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Top 10 reasons why Saints should be thankful!

by J.W. Miller on 11/27/19

As you sit down Thursday with family and friends and give thanks for the blessings in your life, also think about what the Saints should be thankful for as they head down the homestretch of the 2019 NFL season. Our list below suggests that the Saints should be …

Thankful they re-signed Teddy Bridgewater. It was a curious investment giving Bridgewater $7.5 million to wear a baseball cap and carry a clipboard while Drew Brees led the team. But Brees’ freaky thumb injury against the Rams cast Bridgewater into a starter’s role, and, boy, did he deliver. Five straight wins kept the Saints in the middle of the playoff hunt, which they might never have done with a backup of lesser ability. 

Thankful they did not sign Antonio Brown. No, the Saints never had any interest in the erratic wide receiver who talked himself out of the League because of their emphasis on character in the locker room. Locker rooms can be torn apart by dissension, cliques or selfishness. GM Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton have done a remarkable job at bringing in players who fit the mold. Character players are team players who rely on each other, celebrate each other’s achievements and win!

Thankful for gifts. In the spirit of the season, the Panthers presented the Saints with huge gifts in the Superdome on Sunday. The game could have been a disaster for New Orleans if Panthers kicker Joey Slye hadn’t missed two extra points and a potential chip shot go-ahead field goal inside two minutes. That was probably the best opponent’s gift the Saints have received since Washington’s 2017 fourth-quarter implosion in which they blew a 31-16 and then watched the Saints win in overtime. 

Thankful for the NFC South. Sports travels in cycles, and it’s the Saints’ good fortune that they play in a division that is going through a down cycle. Sure, Atlanta caught the Saints napping in Week 10, but they likely are pondering some major changes in the off-season. Tampa is rebuilding again, and Carolina might be on the cusp of its own rebuild. I can tell you that it’s a lot better to face those teams six times than to face the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams six times. Sorry, Arizona!

Thankful for Who Dat Nation. When Jim Finks brought me to New Orleans, he told me that “when we win, these fans will go crazy!” Even during the first 19 years of sub-.500 football, Saints fans were not satisfied but they were loyal. In 1986, the team sold about 35,000 season tickets, and when Jim Mora and players such as Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Bobby Hebert and Morten Andersen started winning, you couldn’t find an available seat. The Payton-Brees era has been even more of a reward for the best fans in the NFL. 

Thankful they have Jeff Ireland – Give Ireland much of the credit for strength through the draft since he arrived as college scouting director in 2015. In his four drafts, the Saints have been almost perfect in first-round starters with Andrus Peat, Sheldon Rankins, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk and Marcus Davenport, and further down they have plucked such plums as Michael Thomas, Vonn, Bell and Marcus Williams in the second round; Alvin Kamara, Alex Anzalone, P.J. Williams and Tre-Quan Smith in the third round, as well as David Onyemata (4th) and Will Clapp (7th). 

Thankful for quality depth. When a starter goes down, the next man up is a quality player who can plug the hole as long as it takes. In addition to Brees and Bridgewater, the Saints have lost key starters but didn’t lose a step when able backups such as Will Clapp, Nick Easton, Kiko Alonso, Patrick Omameh, P.J. Williams and A.J. Klein were sent into the game. 

Thankful for stable ownership. Gayle Benson reminds me of Jim Finks’ story about Ed McCaskey, who suddenly became president of the Bears when George Halas died. McCaskey went to Finks and asked him what he should do. “Ed,” Finks told him. “You’re an owner. Own!” In other words, put good people in charge and let them operate. The same advice applies to Mrs. Benson who merely has to be a good listener and follow the advice of President Dennis Lauscha, Mickey Loomis and the rest of her management team.

Thankful for Sean Payton. The Payton to Dallas rumors cropped up again Sunday when Jerry Jones issued a not-so-veiled challenge to head coach Jason Garrett and the team. The good news is that Payton was listed No. 6 among coaches who could be the next Cowboys coach. Payton is one of the best offensive minds in the game, and he has the weapons here to execute that offense. And he’s not going anywhere.  

Thankful for Drew Brees. The Saints' QB confirmed last week what he means to the franchise when he took advantage of Carolina’s missed field goal and marched the team down the field in the final minute for a winning Wil Lutz field goal.  Hey, if Carolina had kicked the field goal, Brees would have executed the same drive for a Lutz game-tying kick, and then won it in overtime with more heroics. Brees' off-field activities are sometimes overlooked, but his work with charities and even coaching his sons’ flag football team bolster his platform as the face of the franchise and a certain Hall of Famer.

And a Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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