It is simply fact that since 2006 up to this very day, there has been no better offense in the NFL than that of the New Orleans Saints. Upon their 2006 arrival, head coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees took an offense that had ranked 20th the previous season and propelled it to 1st in the NFL within a year. Since then, the Saints have never looked back, and have never truly been rivaled.
Here is a look at the Saints' total offensive yards rankings during the current Payton/Brees regime:
2006 - 1st
2007 - 4th
2008 - 1st
2009 - 1st
2010 - 6th
2011 - 1st
2012 - 2nd
2013 - 4th
2014 - 1st
As seen in these rankings, the Saints have been ranked in the top five in total offense for 8 of the past 9 years, the lone exception being their sixth overall ranking during the 2010 season. No team has come close to achieving such success on offense during this timeframe.
The next two franchises who have achieved the closest amount of success during this span are the Philadelphia Eagles (never ranked first) and the New England Patriots (ranked first twice), who have both been ranked in the top five during 5 different seasons since '06.
What has made the Saints offense so elite are not just flashes of brilliance, but most importantly, consistency. There have been many impressive offenses over the years, the '98 Vikings, the '00 Rams, the '07 Patriots, but no offensive unit has been as consistently dominant as Payton's Saints.
Second, Jimmy Graham is, without question, the NFL's 2nd best tight end, and he will be missed. His talents and overall skill set aren't found on every roster, but for all of his highlights Jimmy disappeared in stretches, especially when challenged physically. The offense became too dependent on one target, and began to suffer slightly for it. Remember, although the Saints were twice ranked 1st overall with Graham, they also ranked 1st overall three times under Payton, before Graham was ever drafted. The Saints will adapt, out of necessity, and spread the ball around to other targets, with success.
Finally, the subtraction of Kenny Stills along with the addition of no one of consequence to the receiving corps is the biggest concern for the Saints offense going into the 2015 season. As mentioned previously, the Saints will need to spread the ball around more than they have in the past few years. Without high profile targets like Graham and Stills, the dynamic of the offense will need to change. With that said, the Saints have done well in adapting to changing offensive targets around Brees.
Over the past decade, the Saints have never had the All-Pro wide receivers that other teams have enjoyed, but as the rankings have proven, the Saints never really needed them. In fact, in 2011, the Saints set the NFL record for total offensive yards in a single season, with an astonishing total of 7,474. Brees never had receivers like Andre Johnson or Randy Moss during his early years in New Orleans, and he doesn't have guys like Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones now, but despite this, the Saints offense has not only endured, they have achieved greatness.
While it is understandable to bemoan the missed opportunity of adding Greg Jennings this offseason, there were no guarantees that he would provide that much more to the Saints in 2015. It wasn't 2011 Greg Jennings they would have been signing. He would still need to have beat out the young receivers the Saints will truly be depending on this coming season.
The Saints still have their All-Time leading receiver in Marques Colston, the versatile and dynamic Brandin Cooks, along with a complement of young talent behind them. Even the hand-wringers would agree that young talent is what the Saints need at this point and going forward.
I shudder to think what heights Drew Brees could have reached with Larry Fitzgerald opposite Colston during their primes, but even without a talent of Fitz's magnitude at wideout all these years, the Saints have reached soaring heights on offense. Brees has made stars, rather than having to rely on overpaying them at the expense of the unit as a whole. This has been a major component of the Saints' consistent excellence.
Some choose to believe that the Saints will find a more balanced approach to the offense, due to the trading of Stills and Graham coupled with the addition of Max Unger and the re-signing of Mark Ingram. At year 10 of the Payton/Brees era, it would be almost foolish to assume Sean Payton will contradict his fundamental offensive philosophy, especially considering the unparalleled success he has had with it.
Although it should honestly be expected that the philosophical approach will remain intact, the Saints should be able to get more out of the opportunities they take in the running game, due in part to the revamped offensive line as well as the addition of C.J. Spiller to complement Mark Ingram. Under Payton, the Saints will never resemble Seattle's rushing attack, but all they really need is to reach the level of their two most successful seasons, 2009 and 2011, where they ranked 6th in rushing both years. That is all the balance the Saints need to continue their success, and just what they need to contend for the Super Bowl this season.
As dedicated fans, we have the tendency to get too caught up in the accomplishments of the past and the promise of the future. We really need to take the opportunity to enjoy the present. As of this moment, the New Orleans Saints represent the most consistently impressive brand of offensive football the NFL has seen in a very long time, and that is a indisputable fact we should all enjoy.