The NFC South is a war zone. Anyone who is a fan of the four teams that inhabit the South is fully aware that there is no love amongst rivals. The truth hurts, whether you’ve been in the basement of the division for more than a decade, or have been an underachiever who’s won the division for four years in a row. One thing is certain in the NFC South; nothing stays the same. Like our current politics, we always have to adapt to change. Sometimes you could be forewarned that changes are coming but you just won’t accept it. It’s a completely different story when you decide to deny it. America, we have an issue. Because we have a fan base, let alone a state, that is in a complete sense of denial. This denial, has mutated into grandeurs of delusion; a sick possessive type of delusion in which one can’t see the shortcomings that are about to happen.
In order to try to start the healing process, one must first understand what the problem is. The delusions of success are still in the minds of Saints fans, but the writing on the wall says something completely different. Jared Cook, former tight end of the New Orleans Saints is now a Charger. A large majority of the fan base blame the loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the hands of Jared Cook. Sheldon Rankins, a prime defensive tackle formally of the New Orleans Saints, is now in a New York Jets uniform. Alex Anzalone, a B- linebacker talent, is no longer with the New Orleans Saints as well; leaving Demario Davis to carry a linebacking core that is often injured ( resigned Kwon Alexander), or inexperienced (Zach Baun). The nose tackle, Malcolm Brown, has found greener pastures in other NFC landscapes, and the backup tight end Josh Hill is no longer a security blanket for Drew Brees or the Saints.
The number 2/3 wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints in 2020 is now the number 2/3 wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. Although his production was minimal the time that he was in New Orleans, Emmanuel Sanders provided a security blanket for Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, and Jameis Winston. Michael Thomas is not completely healthy, and is at the least unhappy with the current situation that is taking place in Nola with his injury and his head coach. Deonte Harris is a speedy 5’6 receiver, who could face suspension for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Although it may only be a two-game suspension, the mere fact that he thought his status as a football player could get him out of handcuffs it’s disturbing, and shows the mentality of privilege. Although he was in a contract year, the team’s sack leader and pass rusher Trey Hendrickson left in free agency. The Saints couldn’t resign him because the saints were and still are in salary cap hell. Janoris Jenkins is on his 3rd team in 3 years… The unique talent at cornerback couldn’t get resigned to a team that expects/ requires the defensive backs to do a lot of tackling. The NFC South is the home of play-making wide receivers. Losing Janoris will be a major blow to the defensive backfield of the New Orleans Saints.
David Onyemata has been suspended for the first six games of the 2021 season due to his use of performance enhancing substances. His pass rush will be missed on the defensive line. Prince Amukamara will be one of the first roster cuts for the 2021 season. He is not the old Amukamara of his Chicago Bear days, and has made rookie mistakes on a team that can’t afford them. Noah spence, a former past rusher for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was released this week as well. Once upon a Time no expense had 5.5 sacks his rookie year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, he will have to scramble to try to make another team’s roster. Last but not least, the retirement of Drew Brees.
Drew Brees changed the mentality of the entire franchise and city. From wearing paper bags in the 80’s, to a consistency of losing records, losing seasons, and 3rd to 5th place finishes until division realignment, the Saints had a history similar to a horror story. The idea of the Saints and champions in the same sentence was a punchline in the 80’s and 90’s. A former NFC West team, for decades Tom Benson’s would meander through the NFL season without even the idea of sniffing a Super Bowl. The acquisition of Drew Brees changed the fortunes of this franchise, and made them relevant and respectable. Drew Brees came Out swinging his first season with the team with 4,418 yards passing. In 2011, Drew Brees turned heads with a 71% completion percentage, and throwing for 5,476 yards, and 46 touchdowns. Drew Brees is the only quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards five times. Until week 4 or 5 of the 2021 NFL season, Drew Brees will still be the all-time passing yards leader; until Tom Brady passes him. Father Time caught up with Drew in 2019, in which he only played 11 games, and threw for less than 3,000 yards (2979). His inability to throw down field was one of the reasons why New Orleans was ineffective in the playoffs last year. Leaders like this don’t come often, and his imprint on the team in and out of the locker room cannot be replaced. His presence will be missed.
Which leads me back to the fans. How can a team with so much turmoil, turnover, and issues, still be considered a high caliber team to be reckoned with? Without mentioning Marshon Lattimore’s indiscretions and possible future suspension, the synchronicity of this team is gone. Division banners are nice, but they’re not memorable. When a fan base finds division banners more important than Super Bowl rings, there’s something wrong with the water being supplied in that area. Saints fans ask “Who DAT”, when mentioning who is going to beat the Saints. When the cellar dwellers of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers answered with “We Dat”, the fanbase went through the 4 stages of recovery. Anger hasn’t passed, denial is in full effect, some have moved on to acceptance, but grief is ever present not only in the city, but in the locker room. Cam Jordan himself said Division banners Don’t mean a thing unless he can obtain a ring. Kind of jazzy if you think about it. This offseason has been full of turmoil for all of the positions except for offensive line for the New Orleans Saints. The wide receiving core will face more opposition from the division not only from some kittycats in blue with the addition of Jaycee Horn for the Panthers, but from some Gravediggers standing 6 feet deep in coverage and gaining confidence. Sean Murphy Bunting is emerging as a star. Carlton Davis is better than he’s being advertised, and the second year safety Antoine Winfield Jr. has already paid dividends.
If someone is out there with a heart, please take care of your local Saints fan. With four years of pride and respect, a fall from grace to third in the division will not be easy to handle. As you can see, some fans are living in a land of delusion: past accolades do not speak for present success. But if there is a silver lining to this fall from grace, at least they are still better than the Atlanta Falcons.