A comparison is only as good as the creativity behind it. From players and coaches to specific personnel groups, we’ll try to compare it all! Every reference will be included from former Saints alumni, as well as other well-known entities throughout the spectrum. You’ll even see common life occurrences or perspectives that most of us can all relate to. We hope you enjoy the first installment of “You Remind Me”.
Rejection is quite the element to deal with throughout life. Like most character building opportunities, it is a part of life that we must experience — whether we’re ready for it or not. Rejection can either break a person or be the fuel that ignites them going forward — easily explained as a lesson learned. When the spotlight returns for redemption, one is either prepared for it or fearful of a past outcome. And as the beginning of training camp for the New Orleans Saints is finally present and rolling along, their moment of truth is slowly following in pursuit.
To put things in perspective, think about what rejection means to some, something easily relatable like an old high school crush, but more importantly from the perspective of the underdog. Most people growing up eventually run into a crush at some point in life. Someone they admire deeply beyond the means of realization. And underdogs usually aren’t as physically blessed or gifted as say you the reader are. So, instead of maybe having a believed legitimate shot at the person they secretly admire, this crush becomes more of a dream, a longshot. The crush soon reaches “out of my league” status before a simple greeting is even mustered.
Imagine that, before anything is truly settled, this person is basically counted out.
Last season, the New Orleans Saints were “out of their league” to most. Not many predicted success from the young group of unproven and unheralded cast of players New Orleans put forth as the season began. Drew Brees in his prime couldn’t carry the roster (see defense) in front of him, and an even rejuvenated Adrian Peterson wouldn’t be enough to save him. The rejection was early and pessimism was quickly soon once again in the air. Both of what has now become annual stories, rumors of a Sean Payton departure and the declining arm strength of Drew Brees had found its way into our eyes again by the end of Week 2. Any maintained success once again felt like a pipe dream.
The Saints had two routes they could go at this point. It’s the same exact obstacle for someone feeling rejected chasing a love interest. They can either gear up a plan to approach their crush against the odds or succumb to the fear of failure. Maybe they’ve failed before and it’s not a feeling they want to encounter for a while. Or they could simply not believe in themselves and feed into a negative narrative. This underdog, however, is built differently. They gather all the confidence they can collect and finally approach the person. And they get turned down slightly, but not emphatically. There’s room for an opportunity, the presentation just wasn’t polished yet. In the meantime, confidence is building, and this underdog isn’t feeling much like one anymore. And that leads us back to the Saints.
New Orleans started their season 0-2 and the “8-8” jokes were in full force (or 7-9 since it had become the norm for a bit). Then, a surprising shift quickly manufactured. Fear turned into a strength, which turned into confidence, and by the time the season ended, the Saints were downright cocky. The main shift for New Orleans started defensively, as they no longer were doormats for opposing offenses. Cam Jordan’s elite individual status was joined by a plethora of teammates. Standouts including Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, Marcus Williams, Sheldon Rankins and many others. This group became known as the “Boonk Gang”. And they had no problem showing you.
The offense produced a balanced attack led by a dancing machine in Mark Ingram and an airhead consuming Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara. Michael Thomas became elite right in front of our eyes, Ted Ginn had a career year, and Drew Brees finally had a team that could carry him when needed.
“When needed” being the keywords involved.
Now that is what we call redemption. The job, however, wasn’t done.
New Orleans finished the regular season battered with numerous talents on injured reserve, but were overall battle-tested as they marched into the playoffs at 11-5. After a tight win against the division rival Carolina Panthers, the Saints faced a tough and very talented Minnesota Vikings in a Week One regular season rematch.
Both teams were different this time around, and so was the game. The Saints overcame adversity and a huge deficit with a huge chance at advancing. The rest is history, as the Saints were rejected in embarrassing fashion. It’s what any person chasing something or someone is afraid of the most. Not just the rejection, but public and internal embarrassment in the process.
Imagine getting your confidence to an all-time high, having your crush look at you and give you signs throughout the year that you have a shot. You feel close, the school year is ending, and you have one last shot for an opportunity at securing a date. And you whiff — and in return, nothing but corny jokes and humiliation come back in your direction. Just like the Saints, you have a whole summer to think about it.
If indications are clear, New Orleans is ready for their opportunity when that first bell rings. And while training camp is an orientation of sorts, it brings back feelings both good and bad from last year. Who knows if and when the Saints approach their crush again this year, and if they will even say yes. The expectations aren’t what they were at this time last year. Others will stake their claim, and they could have an even tougher road. Or, the lessons learned and hardship endured could propel them to paradise. The first week of training camp just reminds us of the path traveled, and the next journey that is hoped to be conquered.