On Sunday afternoon, the New Orleans Saints will kickoff their 2013 season not so much where they left off at the end of their dismal 2012 campaign but moments after Vernon Davis drove a stake through the heart of the Who Dat nation’s aspirations of a second Super Bowl appearance.
For what they have regained in leadership in 2013 is greater than what they lost in personnel from 2012.
The 2011 and 2012 Saints teams weren’t terribly different (thanks again NFL front office for kneecapping us in the drafts) from each other in terms of on-field talent but the latter was woefully deficient in the defensive coordinator department and of course, head coach.
To say Sean Payton’s suspension was merely the difference between a 7-9 club and a 9-7 club is a gross understatement and doesn’t give adequate value to what the best offensive mastermind in the league brings to the table.
The Saints have made adjustments. Spags was thankfully canned. The switch to a 3-4 defense, though I suspect due to injuries we will see more 4-3 alignments than originally intended. And their 2013 undrafted free agents have shown great potential, hence a few are on the 53-man roster and not the practice squad, while some of their draft picks from 2012 and 2013 will get their share of time on the field.
But nothing has added more to the 2013 New Orleans Saints than having Payton back. Tom Benson holds the deed and signs the checks, but the talent works for Payton and he owns this team.
Beyond the presence of their scowling head coach pacing the sideline, I can’t help but notice a number of interesting similarities between the 2013 Saints and the 2009 Saints even before the sounds of “Crunk” reverberate from the Superdome’s ceiling.
The esteemed Nostradamus had his quatrains and astrolabe while this lesser clairvoyant is operating off of memory and a 2010 Saints media guide. But here goes.
Both teams went 3-1 in preseason, with the lone loss being to none other than the Miami Dolphins.
The 2009 and 2013 Saints lost key players in their exhibition games against the Houston Texans (tight end Billy Miller in 2009 and converted linebacker Will Smith in 2013).
Those losses suffered in Reliant Stadium were supplemented with trades that cost the team seventh round draft picks.
The 2009 and 2013 Saints’ have the same AFC opponents (East Division).
The key free agent acquisition in the offseason was a defensive back (safety Darren Sharper in 2009 and cornerback Keenan Lewis in 2013).
In 2009 and 2013 the Saints drafted a safety with their first round pick.
Both squads entered the season with a brand new defensive coordinator with a reputation for aggressive play (Gregg Williams in 2009 and Rob Ryan in 2013).
And in late development and uncommon parallel, both teams brought in someone who had previously played for the team (kicker John Carney in 2009 and wide receiver Robert Meachem in 2013).
If the late great Buddy D were around and had read this, he’d do me the supreme honor of calling me a squirrel. And I wouldn’t blame him.
But for a team playing in a city so closely associated with voodoo, I can’t help but taking note of the patterns before me and thinking that just maybe the planets and stars are aligned.
And if the Saints do make it to New York…scratch that…New Jersey and play in the “Ice Bowl” of a championship game on the very field that the Commissioner Roger Goodell chose, Sean Payton may very well enjoy the same privilege that Napoleon had during his self-coronation in Notre Dame Cathedral by snatching his prize (the Lombardi Trophy) from the fingers of his adversary, truly putting the exclamation point on the bounty-gate scandal that consumed the franchise and destroyed their season.
Superman Flies Again?
Sean Payton is notorious for his motivational gimmickry. If you haven’t done so I strongly encourage you to read his book Home Team, which includes anecdotes about how has used his creativity to light fires under the pants of his players and sometimes get inside the heads of his opponents.
One trademark Payton jab is that he sometimes gets players who have histories with the opposing team go out to the middle of the field for the coin toss. However there might be someone else out there prior to kickoff.
On the game tickets are icons of sponsors and coincidentally enough, Team Gleason’s logo is on the ticket. Bear in mind that it was Gleason, who is currently locked in a battle with ALS, who truly lit the spark on the 2006 Saints season with his flying punt block against Atlanta in the reopening of the Superdome.
And it was an Atlanta radio station that mocked Gleason’s medical condition in the off-season.
Could #37 be making an appearance on the middle of the field on Sunday?
If so you might want to borrow “Baby Drew’s” earmuffs because it’s going to be deafening in the Superdome.
Oh by the way, Gleason Gras, a fundraiser for the Gleason Family Trust, will be held on Friday evening in Champions Square.