“Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” – Who Dat Nation
|Nuts and Bolts
Prestige: 3 stars
1 Super Bowl win
2 NFC Championships
3 NFC South titles
10 playoff appearances in 48 seasons
Established in 1966, based in New Orleans, LA
Owner: Tom Benson
Head Coach: Sean Payton
Play in the National Football Conference – South Division
Play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record
Expectations this year:
Uncertain after what appears to be a complete team renovation
After first entering the NFL in 1966, the New Orleans Saints had it rough. It took over 20 seasons for the team to record its first winning season, finally reaching the playoffs in 1987. The team was so bad that fans would wear paper bags over their heads while attending games because they didn’t want to be seen cheering for the team. After a brief period of success in the early 1990s, the team relapsed with losing and mediocre seasons. Finally in 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and brought the Saints to rock bottom. The team played the entire season away from home because of damage to the stadium in New Orleans and finished 4-12. Rumors were even spread that owner Tom Benson was ready to move the team to San Antonio, Texas.
But you can only go up from rock bottom. After the miserable 2005 season, head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees (#9) joined the Saints. For most of the last decade, the duo have engineered by far the most successful stretch in team history, earning five playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win. The two have done it on the back of a high-flying aerial offense, designed by Payton and put into brutal, efficient effect by Brees. The Saints have finished #1 in total offense five times with Payton and Brees, including this past season.
However, nothing lasts forever. Brees is 36 years old and has begun to show signs of decline. This offseason, the team took steps to prepare for life after Brees. The team focused on strengthening the defense and running game, the alternative formula to winning in the NFL without an elite quarterback. However, in doing so the team traded away Brees’ two best weapons, including Jimmy Graham, the best tight end in the league. It remains to be seen whether the team can continue to have success when moving away from the formula that’s been so successful for them for so long.
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STORYLINES TO KNOW
Rebranding the Team
It’s not often a team trades one of its top players when it doesn’t have to. But that’s exactly what the Saints did with Jimmy Graham. The sixth-year tight end dominated defenders with his massive 6’7”, 265 pound frame and he and Drew Brees were a formidable tandem. However, the team traded Graham away to the Seahawks for a first round pick and center Max Unger, signifying a possible shift in philosophy. With Brees growing older, the team won’t be able to always run the explosive passing offense that has powered them the past nine years. By strengthening other areas of the team, like the defense and running game, the team hopes to remain competitive even when Brees finally calls it quits on his Hall-of-Fame career.
PLAYERS TO KNOW
Brees was originally drafted by the San Diego Chargers out of Purdue, but after some struggles and a shoulder injury, the team decided to part ways with him. New Orleans took a chance on the quarterback and Brees hasn’t disappointed. In addition to the success in the win/loss column and in the playoffs, Brees has become one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. He has four seasons with more than 5,000 yards passing; no one else has ever had more than one. The leadership Brees has brought to the Saints has been invaluable, not only for the team, but in the community as the region was trying to recover from the damage done by Katrina.
While Brees and Payton were the major additions in 2006 that propelled the Saints out of the NFL basement, they also picked up another vital piece in the seventh round of the draft that year. Marques Colston (#12), who played for the now defunct Hofstra football program, has spent his entire career with the Saints. The big-bodied receiver has been one of Brees’ favorite targets, and with Jimmy Graham gone, Colston will be leaned on even more.
The best defensive player on the Saints, Jordan was drafted out of UC-Berkeley in 2011 and has since been going ‘berserkley’ on opponents. He had 12.5 sacks in 2013 and was selected to his first Pro Bowl. With the major contract extension he signed this year, Jordan will be looked at as one of the leaders on the new defense the Saints are building.
Who Dat? – The phrase has become synonymous with fans of the New Orleans Saints. It stems from a chant done during vaudeville acts during the early part of the 20th century. The chant expanded to sports in the 1960s, with historically African-American high schools and colleges in Louisiana picking it up. By 1983, the Saints organization officially adopted the cheer as a part of the team’s tradition. Now, ‘Who Dat?’ Nation is a term used to refer to the collective body of Saints fans.
The ‘Ain’ts’ – During the early years of the franchises existence, the team struggled, to put it mildly. The Saints’ first winning season didn’t come until 1983, more than 20 years after they entered the league. This earned the Saints the nickname of the ‘Aints.’ Fans who attended games were known to wear brown paper bags with sad faces and tears drawn on them to avoid being seen rooting for the hapless team. After a brief period of success, the Aints were revived again in the late 90s and early 2000s until Drew Brees and Sean Payton joined the team.
Archie Manning – Known most for being the father of Peyton and Eli Manning, both Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, Archie was a pretty good quarterback himself at one time. Taken #2 overall in the 1971 draft by the Saints, Manning played for the team for 11 seasons. Although he couldn’t pull the Saints into the playoffs, he was well-respected by fans and his NFL peers for doing his best in a terrible situation. He made the Pro Bowl twice despite finishing his career with the worst record for an NFL quarterback with at least 100 starts. His #8 jersey was informally retired at the end of his career.