create huge issues later on in life.

(on the softball game he’s planning to benefit his foundation)

Yeah there sure is! Down in South Florida, down in my hometown of Palm Beach County. We kind of do unique things to bring awareness to the issue like you said. There’s a lot of other great cause and foundations to support. I think about breast cancer that affects so many great women across our great nation, but it’s nowhere near the effects of sexual abuse. We do softball events and football tournaments and all these different things. All of my NFL buddies come into town to draw the crowds so we can basically fill people in on the fact that one out of four girls in our country before the age of eighteen will be sexually abused and one out of six young boys before the age of eighteen. The softball tournament: We’ll pack out the Marlins spring training home down there in Jupiter, Florida. About 8,000 people standing room only with Pierre Thomas, Randy Moss, Reggie Bush, Adalius Thomas, Rodney Harrison, oh gosh the list goes on and on, I’m trying to remember, I know I’m leaving people out. Will Smith, a bunch of my Saints buddies, a few Pats players and a bunch of guys from all around the league will be there. We’ll play a charity game of softball versus our Palm Beach County SWAT Police Unit so it’s a great time. This is the second year we’ve done it and it’s a cool deal. There’s a link at or you can go to Just search Roger Dean stadium. There’s lower seats left for $20, and upper level for $10.

(on offseason plans and Saints chances next year)

Offseason plans for me right now are all really just rehab and making that transition out of the training room and back into the weight room and then back onto the football field. I will basically be in season workout type deals until OTAs. It’s become that. And with our free agency stuff coming up, you never know, we need to keep our team together. I think we’ll do that and I think our chances are good, we just have to stay healthy and finish strong next year like we did this year.  

Saints Nation: The New Orleans Saints Offseason Looms

Lots to think about as we prepare for another long and sometimes boring offseason.

1. Unrestricted Free Agents in order of importance: Darren Sharper, Scott Fujita, Kendrick Clancy, Mark Brunell, Billy Miller, Pierson Prioleau, Darnell Dinkins, Dan Campbell, and Nick Leckey. These guys are all free agents and free to test the market and sign with any team they want.

2. Restricted Free Agents in order of importance: Jahri Evans, Pierre Thomas, Jammal Brown, Roman Harper, Lance Moore, Anthony Hargrove, Mike Bell, Jermon Bushrod, David Thomas, Remi Ayodele, Courtney Roby, Zach Strief, Usama Young, Jeff Charleston, Chris Reis, Marvin Mitchell, Leigh Torrence, Kyle Eckel, Anthony Waters, Rodney Leisle and Tory Humphrey. If the Saints want any of these players back, they can have them, so this list is of less concern. I'd expect (hopefully) Evans and Thomas at the very least to both get long term deals. Keep in mind the Saints will have first rights to any of their restricted free agents, and should another team sign them away they'd have to give the Saints a draft pick as compensation.

3. The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 22nd through April 24th. For the first time this year the draft will start on Thursday at 7:30pm Eastern. The first round will be completed then, followed by the second and third rounds being done on Friday at 6:30pm. The rest of the draft will be completed Saturday. More info on the schedule can be found here. The Saints will pick 32nd in the 1st round.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades vs. Colts

Below are the last players grades I'll do this season. Thanks for all the great feedback and comments you've given me, it's been a lot of fun doing this. I look forward to doing it again next year, though the time away from studying game film will be nice. The letter grade represents the players performance in the game, whereas the GPA in parentheses represents the player's cumulative effort for the season. You'll also notice that because I'm taking Tracy Porter as the player of the game defensively as a given, the poll will be for your special teams player of the game. Lots of great options to choose from there. Sidenote, was anyone else shocked that no roughing the passer calls were made all game? I'm not saying that any hits deserved that designation at all, but I am saying that with pressure being a major part of the gameplan for both teams and all the rules that favor the quarterback's health: I am shocked we never saw a roughing call.

Saints vs Colts coverage
Saints vs Colts recap
Saints vs Colts boxscore

Will Smith: C (2.75) Very quiet day for Smith. As always, the effort was very evidently there. It's no secret he's by far the Saints' biggest pass rushing threat, especially when they only send four. Everyone knows by now: you neutralize Smith and you have time to throw the ball. That's exactly what happened, which is why Gregg Williams dialed up the blitz incessantly. Will Smith ended with 1 tackle, and his best pressure was on the very last Colts offensive play of the game where he hurried Peyton Manning into throwing the ball incomplete on 4th and goal. The Saints are going to have to get Smith some kind of help in the offseason because the Saints can't just count on one player on their front four to consistently get to the quarterback. Sidenote, on Tracy Porter's interception runback for a touchdown, the Saints were very fortunate that Smith didn't get flagged for a block in the back on Manning. Peyton's back was turned to the play as Porter cut inside of him, and Smith felt free to give him a shove and knock him to the ground. The referee missed that call.

