The New Orleans Saints Are Decaying

The New Orleans Saints Are Decaying

On the day the Minnesota Vikings are expected to announce Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as the next general manager, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is leaving the sport, at least for a while.

Payton wasn’t theorized as a departing coach during this cycle, but the development also isn’t wildly surprising. Why? Because the Saints are decaying – for several reasons.

Foremost, Drew Brees retired last offseason, leaving the future of the offense in the hands of Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book. Winston tossed 30 interceptions in a season not long ago, and Hill is a fancy tight end playing a little quarterback. Siemian is not good either. The plan was not solid, especially as no youthful heir apparent was chosen in the draft to succeed an old Brees (before he retired). New Orleans drafted Ian Book in the 4th Round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but quarterbacks from Notre Dame have been lousy amid the last three decades. After Brees, the Saints plan at quarterback was Winston, a side dish of Hill, contingency in Siemian, desperation with Book, and prayer.

Not foolproof.

So, the team has no long-term strategy at quarterback involving a youngster after Brees failed to win a Super Bowl in 11 consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2020. Payton and Brees got their 2009 ring – and that was it for Lombardiville in the Bayou.

Jan 2, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Too, the team’s co-chief playmaker, Michael Thomas, has been injured and irrelevant for two straight years. It is unlikely he’ll return to Saints in 2019 form when he shattered records.

Next, the salary cap quandary in Louisiana is laughable. New Orleans must navigate a state of $70 million (!!!) over the cap this offseason. Hell, that’s probably why Payton got out of dodge. Wouldn’t you?

Look at this monstrosity of hell (Saints 2022 cap circled in red):

The number is baffling. No Brees, no Brees-replacement even remotely on the level of Brees in the purview, and underwater by $70 million.

Add in Michael Thomas’ disappearing act with Alvin Kamara’s 27th birthday this summer – plus no Sean Payton anymore – and it’s spooky, really. How did the Saints fall from grace so quickly?

They didn’t plan for life after Brees. New Orleans mortgaged everything annually for one more shot with Brees at the Super Bowl. And it simply never worked, thwarted twice by the Minnesota Vikings.

To be fair, the Saints were in cap madness last offseason, too. They ended up fielding a competitive team under Payton. But now Payton is gone, possibly coaching again in the future – probably with a different franchise like the Dallas Cowboys.

The Saints are in a state of flux, caused by gradual decay that became vivid on the day Payton stepped away. Their effort to replicate 2009 was valiant, although peppered with salary-cap gymnastics at the accommodation of Brees’ final seasons.

The Paytonless team can fully rebuild up against the salary cap animosity or try things with Winston again. The former seems more sensible.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).