The team came out stumbling and bumbling, fumbling the ball repeatedly with the pay-to-injure charges and subsequent denials. Then they threw an ill-timed interception with the inability to sign Drew Brees to a long-term contract before the franchise tag deadline. Like an intercepted pass, all the blame can’t be given to the passer, as the other side contributed at least equally to the impasse. We do not know what Brees agent Tom Condon demanded, but we do know the number was well beyond GM Mickey Loomis’ comfort zone. The team’s next attempt to recover was stymied when they could not use the franchise tag to protect one of their other stars, notably offensive guard Carl Nicks, who went the other way and scored big with the Buccaneers. The Saints put a touchdown on the board by signing WR Marques Colston to a long-term deal, but then gave back a field goal when WR Robert Meacham ran a lucrative post pattern into the San Diego end zone. So now we find ourselves at halftime. It is the middle of March, and a lot of time remains on the clock. However, the NFL gets the ball as we start the third quarter, and they look unstoppable as Goodell has intimated the Saints will be heavily penalized with fines, suspensions and draft choices. The long-term effect of those penalties may be worse than the short-term effect. Despite losing Nicks and Meacham, the Saints do retain the core of the best offense in the game, and could be even better with Marc Ingram healthy and the magical Darren Sproles repeating his legerdemain all over the field.
If you put a score to all this right now, the Saints are down about 21-7. The Saints have time to rally, with some economical free agent signings and a conclusion to the Brees’ contract imbroglio. But then we factor in Steve Spagnuolo’s recrafting of the defense, and the possibility that Brees does not sign. He says emphatically that he does not want to play under the franchise tag. March may turn out to be the cruelest month in team history, but last time I looked they have six more months to resolve all their problems or watch them compound themselves into what could be a very long winter.
Jim Miller is a former journalist (Baltimore Sun), NFL executive (Saints, Bills and Bears) and college athletic director (University of New Orleans). See Jim's unique perspective of sports and more on his website: www.JWMillerSports.com.