In the brief time since Hurricane Ida, there have been a number of tweets that compare the renaissance of the New Orleans Saints under Sean Payton and Drew Brees to the situation that the Saints are facing now.
Yes, the Saints did take off in 2006. With Payton in place, Brees under center, Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in the backfield, Marques Colston and Joe Horn out wide; New Orleans rode a top-five offense, and better than expected defense to a 10-6 record, NFC South Division Championship, a playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles, and a trip to the NFC Championship game.
Let’s not forget, however, what it took for the team and the city to revive themselves.
As devastating as Ida has been, what happened on Aug. 29, 2005 was incomparable to any event in American history.
And on a much smaller scale, no football team had to endure what the 2005 Saints went through.
Coming off of a disappointing 8-8 season in 2004, there was some optimism going into 2005. The Saints had won their last four games of the previous season, and three of their losses were by seven points or less.
Katrina hit the city just 13 days before the season opener. Soon after, it was announced that the Superdome would be unable to host any games that season, and the Saints were going to have to split their time between their temporary base in San Antonio, Texas, LSU’s Tigers Stadium, and a bizarre “home” opener against the New York Giants in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
With the emotional toll of the devastation of their city, the season quickly imploded. After somehow winning their season opener, the Saints finished near the bottom of the league in both offense and defense and ended up with a 3-13 record.
The relationship between the franchise and the city was also damaged by owner Tom Benson’s overt flirtations with San Antonio, the city where he built much of his fortune.
When Payton was hired in January of 2006, he was a first time head coach. Brees was coming off of a career-threatening shoulder injury, and the team was slated for the second pick in the draft.
What followed next didn’t save a city or a region, but it did inspire them.
If the lowly New Orleans Saints could rise up from the devastation they had faced, why couldn’t one of America’s greatest cities? Why couldn’t the rest of the Gulf Coast?
This time, Payton has been at the helm for 16 years, and the team has as much talent at the top of its roster as any in the league. Quarterback Jameis Winston isn’t being asked to be a savior, not for a franchise that has nine winning seasons during Payton’s tenure, including four consecutive division championships.
The team won’t play all of its games on the road, and there is no immediate threat of relocation.
Louisiana’s rebuild will be difficult. It will take a while.
Let’s hope the same isn’t true for the New Orleans Saints. It’s the last thing we need right now.