Bobby McCray: B- (2.07) Maybe the answer to Smith getting help is a healthy Bobby McCray? He's still a far cry from the performances he had a year ago, but the two weeks off seemed to help his aching back. McCray finished with 2 tackles and was able to get to Manning and force hurries a few times. He also put a nice hit on the Colts' QB at one point. For what it's worth, I do feel like McCray has made some strides against the run because in the pass he's been a bit of a one trick pony. The less of a liability he is against the run, the more the Saints will trust him on running downs. Give McCray credit for also causing the Colts' right tackle to jump early.

Anthony Hargrove: B (2.43) Hargrove was actually very solid against the run, and put good pressure up the middle. He finished with 3 tackles. I was surprised to see the Saints even use random blitz packages where they'd drop Hargrove into zone coverage over the middle, and he handled himself well in that capacity as well. I think the Saints adopted that option because Manning was dumping the ball off over the middle to Joe Addai so much. I don't remember having seen that defensive wrinkle this season, so I think it's fair to say Gregg Williams gave Manning looks he wasn't expecting. The only reason Hargrove's grade isn't higher is the completely idiotic personal foul penalty he got near the end of the game for spearing Addai. Totally unecessary.

Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.72) The Saints are completely and utterly reliant on Ellis to stop the run. If he didn't get push inside and pressure at the point of attack, Addai usually ripped significant runs. If he did, Addai was usually stopped dead in his tracks. He finished with 3 tackles, including one for a loss. While Addai did hurt the Saints for a massive 5.9 yards per carry average, give Ellis credit for his good play in short yardage situations. I will say, though, that I've seen Ellis tackle much better than he did in this game.

Scott Fujita: B- (2.74) Fujita was sent blitzing a lot, and the Colts were ready for it. As much as we praise
Drew Brees for how quickly he gets the ball out of there, Peyton Manning was getting the ball out of his hands quicker. Fujita was able to get to Manning and hit him just once. He finished with 4 tackles, but allowed a few to slip past him. He was decent in this game, but nothing special.

Scott Shanle: B (2.69) Shanle was the player most responsible for covering Dallas Clark, and he was victimized often. More often than not, his coverage was actually exceptionally good. Clark would often have Shanle draped all over him, only for Manning to fit his passes into the tightest of windows and Clark to make very sure catches in traffic. Very tough assignment for Shanle, who wasn't able to help as much in run support because of his duty in coverage. I can't really blame Shanle for getting beat as often as he did, because I'm not sure Ray Lewis would've fared much better. When a quarterback is that accurate and a tight end is that good, there only so much you can do. Shanle did have 6 tackles and made a lot of beautiful open field stops. He was sure in his tackles and coverage, so I thought he was pretty solid overall. I can't give him too good of a grade because of the amount of times he was beat, but let's not forget he also had two defended passes with textbook coverage and a big hit on Manning on a blitz.

Jonathan Vilma: B (2.93) I think that perhaps Vilma would've handled the Dallas Clark assignment slightly better than Shanle did, but it's clear Gregg Williams trusted that task to Shanle because he wanted Vilma free to roam the middle of the field to make open field plays with Darren Sharper playing so deep. Vilma finished with 7 tackles, 2 of them for a loss, and a defended pass. When he shot upfield and into the backfield he was able to make a couple of sick plays. He did a nice job, especially late, in pass coverage as well. My only complaint is that he whiffed badly on a few running plays, especially early. Addai made him look pretty silly on a few running plays where Vilma assumed a play action and was late to respond once he realized the play was actually a run. Part of the Colts' success running the ball was Vilma's bad angles and poor tackling at times. Still, the good outweighed the bad.

Jabari Greer: B- (3.28) Greer was covering Pierre Garcon for a large majority of the evening, and he did fine. Greer finished with 4 tackles and no defended passes. He got banged up at one point, came out, and Garcon immediately caught a 19 yard touchdown pass, if that gives you any idea how valuable Greer's coverage is to the Saints. Give him credit for a couple of terrific open field tackles, too. That said, Greer's coverage wasn't the usual blanket shut down style we've all grown accustomed to. Many times his coverage on Garcon was entirely too soft, though he never allowed the speedster behind him. On the big third down drop by Pierre Garcon, Greer was beaten badly. Not only would that catch have been a big conversion to keep an important drive alive for the Colts, but Garcon could have gained significant yardage after that catch. That drop was a huge play in the game. I'm not saying the Saints lose if Garcon makes that catch, but it wasn't good coverage at all by Greer and the complexion of the game would have changed.
Tracy Porter: A (3.15) I just can't say enough about the game Tracy Porter played. Forget the game winning 74 yard interception return for a touchdown that might just be the biggest play in Saints' history, the guy was on his game all night. Is it possible Porter ended this season as the Saints' best cover corner over Greer? It's possible. Either way, the Saints have a dynamite tandem and if these two stay healthy then our pass defense will be very good for a long time. Porter ended the game with 4 tackles, and the only minus was I saw him miss a couple of tackles that he's capable of making. I know Reggie Wayne was battling a sore knee, but to hold him to 5 catches for 46 yards in the biggest game of the season is a monster performance. Tracy Porter might get my award for the Saints' player of the playoffs ahead of Drew Brees and Pierre Thomas. Can you guys remember the last time we had a young cornerback that was this good? I can't.

