The era of Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints has come to an end. The now 42-year-old ended his successful career last winter. With him, the Saints were always among the favorites for the NFC title. But without the star quarterback, chaos seems to break out in Louisiana. The Saints are only a shadow of themselves in the offense.
It was a picture that even seasoned men could have tears: After the 30:20 success of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the New Orleans Saints, the top quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tom Brady threw a few more Balls, together with their children. Both knew well that it was the last time they would meet on the field as opponents.
Despite the bitter playoff elimination against the division rivals and the still bitter farewell to Saints-Legende Brees, there already seemed to be anticipation for the new era.
Thomas-Posse overshadows the entire offseason
But it seems to have long since vanished. Because the entire Saints franchise has been far from calm in recent months. Central topic: Michael Thomas. The wide receiver, which set an NFL record for catches in one season in the 2019 season, was canceled several times in the 2020 season. Not because of problems with the coronavirus, but because of a stubborn ankle injury.
Although Thomas played in the playoffs, he was not a factor. Anyone who looked a little closer could see that they were not fit. There, however, the mud battle began: While the Saints asked Thomas to have an operation as quickly as possible, he initially refused.
He only underwent the procedure in June, head coach Sean Payton was seething inside. "It's disappointing, you know? We would have liked to see this operation happen earlier. Now we have to do without him for a long time," said the 57-year-old, visibly pissed off at a media panel. If everything goes well, Thomas is expected back in November.
Quarterback situation unclear for a long time - receiver corps below average
In addition to the quarrel about and with Thomas, the Saints had another big problem: Who will be the (temporary) heir to Brees? Taysom Hill, who stepped in most of the time when the veteran was injured, or was it Jameis Winston, the 2019 season's passing yards leader?
In the end it was the latter. Winston convinced the coaches more in the off- and preseason and fought for the job as a starter. Hill will slip into his well-known role as "Swiss Army Knife", a throwing tight-end / running-back hybrid.
But who should Jameis throw at anyway? Due to the Thomas retirement, the current number one at the Saints Maquez is Callaway. To put it into perspective: Callaway is only in his sophomore year and caught 21 balls for 213 yards and no touchdown in his rookie season. Not exactly the statistics of a top receiver.
Tre'Quan Smith, Deonta Harris and Chris Hogan are also available. Tight end Adam Trautman, scheduled as a starter, injured himself in the preseason. In 2019, when Winston was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Yards Leader, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Tight End Cameron Brate had much better receivers. A repetition is therefore more than questionable.
Hurricane Ida messes up camp
Not only in terms of sport, things weren't exactly going well in New Orleans: Hurricane Ida just rocked the southern United States, including the city of New Orleans.
In addition to the devastating effects on the city itself, the Saints' preparation is also disrupted: the players will not be able to play or train at home throughout September. This also means that the professionals will be separated from their families for a long time. Optimal preparation looks different.
After the difficult opening game against the Green Bay Packers, which is played in Jacksonville, it goes to division rivals Carolina Panthers and then to the northeast to the New England Patriots. The kick-off program is certainly not easy.
The defense has to carry the offense - parallels to the 2020 Patriots
If the New Orleans Saints want to be competitive this season, their defense has to be at the level of previous years. She hardly had to cope with bloodletting, in front Cameron Jordan is still one of the best defensive linemen, in the backfield Marshon Lattimore controls the traffic, so the staff is still the top NFL shelf.
Even if head coach Payton is one of the best and most creative playcallers in the league, the offense will not be as strong as under Brees despite running back Alvin Kamara.
The situation in New Orleans is somewhat reminiscent of last year's New England Patriots. The franchise quarterback, in this case Tom Brady, had said goodbye, the QB position had been unclear for a long time, there were also many injuries and a weak receiver group.
There, too, the excellent coaching and the good defense unit of the men from Foxborough brought the team to a 7-9 record, but not really in playoff contention.
The Saints fans will hope that their team - despite the many parallels mentioned - will at least be spared this parallel. It is always possible, but there is currently not much reason for optimism.