Most national coverage hasn’t been kind to the New Orleans Saints. Annual offseason storylines have attacked a range of targets, including general manager Mickey Loomis and his salary cap management, as well as head coach Sean Payton and his long-term commitment to the Saints. Not even Hall of Fame-worthy quarterback Drew Brees has gone without slander for a high salary and volume of turnovers.
This recent “Stability Index” piece from Danny Kelly, a staff writer at Bill Simmons’ The Ringer, is a refreshing optimist’s view at the fortunes of the 2017 Saints team. While he gave the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots and dark horse Seattle Seahawks the top nods, Kelly found a lot to like when considering New Orleans’ coaching structure and on-field personnel. He even ranked them above the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, as well as every other NFL franchise.
Here’s what Kelly had to say about the Saints:
3. New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees will be piloting the Sean Payton offense for the 11th season in 12 years, and there’s little sign of the Saints’ marriage of minds losing any of its strength — especially with the emergence of rookie Michael Thomas last season as a future superstar. New Orleans returns nominal offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael for the ninth straight year, and has just one starter on offense entering free agency: veteran guard Jahri Evans. Defensively, the Saints continue to be a work in progress, but Dennis Allen will head into his third year as defensive coordinator with only a few of his players set for free agency, namely defensive ends Paul Kruger and Darryl Tapp, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, and backup defensive backs Jamarca Sanford, Roman Harper, Shiloh Keo, and Kyle Wilson. That stability could finally pay dividends in 2017 if New Orleans can manage to stay healthy in key spots; injuries to cornerbacks Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins were huge setbacks to a group that flashed promise at times last year.
Whether you agree with Kelly’s conclusion or not, it’s hard to say that the Saints are not in good position to win games this year. Between an established, successful model on offense built around an all-time great head coach-quarterback relationship and a young, healthy defense poised to excel with some key additions, there aren’t many other teams better-geared for a title run.
It’s no secret that 2017 is a do-or-die year for Sean Payton and his staff. They’ve patiently built towards challenging the NFL’s best this year. Now they have to go out and do it.