Randall Gay: B- (2.64) Like Shanle, Gay was victimized a couple of times despite textbook coverage. That's what happens when you play Peyton Manning, I suppose. Any other quarterback for any other team and those passes probably fell incomplete or got intercepted. The Saints missed him when he left the game with an injury, because Usama Young struggled in the slot before giving way to Malcolm Jenkins. Gay finished with 2 tackles.

Malcolm Jenkins: A- (2.46) What a game by the rookie cornerback. Wow! I was so pumped to see Jenkins come up and finally put together a very composed and legitimate performance. If not for Tracy Porter, Jenkins would have a case for the defensive player of the game. Maybe he's turning a corner, no pun intended, but I felt pretty reassured that Jenkins is very capable in the slot. He finished with 5 tackles, including one for a loss. Keep in mind these tackles came mostly in the second half once Randall Gay left with an injury which increased Jenkins' workload. He was all over the field. He made big hits, sure tackles in the open field, and was mostly great in coverage. Jenkins did get beat deep once by Austin Collie for a 40 yard pass on the Colts' final drive. That's been a bad habit of his to allow receivers behind him, and his biggest liability continues to be his speed. He just doesn't have the catch up speed to make up for his mistakes, so they are magnified when he makes them. The thing about Porter and Greer is that they make less mistakes, but they're also so fast that they can get away with more than Jenkins. Anyway, Jenkins played a whale of a game, and he almost got himself a pick by masterfully jumping an out route but Manning's pass was just outside of his reach. He also put a monstrous hit on Dallas Clark late that let the tight end know "if you keep hurting us, I'm going to start hurting you". Love it.

Roman Harper: B+ (2.74) Harper was the secondary cover guy on Dallas Clark, when Shanle was sent blitzing or left to help in run support. Like Shanle, he had a couple of times where terrific coverage led to nice breakups and a couple of times where nice coverage could do nothing to stop a completion. Harper was around the box and making tackles all day. His coverage was overall much better than usual. He finished with a team high 8 tackles, and minus a few slipped tackles I thought he had a very solid performance. I will say that his help over the top on the touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, though, was terrible.
Darren Sharper: C+ (2.86) Did any of you see how far back Sharper was playing all game? It was like Gregg Williams was saying:  "you can do your underneath stuff all you want all game long, I'm not going to let you beat us deep over the top". That strategy worked for the most part, because besides the 40 yard Collie reception late (where Sharper provided poor help over the top to Jenkins) the Colts didn't have any success throwing deep. In fact, they hardly ever tried to. Overall Sharper did a good job of taking that option away from Manning, but he finished with just 3 tackles and didn't do a great job in run support when he'd come up to back a play. It was a quiet day for Sharper overall, but the gameplan was partly to blame for that.

Pierson Prioleau: B- (2.50) Prioleau was solid in coverage the few times he was asked to come in and play defense. He was also solid on special teams. Small sample size, but I thought I'd recognize that I liked what I saw. He finished with 1 tackle.

Usama Young: C- (2.80) Young was good on special teams, too, but when he came in to replace Jabari Greer on defense, Peyton Manning immediately went after him. His coverage on the 19 yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon was not good and he was burned badly. He finished with 1 tackle and wasn't really allowed to see the field again on defense after that play.

Jeff Charleston: C+ (2.33) Like Smith I saw a lot of effort and he put decent pressure on Manning, finishing with 1 tackle. Too many times, though, it just seemed like anytime Charleston was on the field I saw him running after the play as oppose to making it.

Thomas Morstead: A- (3.12) I was surprised to see that his kickoffs were a lot shorter than usual, as he never got one to go for a touchback. That's the only negative, because the kickoff coverage units were on it. Chad Simpson averaged just 22.2 yards per kick return and was tackled at least behind the 30 on almost every return but one that I could remember. He also averaged a healthy 44 yards per punt, again getting one inside the 20, and the other punt was returned for no gain. So that means his net average was also 44 yards. What else can you say about the guy? Hands down the Saints' rookie of the year. Give him credit, too, for hitting that onside kick to start the second half perfectly.

