The New Orleans Saints are ready to kickoff the 2019 regular season and finally put the 2018 season firmly in the rear-view mirror. The Who Dat Nation on the Gulf Coast and across the world has their eyes set on another long postseason run. This is the time for blind faith, optimism, and hope - hope that Drew Brees can win his first MVP, hope that the Saints can win their second Lombardi, and hope that the Atlanta Falcons can suffer another embarrassing loss on a national stage.
For me, I have an oddly specific hope - a request, if you will - of Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints: Please, for the love of all things that are Drew Brees, embrace your role as villains in the NFL. Run up the score as high as possible in every single game.
The rationale here is simple: Do not give the NFL referees or anyone else the opportunity to take a win away.
After the heartbreak that was the no-call in last year’s NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams, NFL talking heads and Saints-haters around the country were lambasting the Saints and their fans for complaining about the missed pass interference.
“You had plenty of other chances to win the game,” they would scream at their television set when Sean Payton would come on the screen. The missed hot route to Michael Thomas on the final drive in regulation, the interception by Drew Brees in overtime... Specific moments were highlighted as the example for why the Saints should never have let the the one missed call decide the outcome of the game.
But there’s a problem with this way of thinking. Those same talking heads were the ones criticizing the Saints after their Week 11 match up against the Philadelphia Eagles for allegedly running up the score.
Exhibit “A,” below. The Saints, with nothing to gain and everything to lose, went for it on 4th down late, already up 30 points, with Drew Brees throwing a touchdown pass to Alvin Kamara.
Did Saints run up the score on Eagles in 48-7 loss?— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) January 12, 2019
Nigel Bradham tells Mike Quick
“Obviously. They let it be known”
“Disrespect is definitely there. As a defense, we know what we’re supposed to do”#FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/Uf6c1iBpWR
Commentators during the game called it “unsportsmanlike.” NFL fans called it “classless.”
But you can’t have it both ways.
A team has two options. 1) Run up the score every chance you get to put your team in the best possible position for winning to eliminate any opportunity for a third party - like the referees - to take that win away. Or 2) Do what should be considered “enough” to win the game and count on the referees to adequately and competently do their job as to not take that win away.
Let’s play with a hypothetical...
The Atlanta Falcons are up 28-3 in a Super Bowl midway through the 3rd quarter against the New England Patriots. On the Falcons’ next possession, they punt on forth and inches on the New England 35. The Patriots kick a field goal to make it 28-6, and the referees then all fall into temporary comas. Stone Cole Steve Austin’s music hits. Bill Belichick walks down the ramp with a steel chair and cracks it over the back of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones and neither are able to return to the game. The referees then snap out of their coma and play resumes, over the collective protest of the twenty-five Atlanta fans in attendance and over the moans of the Atlanta fans which were pumped into the stadium. In this scenario, let’s say the Falcons then go on to lose 34-28 in overtime (crazy, right?), as they were unable to score again without Matty Ice or the Julio-copter.
Sure, we could all look at the WWE beatdown by Bill Belichick as the reason for the loss, but what if Falcons went for it on fourth down late? What if they just try a QB sneak, get the first down, and then ice out the clock? Are we blaming Billy B. for the loss still, or is their blame to be placed on the Falcons?
Obviously that scenario is different than what happened with the Saints against the Rams last year, but the point still stands. If you aren’t aggressive 100% of the time and then go on to lose the game, that single moment where you let your guard down will be what critics point to as you doing it to yourself, despite the referees failing to do their job.
Which brings us back to my original point. The Saints need to run up the score. Every. Single. Game.
Throw caution, sportsmanship, and “class” - if you must - into the wind. Embrace the role of the villain that this inevitably creates. There isn’t a team, coach, or fan base better suited to be the hated villain of the 2019 NFL season. The media already thinks Sean Payton is petty, and he is. They already think Saints fans were whiny, which we were. Now, let’s crush their spirits.
I want the Saints to win every game by 30 points. I want Drew Brees to play with reckless abandon and own the touchdown record with enough of a cushion to where he can retire after the 2019 season without fear of Tom Brady catching him. I want Michael Thomas to break more records. I want Alvin Kamara to put up rushing numbers on behalf of himself and Mark Ingram. I want opposing defensive coordinators on the hot seat after a game against the Saints. I want Marshon Lattimore to intercept passes not just with his butt, but with his feet, legs, hips, or whatever else can embarrass opposing wide receivers. I want Cam Jordan to eat opposing quarterbacks for Sunday brunch. I want Hayden Panettiere to return my calls...
OK, that last bit got away from me there.
The last time the Saints made a Super Bowl run to Miami, they were the feel-good story of the NFL. It’s time for them to turn heel and be the villain. It wouldn’t be popular. It wouldn’t be the “right” way to play the game. But man would it be fun.