The 2012 season for the New Orleans Saints was nothing short of a debacle.
It all began in March, when the initial Bountygate talk and rumors began. With this came the release of pre-game speeches of a rogue Gregg Williams, and voicemails from Drew Brees to Sean Pamphilon. Ironically, Pamphilon has since fallen off the grid.
Next came what seemed to be the death blow for the Saints season: their 2012 first round draft pick was snatched away as well as their 2013 second rounder. And more deadly, the following suspensions were dealt: coach Sean Payton for the entire season, coach Joe Vitt for six games, General Manager Mickey Loomis for 8 games, Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, and Will Smith for four games. Although the suspensions to the players were eventually lifted, the appeal process hung over their heads until the final, meaningless weeks of the season.
As the offseason trickled into summer, franchise quarterback Drew Brees was not reporting to camp due to lingering contract negotiations. The deadline for him to report inched closer and closer, but a deal was finally reached, making Drew the highest paid player in NFL history.
September couldn't come soon enough. Who Dat Nation was eager to see their quarterback lead such a high-octane offense, as well as see what was going to be a revamped defense under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. High expectations were common in all Saints fans alike.
Well, that eagerness and excitement quickly faded as the Saints opened up the season 0-4. "Revamped" was on the complete opposite side of the spectrum of descriptors for the Saints defense. They were closer to a wheel of swiss cheese than a dominant defensive group. Along with this, Sean Payton's aura was missed as the offense wasn't nearly as explosive as it was in 2011.
The talking heads in the media had completely dismissed the Saints as a playoff contender at this point, but they spoke too soon. The Saints battled back to .500 and were one game out of the Wild Card race. Who Dat Nation regained its confidence, and was ready to ride the wave of destiny to the big dance. Drew Brees had found his midseason form and the defense made a complete 180° from its opening form. Things were working out like they were supposed to from the beginning.
As we all know, that streak came to an end and the Saints' up and down season was once more. The 49ers, Falcons, and Giants all crushed the teams' hopes in embarrassing fashion, and fans were beginning to look ahead to 2013. At about this time, Sean Payton's contract extension was withdrawn from the NFL. He was set to explore his coaching options and Who Dat Nation was once again in a frenzy.
The Black & Gold decided that they were not going to lay down and play for a better draft pick. Instead, they held the Buccaneers to zero points and beat the streaking Cowboys in Jerry's World.
Just as we were beginning to feel like the team was setting the tone for next year, they got beat in the Benz to the reeling Carolina Panthers by the score of 38-44. The offense was electric, as Brees threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns. He alone just could not carry the weight of the horrific defense once again.
Jonathan Vilma did return an interception for a touchdown, but the rest is disgraceful. The group allowed a 62% conversion percentage on third down, 44 points, and 520 offensive yards. 210 of those yards were to DeAngelo Williams on the ground. That was the second time the Saints had allowed a 200+ yard rusher, the fourth time they surrendered over 500 yards, and the seventh time they allowed an offense to score over 30 points this season.
That game was just the cherry on the top of a dysfunctional season. Quite honestly, this is the first time that I have ever been relieved for a Saints season to be over.
There were good things that came out of it. Drew Brees threw for 5,177 yards, 43 touchdowns, and broke numerous records once again. But the bad certainly outweighed the good. It's time for this team to refresh their motors and prepare for a more meaningful 2013 campaign.
The first step in this process came on Friday when Sean Payton reached a new deal with the Saints. His deal is reportedly for five years, and he is expected to get around $8 million per year.
Next, the defense needs to be cleaned out. I'm talking only a few players on that squad need to stay because they were absolutely putrid. Setting the record for most yards allowed in a season says it all. The Saints will be battling the salary cap this offseason, so most of the additions will have to come in the draft.
This is going to be an interesting offseason to say the least. Sean Payton will be back in the building and will likely be ready to hurt some people's feelings, and rightfully so. I'm looking forward to seeing some changes on the team and there is no doubt in my mind that they will be back in playoff contention next season.
We will see ya 2012, and you will not be missed. Not one bit.