Courtney Roby: A (2.91) Roby is clearly the Saints' best gunner, and he's turning himself into arguably one of the best gunner's in the league. That no gain punt return I spoke of was T.J. Rushing getting obliterated by Roby right after he caught the punt. Hey T.J., you should've fair caught that one buddy. Roby was also the man that downed the punt inside the 20. His 4 kickoff returns also went for a solid 25.5 average, including one for 34 yards. Give Roby props for coming back from an apparent leg injury just two weeks prior in the Vikings game. The guy is a stud.

Garrett Hartley: A+ (3.17) Hartley was perfect on 3 field goals and 2 extra points. Every kick he hit went right down the middle. He was the first kicker in SuperBowl history to connect on three kicks from 40+ yards. None of those kicks were easy chip shots, and there was absolutely no doubt when they left his foot that they would be good. He's got a case for SuperBowl MVP, in my opinion, just like Brees and Porter. In summary, he carried out his job to perfection. He deserves an A+, because literally, he couldn't physically have performed his duty any better than he did. It's funny because I heard an ESPN analyst say in the pregame that the kicking game was a major advantage to the Colts because of Matt Stover's experience, but look who missed the big time kick and look who was solid all game long.
Chris Reis: B+ (2.50) He didn't do much in this game, but he recovered the onside kick and his GPA was hurting prior to this game, so I decided to give him a little boost. Upon review, the ball was trapped between his hamstring and his hand. I'm not sure how he came out of the pile with the football. Give him credit for great strength. That recovery was one of the biggest plays of the game.

My Saints' Defensive Player of the Game: Tracy Porter
My Saints' Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Saints Nation: Offensive Player Grades vs. Colts

For the last time this season, these are the offensive player grades against the Colts in the SuperBowl. Keep in mind that while you might find that some of these grades are harsh, the offensive line struggled mightily in short yardage situations and the Saints only averaged 2.8 yards per carry as a team. Regardless of these grades, though, nothing can change the fact that the Saints are SUPERBOWL CHAMPIONS BABY!!!

Saints vs Colts coverage
Saints vs Colts recap
Saints vs Colts boxscore


Drew Brees: A- (3.24) The guy was MVP of the game for a reason. Despite being pressured significantly a number of times, he was only sacked once, and he finished the game 32 of 39 for 288 yards and 2 TD's with no turnovers. Some of the windows Brees fit his passes in were so small you almost wonder if he has too much confidence in his ability. The only time Brees seemed to have time back in the pocket was on play action plays. Otherwise, his unmatched footwork was on full display. Brees was conservative most of the night, taking what the defense gave him underneath and being content with the short safe throws. The one negative that I'll say about Brees, and for some reason this has been an issue lately, is that his deep balls downfield have really suffered in terms of accuracy. That was similarly the case in this game, as he missed both Jeremy Shockey and Robert Meachem down the seam with overthrows. Still, it was a masterful performance. He was a little shaky early but he turned it on in impressive fashion after the first quarter and he never really came close to turning the ball over. He completed his last 10 passes and 18 out of his last 19. WOW!

Reggie Bush: B (2.78) Bush finished with just 25 yards on 5 carries, 38 yards on 4 catches, and one punt return for 4 yards. While he didn't have a game changing play I thought he was overall pretty solid. He hit the holes with authority and showed nice burst and aggression. He also got roughed out of bounds so while it won't show up on the stat sheet he got the Saints a nice 15 yard gain off that. The most impressive play Bush had all game was on a third down where he stood up a blitzing linebacker in pass protection, then curled off the block to catch a short sidearm pass from Brees that he then turned upfield to get a big first down. Bush did a little bit of everything on that play: blocked impeccably on a tough assignment, caught a tough pass in traffic, and turned it upfield for a nice gain. I think Bush has turned a corner and has waved goodbye to some of the bad habits that haunted his play earlier this season and throughout his career.

Mike Bell: C- (2.38) I love Bell, and his action was so limited in the game that I hate to give him a bad grade... but  one of the two carries he had was a very regrettable circumstance. On third and goal from the 1, Bell tried to bounce his run outside instead of hitting the middle of the line of scrimmage. Bell slipped on the play, and was hit for a one yard loss. The Saints would go for it on 4th down and get stopped inside the 5. That failure to score could have been a back breaker. Luckily it wasn't, but coming away without points there was unacceptable. He finished with 2 carries for 4 yards.

