Saints fans pray for fewer storms, more wins!by J.W. Miller on 09/07/17
Okay, Who Dats, it’s showtime! Bring’em on! The Saints open their season Monday night at Minnesota, and hopes are high. So turn off the Weather Channel and tune in to Fourth Down on Four or one of the other local programs – all with closed captioning - that chronicle the meanderings of your favorite team. We are all fed up with unlimited models that predict hurricane paths so let’s put aside the British model or the National Oceanography and Atmospheric Administration model, or the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory model, the various spaghetti models and even the Bad Hair Day model (I am not making this up!), and let us shift our attention to the annual Who Dat Hope model.
New Orleans is a town of hope and faith, and much of it involves the local football enterprise. Where else but New Orleans does a prayer written by a past Archbishop get reprinted every year in the local paper before the Saints season begins? That prayer and others will be dutifully repeated in pulpits around town on Saturday night and Sunday. And you likely will hear a prayer for the Saints’ success come in the same breath as the prayer to Our Lady of Prompt Succor to spare us from hurricanes! For you other Presbyterians, that is a Roman Catholic title for the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a wooden devotional image enshrined in New Orleans since the late 1700s. Miracles have been attached to the image, including the one pulled off in 1815 by Andrew Jackson and his Kentucky sharpshooters that became known as the Battle of New Orleans.
The past week, you can be forgiven for monitoring threats in the West Indies, but around here it’s time that Saints fans believe they are as deserving of miracles as the local region is deserving of being saved from hurricanes. And there is some reason for optimism this year. QB Drew Brees is still performing at a high level, the team added future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson, strengthened the offensive line with the signing of free agent Larry Warford and have three new starters at linebacker through free agency and the draft.
The geniuses who predict the final standings before the first game is played are not as enamored of the Saints’ chances this year. It seems those guys hold a grudge against the 2015-16 Saints’ defenses that might have been the worst in the league. Sports Illustrated, the sporting press' answer to the Bhagavad Gita, says the team’s Achilles’ heel is still the front seven, despite the team’s offseason efforts to improve the units. Defensive linemen and linebackers have the double duty of stopping the run and rushing the passer, neither of which they did especially the past couple years. That’s why the magazine predicts a 6-10 record and another year of sitting at home during the playoffs. ESPN’s spaghetti model says the Saints will do better than that, but at 8-8, still will finish last in the NFC South behind the 11-5 Falcons and the Panthers and Bucs, both at 9-7.
Other prognosticators have issued similar models, which is bad news for the faithful Who Dats. Saints fans are understandably tired of the recent less-than-mediocre 7-9 finishes the past three years. Their discontent is perfectly explainable when you look at the remnants of their drafts since their Super Bowl championship after the 2009 season. How many players are still on the team from the five drafts between 2010 and 2014? You don’t have to look it up, let me help you, although I warn you that those years look like they were orchestrated by Hurricane Irma:
2010: Nobody (although C Max Unger came in the Jimmy Graham trade). 2011 - Cameron Jordan (1a) and Mark Ingram (1b). 2012 - Nobody. 2013 - Kenny Vaccaro (1) and Terron Armstead (3) 2014: Nobody (although Ryan Ramczyk was the result of the Brandin Cooks trade). When you acquire only six solid starters and no depth out of five drafts, you’re in trouble.
But this is a city of hope, and to Who Dats, Hope-capital-H wears No. 9. At 38, Brees does not have many more quality seasons left, so maybe this year a little extra faith would help. Our Lady of Prompt Succor can have the credit for keeping major hurricanes away from New Orleans since Katrina. Maybe she could also throw in a few extra wins along the way.