Stefon Diggs, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kyle Rudolph...these names have and will haunt New Orleans Saints fans as they remember what could have been the past three seasons. New Orleans' fanbase has become numb to playoff heartbreak after losing in the NFC playoffs on the big plays and questionable officiating. Many fans and experts are wondering if Drew Brees will have another opportunity at a second Super Bowl ring to add to his outstanding future Hall of Fame career.
New Orleans finished 13-3 in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. The past three seasons have been the Saints' most productive regular seasons in the team’s 51 years of existence. With the team's success has comes great expectations from their loyal fans in the “Who Dat Nation.” This season was labeled as "Super Bowl or Bust", therefore, the latest playoff exit has been extremely painful for the fans, players, and organization. By the tone of Drew Brees and Sean Payton's press conferences following the loss to the Vikings, you have to believe the losses are taking a toll.
With potential major losses to the roster in free agency and coaching staff this offseason, the Saints DNA from the past half decade is bound to take a hit. Thus, will the roster changes potentially close the championship window for Brees and the Saints? Sean Payton addressed the media saying a “perfect world” would be (the team) can come out of free agency with some of the major parts of the Saints DNA/culture will still be intact. However, Payton also stated “we don’t live in one [perfect world]” realizing that the Saints could see a much different team in the next 6 months.
Among the potential 27 free agents for the Saints is soon to be 41-year-old quarterback Drew Brees. “We looked the devil in the eyes, so what are we afraid of?,” Brees said prior to Sunday’s Wild Card loss to Minnesota.
While the competitive fire is still there with Saints' leader, the question is how much longer will “Breesus” be playing in the Black and Gold, but also in the National Football League? While the answer is not cut and dry, there is a strong possibility Brees will return to New Orleans next season according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The dilemma for the team is if he will sign a short-term contract since the team cannot use the franchise tag on Brees.
If you do an analysis of the Saints, it could be easy to state the championship window may be closing for the team. Brees is an aging superstar quarterback and the composition of the team will be different in 2020, but one constant will be Head Coach Sean Payton. The have returning assets in RB Alvin Kamara, WR Michael Thomas, DE Cameron Jordan, one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and a young talented group of DB’s New Orleans, all have the team capable of being championship contenders under Payton's command.
On paper, even going into the offseason with question marks, the Saints should be viewed as favorites to win the NFC South for the fourth consecutive season. However, as the great science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov said, “It lasted for a long time, I believe... A very long time. It was a great success, but even great successes come to a natural end”.
Will the Saints make one last Super Bowl run in the Payton-Brees era? The future is foggy for the two past champions. Saints fans should embrace those past heroic moments and cling to those memories because those championship windows for the Saints legends may be closing soon in the Big Easy.
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