Pierre Thomas: B+ (3.15) You might look at Thomas' stats and think he didn't have that special of a game: 9 carries for 30 yards, and 6 catches for 55 yards with 1 TD, but he ran with impressive toughness and would never go down to the first tackler. Even on the 4th and goal play where he was stopped short of the goal line, he broke two tackles, before another two tacklers were finally able to wrestle him down. Don't blame him, blame the terrible blocking for that play. Several times Thomas looked to be stopped dead in his tracks only to get extra yards. He did a fantastic job wielding through traffic on his touchdown, a 16 yard screen pass where he got great lead blocks before cutting back against traffic and breaking a tackle on his way to the end zone. What an awesome season for PT.

Marques Colston: B+ (2.93) Colston's drop hurt his grade. You know the drop I'm talking about. That was flat out unacceptable. It stalled a Saints drive and is part of the reason the Colts got up 10-0 early. How he dropped that ball is beyond me, that was maybe his easiest catch of the season. Then he comes back, and makes a reaching grab in traffic for a huge first down deep in Saints territory to get them out of bad field position. That catch was one of the toughest he's had all season. Weird. Overall his play the rest of the game was very solid and he more than made up for his mistake early. He was Brees' most targeted player and he delivered several times with big catches. He finished with 7 catches for 83 yards and kept the chains moving. The Colts had no answer for his frame on high passes downfield.

Devery Henderson: B+ (2.86) Henderson wore a different hat in the SuperBowl than we've been accustomed to seeing throughout his career. Instead of being the stretch the field, deep threat guy that makes only big plays, Henderson was the short throw underneath chains moving guy. Henderson made nice tough catches in tight coverage all night. He finished with 7 catches for 63 yards and provided a reliable target for Brees all day. He was also seen throwing a terrific block off the edge for Reggie Bush on a 12 yard run. Henderson also had an end around that went for a loss of 7 yards, with him passively tip toeing out of bounds to avoid a hit. Granted the play was going nowhere, but come on Devery. That aside, a solid performance for #19.

Lance Moore: B+ (2.54) Moore had limited action in this game, but boy did he make the most of it. After a reception for no gain, he had a huge 21 yard reception on one of the Saints' drives, making one of the largest gaining plays of the day. That aside, Moore made arguably the play of the day. Perhaps Tracy Porter steals his thunder a little bit with a game sealing pick six, but that 2 point conversion catch Moore made was one of the most athletic and clutch plays I have ever seen. On that stage, with the Saints up 5, for him to come up with that play was just sick. I can't give Moore enough credit for that play. He was quiet otherwise, but that play had a huge impact on the game.
Robert Meachem: C (2.84) Meachem finished with just 2 catches for 6 yards and really had no impact whatsoever on the game. The ankle must really be limiting him because for a while there towards the end of the season before that injury happened he was the arguably the best playing receiver on the roster. I gave his grade a little boost, though, because he took a screen pass at the line of scrimmage that had no business going anywhere, and he did a fantastic job of breaking a tackle and turning that play into a 6 yard gain.

Jeremy Shockey: B (2.83) Shockey had been playing on one leg throughout the playoffs. Give the guy credit, he toughed it out. By the way, the 3 games Shockey missed this season are the 3 games the Saints lost. When Shockey played, the Saints were 16-0 this season. He finished with just 3 catches for 13 yards and a touchdown. Most of his catches were of little impact and short of necessary yardage, but his touchdown was a beautiful one on one box out job where he just out-muscled the defender for the ball. That 2 yard reception ended up being the difference in the game.

David Thomas: B- (2.48) His lone reception for 9 yards gave the Saints a 1st and goal, and it preceded the aforementioned Shockey touchdown. Thomas did his usual movement from starting tight end, to second tight end to fullback. He had mixed results with his blocking, but had no major mistakes.

Jermon Bushrod: C+ (2.61) A one legged Dwight Freeney gave Bushrod absolutely everything he could handle. I was surprised to see that because Freeney had trouble getting a burst off the edge with his bum ankle, he resorted to just bum rushing Bushrod on most downs and had a tremendous amount of success doing so. In a word, Bushrod was abused by a clearly superior football player. The Saints gave Bushrod a lot of help throughout the game to neutralize the pass rush coming from that side, even when Freeney was taking a breather. As the game progressed it seemed like Bushrod got better, but it was a mediocre performance for him. Luckily he only gave up one sack.

Zach Strief: C- (2.33) Strief played a number of downs as the blocking tight end. He was flagged for a false start inside the Colts' 5. He also failed to report as an eligible receiver once (not sure if that's his fault or the coaching staff's fault), and he was very fortunate to not get flagged for an ineligible receiver downfield. Oh, and his blocking wasn't up to snuff. Definitely not his best day. It's going to be interesting to see what the Saints do with the left tackle position next season. Jammal Brown is coming off an injury and is in the last year of his contract, and both Bushrod and Strief have had their ups and downs. I'm not sure either can be the long term permanent answer at left tackle. In Strief's defense, the Saints have had him playing all over the field (including tight end) all season. If his natural position is right tackle, it's nice that the Saints are giving him playing time and finding ways to get him involved, but I can't imagine it's easy to play out of position all the time. Give Strief credit, like David Thomas, for helping the Saints all season and doing whatever the team asked of him even when many times he wasn't put in ideal circumstances to showcase his skills.

