Jan 10, 2011


Where to start? The defending Super Bowl champions were an 11-point favorite on the road to a team with a losing record, but records don't matter this time of year and that's why they play the game.

The Saints looked lackluster, especially on defense, in their 41-36 wild card loss to Seattle. But it's been that kind of year for these Saints.

Gone from this team was the hunger, the fight to finish, the killer instinct. To finish the year 11-5, the second best record in the conference, as the defending Super Bowl champ is actually a major accomplishment. Look back at past Super Bowl winners. Many of them didn't sniff the playoffs the following year. But this season can be nothing but a disappointment for the boys in black and gold.

Each and every week they got their opponents' best efforts, as evidenced by losses to Arizona and Cleveland. But they stepped up in big games against the NFL's best. Just look at the games against Pittsburgh, at Tampa and at Atlanta. That is how the Saints were supposed to play each and every week, but the consistency just wasn't there and in the end, the inconsistencies were exposed. That and the injury bug hit them hard. I firmly believe that the outcome of the Seattle game would be different had Malcolm Jenkins been healthy, but there's lots of room for what-ifs in the offseason now that the Saints have been eliminated.

So where do they go from here? The Saints are still one of the top teams in the league, but if there is football next fall, they will look differently than they do now. Tough decisions will need to be made with key free agents like Pierre Thomas, Heath Evans, Lance Moore, Jermon Bushrod, Zach Strief, Carl Nicks, Jeff Charleston, Leigh Torrence, Usama Young, Roman Harper and restricted free agents like Jonathan Goodwin, Darren Sharper, Scott Shanle, Remi Ayodele and Anthony Hargrove. That's a lot of the Saints starters and key contributors. But how many will they be able to retain and improve the roster?

That's not even bringing up the biggest decision of all: What do you do with Reggie Bush? He's important to the offense, but obviously injury prone and not worth the $11 million or so that he'll be due. He's got to restructure or be let go. It's unfortunate, but if the Saints truly want to model themselves after the Patriots, then you have to let stars go sometimes for the betterment of the team.

It is sure to be an interesting offseason and here's hoping that the owners and players can come an agreement soon (hopefully one that doesn't expand the season to 18 games) so we have football to look forward to again in the fall.

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