Finally got around to buying and reading Jeff Duncan’s book, and I’m glad I did. Duncan, as you may know, is the Saints…uh… beat writer… I guess… for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He hates it when you call him a reporter. And he’s not really a columnist, as I understand it, because a column writer will proudly and openly write about his opinions, his viewpoint on the topics. Duncan is fiercely proud of his "objectivity", whatever that means, but I take it to mean in Duncan’s case that he is not emotionally involved with the Saints. Just the facts. Like a reporter…oops.
Anyway, the book is about the Saints from their inception to 2003 or so (the copyright is 2004). The subtitle is "A collection of the greatest stories ever told". Lots of stories and anecdotes (Joe Horn and Willie Roaf are in here, although not explicitly; the results of the blood test of the newborn are not revealed) In fact, the book reads like it was directly transcribed from the notes jotted on Duncan’s legal pad as he interviewed those who would talk to him. Not a polished work of literary distinction, but it serves the purpose. Duncan didn’t hit town until 2000, so he wasn’t around for most of it. But it’s a very enjoyable read, I recommend it. BOOM rec’d it. ($19.95 new at Amazon.com but you can get a used one through them for as little as $2.03)
The book is particularly interesting for Saints fans who did not live in the area during this time, like myself. Local newspapers, TV and radio cover a lot of stuff that the national media does not. Then there’s the local gossip. Some of these anecdotes probably never made the local papers.
Most striking to me is the incompetence of the Saints owners and management, at least into the Benson reign. No wonder they lost so many games. The reasons are all in here, and it really is quite a contrast to the high quality of the Benson/Loomis/Payton era.
The players and coaches are evaluated frankly and directly. Bum Philips, for example, was a nice guy but still living in the 1950’s as far as the offense was concerned. He did not hire an offensive coordinator and didn’t use the new computerized scouting system data, preferring to keep notes with pencil and paper. Chuck Muncie’s drug problems, immaturity, and bad attitude take up a couple of pages.
But the real reason I’m doing this fanpost is to set the record straight on Archie Manning. A few members here (I’m not going to name any names, but the initials of two repeat offenders are M-E and CP) seem to enjoy rewriting the history of the great quarterback, based on their personal biases. Here are the facts, as reported by Duncan in the book:
- Manning was the face of the franchise. After being selected with the #2 overall pick in the 1971 draft, the Saints basically declared him their savior.
- He played for 5 head coaches, 2 interim coaches, and 8 offensive coordinators over his 12 year career from 1971 to 1983.
- As of 2004, Manning was the only Saint to win an MVP award (UPI/The Sporting News, 1978). He was the only Saints quarterback to play in the Pro Bowl.
- Archie was the victim of an almost criminal neglect for the offensive line by the club’s organization. Over his career, the Saints invested only 8 first, second, or third round picks on offensive linemen. Two of the first rounders were busts. Manning never played behind one Pro Bowl offensive lineman during his career with the Saints.
- Yet he was tough. Defensive tackle Derland Moore called him "the toughest player I ever played with. He took a lot of punishment. I saw him take a lot of hits, but he never complained and he never pointed fingers."
- Manning exuded class and character. He was the most popular player in the club’s history. He never marred the organization with off-field problems and dutifully served as its unofficial ambassador at speaking engagements and public appearances. He won the NFL Players Association’s Byron Whizzer White ward for community relations.
Is Archie Manning the best Saints quarterback in the history of the franchise? No, Drew Brees obviously is. But Archie is clearly the second best, and I’m sure he’s OK with that.