Carl Nicks: B- (2.95) His run blocking was surprisingly mediocre, and his pass blocking wasn't very impressive either. No major mistakes, so Nicks was fairly steady, but he just wasn't mauling people and taking care of business like he normally does.

Jonathan Goodwin: B- (2.96) Goodwin got very little push off the line of scrimmage all day long. Whenever he stayed in position he had very little success. He did have success, as always, pulling on screens and leading the way with huge blocks. Give him credit for springing that Pierre Thomas touchdown with a fantastic lead block.

Jahri Evans: B- (3.12) Like Goodwin, on PT's touchdown, he threw a tremendous block to seal the backside and give Thomas a cut back lane which he'd use to score. Both of those blocks really were special. Evans, however, was otherwise struggling. He was very up and down all game. He was either dominating, or getting dominated. There was no in between. Too many times in short yardage situations he failed. On the two goal line plays that were stopped the Saints ran behind Evans with no success.

Jon Stinchcomb: C (2.73) Robert Mathis may have never gotten a sack, but it wasn't thanks to Stinchcomb's blocking. He beat Stinchcomb around the edge with speed, inside with power, and many other ways. To me Stinchcomb was the most struggling player on the line. He had his moments, but like Evans just didn't get it done on short running plays. His pass protection was shady, and he was fortunate that Mathis couldn't get to Brees because of how fast he was getting rid of the football and how good his footwork was.

My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saints Nation: Scott Fujita's SuperBowl Week Diary

Scott Fujita chronicled his SuperBowl week on and it's definitely worth checking out. This should help get you through your Monday post SuperBowl victory! Check it out: HERE.


Sunday, February 7, 2010


It's official, the New Orleans Saints have now won the SuperBowl. The Saints rallied from a 10-0 1st quarter deficit and down 10-6 at halftime, to win 31-17 at the final whistle. I'll be honest when I say that I never thought I'd see the day. Words will never be able to describe what I feel, and what all of us Saints fans must feel. You can check out the box score HERE. While Drew Brees was great and very deserving of the MVP - much credit deserves to be given to Garrett Hartley for his incredible performance and Tracy Porter for arguably the biggest play in Saints' history (pictured above). To sum it all up best: WHO DAT.

Saints Nation: SuperBowl XLIV - Saints vs. Colts

So here we go, the day is finally here. Saints vs. Colts. Drew vs. Peyton. Sean Payton vs. Jim Caldwell. The Saints will play for a chance to become world champions for the first time in team history. At 29 years old, I've been a Saints fan my whole life rooting for this exact moment. This season was everything I ever dreamed and pictured when I imagined the Saints one day making it to this game. One thing I've learned throughout my life as a fan is that no fanhood has been tested more than that of Saints fans. There is no supporters in the world that are more loyal and unconditionally supportive of their team. The city of New Orleans and the fans of the New Orleans Saints deserve this moment, and they deserve this win. We've been through misery as fans, and we've been through tragedy as people following Katrina... but one thing that can be learned from the resilience of a New Orleanian is that if you keep fighting and believing long enough, you can come back from anything. The Saints embody the spirit of the whole city that never gives up. Despite virtually every national pundit across the land calling for a Colts win, is there doubt in your mind that at the end of today the Saints will hoist the Lombardi trophy? This is our time. FINISH STRONG!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saints Nation: Rickey Jackson Elected to the Hall of Fame

Just 24 hours before the team's first SuperBowl appearance, the New Orleans Saints proudly received it's first Hall of Fame player in club history. Rickey Jackson has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Congratulations Rickey, you are without question very deserving. The leader of the "Dome Patrol" played 13 seasons in New Orleans from 1981 to 1993, before he jumped shipped to the 49ers for 2 seasons and won a SuperBowl. He's in elite company as he's joined by Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, John Randle, Floyd Little, Dick LeBeau and Russ Grimm as the year's inductees.

Jackson was a 6 time Pro Bowler, and his 28 career fumble recoveries ranks 3rd all time for a defensive player in NFL history.

This weekend is off to a good start and it's about to get better. Please feel free to share any of your favorite Rickey Jackson memories.

Saints Nation: SuperBowl to Kickoff tomorrow - Saints vs. Colts

It's still hard for me to believe that the team I've rooted for and cried with for almost 30 years has finally made it to the SuperBowl. For some of you it's been much longer than that. We're now a little over 24 hours away from the Saints taking on the Indianapolis Colts, led by New Orleanian Peyton Manning, in the SuperBowl. The line is currently 5.5 in favor of the Colts, kickoff is set for Sunday at 6:25pm and the game will be televised nationally on CBS.

While everyone's talking up the Colts' experience and Peyton Manning's superior work ethic, I've got a funny feeling about this game. I think it's silly that Drew Brees' work ethic, which any Saints fan knows is every bit as intense as Manning's, is being disregarded by the media like he's out on Bourbon Street twice a week funneling hand grenades and gorging on beignets. I think the Saints will use this ignorance as fuel to get focused and ready for the game. I think a lot of people are going be caught by surprise in this game, starting with former Colts' coach Tony Dungy.

The key to this game, in my opinion, will be how much the Saints can limit Colts' tight end Dallas Clark. If they can manage to keep him mostly in check, I think the Saints can run away with the game. Tomorrow will be a moment that none of us as Saints fans, win or lose, will ever forget. We've gotten this far, though, and this is our year. We will not be denied.

The Judge's prediction for SuperBowl XLIV: Saints 31, Colts 21 (MVP - Drew Brees)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Saints Nation: Reggie Bush Running Contest to Help Fans Bring the Wood

If you haven't already, you should check out Reggie Bush's Who Dat Fan photo contest on his official Facebook Page.  According to the rules posted on his page, fans have until midnight on Sunday to submit up to 5 pictures that express their passion, support, and love for Reggie and the Saints (examples include you and/or your kids wearing a #25 jersey, showing off a cool sign you created for Reggie, striking a pose in front of your Reggie Bush Fathead, watching the Saints game with your friends at the bbq, etc.).  Basically show off your fleur-de-lis pride.

The prize is pretty cool.  Each winner receives a custom engraved and autographed "Bring the Wood" bat..  There are 3 types of winners: photo entry selected by judges, photo that receives most votes from other fans, and one winner by random sweepstakes.  So go ahead and submit a photo to the link posted above!

Saints Nation: Tony Dungy Is My New Worst Enemy

Check out what Tony Dungy (pictured) had to say about the SuperBowl HERE. Apparently he thinks the game will be a blow out, and that the Saints have no chance. My favorite quotes:

"I think they're going to be so far ahead that people are going to say, 'Oh, ho-hum'"

"I don't think it's going to be close."

"Minnesota is playing in New Orleans, they turn the ball over five times, have two or three stupid penalties and still lose in overtime, I don't see how it's going to be close. The Colts aren't going to turn it over seven times."

First off - how is Tony Dungy's opinion of any credibility whatsoever? Could you possibly find any brain on this earth that lacks more objectivity? Should we interview Thomas Morstead's mom and post an ESPN article getting her opinion on how the SuperBowl will turn out? Seriously, this article is ridiculous and ESPN should be ashamed of posting it. That's like asking Bobby Hebert what's better between a shrimp po-boy and an Idaho potato.

Furthermore, since when can you use one game as a sample size to fuel your arguments? Ok fine Tony, I can play this game too. The Colts beat the Patriots 35-34, and they should have lost the game. It took a miraculous ending and a boneheaded 4th down coaching decision by Bill Belichick to give the Colts the victory. Weird, because the Saints played that same Pats team and beat them 38-17. That's right, they scored more against them than the Colts did and they gave up less points. Based on that, I just don't see how it can be close. I think, personally, the Saints will be so far ahead that people will say "ho-hum". Thanks, Tony, for your opinion that's worth about exactly nothing.

In case you didn't get enough of a laugh out of Tony Dungy's comments, then I suggest you go here. You can read about how Michael Vick thinks he's "still a top 10 NFL QB". Let's not forget, coincidentally, that Vick's adviser happens to be Tony Dungy. I think his credibility just took another hit.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Saints Nation: New Contract for Drew Brees?

ESPN released an article late last night that can be read HERE, and it talks about a new deal being in the works for quarterback Drew Brees. If you've been paying attention to the ridiculously exorbitant contracts that Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and others have received in recent years - it's more than fair to say that Brees is due for a major pay raise. While I knew he wasn't getting the kind of money similar to those guys, I was shocked to learn his salary is actually 17th among NFL quarterbacks. Anything less than a top 5 contract for that guy is obviously ridiculous, though we have to of course take into account that New Orleans is not a big market economy like Washington, New York or the Boston area. Still, anything that rightfully compensates the player who in my mind has cemented his status as the best player in Saints' history is a good thing. Also, at 31, Brees likely has quite a few years left at the peak of his game. No time like the present to lock this guy up for the remainder of his career.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Saints Nation: Sean Payton has Created a Winning Culture in New Orleans Thanks to His Willingness to Change

It hasn't been a smooth ride during 4 seasons in New Orleans for head coach Sean Payton, but one thing that's undeniable is that he was the right hire for the Saints back in 2006. Back then the Saints were wavering between Payton and Maurice Carthon as the heir to Jim Haslett, and who knows where the team would be with Carthon? Would Drew Brees even be the team's quarterback? While Payton has earned the label of an offensive genius, showcasing the top offense three out of four seasons in New Orleans (was #3 overall the other year), I've been most impressed with his adaptability. A lot of times when head coaches have success, they get hard headed about making changes. Having the humility to look at your failures and make necessary changes is as important as knowing what it takes to have success.

The perfect example of someone who fell into the trap of refusing to admit fault was former Saints head coach Jim Haslett. Haslett's very first team went 10-6, won the NFC South, and gave the Saints their first ever playoff victory over the Rams. After a dazzling first season, things looked on the up and up for the Saints. Successful defensive coordinator Ron Zook took off to Florida, though, and left his job in the hands of Haslett's mentor and loyal sidekick Rick Venturi. By all accounts Venturi was a respected football mind that Haslett valued greatly, but for whatever reason it never translated on the field. The Saints finished the Haslett era with several mediocre seasons and woeful defensive performances, and never reclaimed the magic they had in their first year.

Fast forward to the Sean Payton era, where things got off to the same rosy start. An NFC South division title, and the Saints' first ever trip to the NFC Championship. Like Haslett's teams, though, the next two seasons were plagued by abysmal defensive seasons behind coordinator Gary Gibbs which turned the previously top shot Saints into a mediocre team that couldn't stop anyone. The difference, unlike Haslett, is that Payton made a very difficult personal and professional decision that paid dividends this past offseason. He saw the mistakes he made in showcasing Reggie Bush as the primary runner, allowing Gary Gibbs to run the defense, getting rid of John Carney for a stronger leg, and trusting the eventual growth of struggling young players. So before 2009, Payton committed himself to improving the Saints' offensive balance and run game by giving Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell more reps, he fired Gary Gibbs in favor of defensive guru Gregg Williams, he brought back John Carney and developed a kicker we can trust in Garrett Hartley (getting rid of Olinde Mare and Martin Grammatica - no telling how long Haslett would have stuck with them as stubborn as he is), and he signed Darren Sharper despite his age to provide playmaking experience on the back end. Look how all those decisions have paid off. In short, he's transformed his squad from "mediocre" into the NFC's best team in one season. This is all because he was willing to make the decisions and sacrifices that Haslett was never humble enough to make. Sometimes installing a winning culture is about being open to criticism and change, because the NFL is competitive enough that you're not going to be successful long term by being stubborn. So while Sean Payton should be applauded and respected for his uncanny talent to design a premiere offense, I'm most thankful that the coach can recognize mistakes and act accordingly. Comparisons to Jim Haslett after this season can now die forever.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Saints Nation: Saints Bus Greeted By Familiar Faces

The Saints players that were already in Miami for the Pro Bowl were waiting for their teammates to join them, so they dressed up as hotel staff and hauled their teammates bags off the bus when they arrived. I guess they were just trying to gain brownie points with the "lesser known" players on the team. Drew Brees commented that it was Sean Payton's idea, an idea the coach got from Bill Walsh. Pretty funny!

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Will Smith Biggest Saint Pro Bowl Snub

It was a tight race amongst the Saints Pro Bowl snubs, but Saints Nation voted Will Smith as the biggest snub with 35% of the vote. The others receiving votes were Marques Colston (22%), Pierre Thomas (19%), Jabari Greer (13%) and Roman Harper (9%). In a word: Will Smith was "robbed"! Not that it mattered, anyway, because SuperBowl players are no longer eligible for the game.

Thanks for your participation in the Saints Nation Poll! There's a new poll now on the right side of site. Please weigh in on the most memorable regular season win of 2009!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Saints Nation: Drew Brees on Fox & Friends (courtesy of Joshua Joffrion)

Saints Nation: SuperBowl Week is Underway, Dwight Freeney's Injury Revealed

Much is already being made out of the Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning showdown. You'd think there's 2 players playing instead of 106. The hype is fair, though, since Brees and Manning are arguably the two best at their position and they're so critical to their respective team's success.

The Saints landed in Miami today and held their first practice on the SuperBowl site today. The biggest news to emerge so far is the injury to Dwight Freeney, publicly disclosed as a torn ligament in his right ankle. He's officially listed as questionable, though his playing given the injury is in serious question. Should he play, it has to be assumed his performance will be seriously affected. This of course bodes well for the Saints. 6 days and counting...