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The best Saints to never a win a championship: The case for 2018

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When in doubt, trust the people.

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Seems like a perfectly reasonable result to me.

Sure, the 2011 New Orleans Saints were an offensive juggernaut. But there was no better team, top to bottom, than the 2018 New Orleans Saints.

Look at the rosters. On offense, Drew’s arm in 2018 wasn’t anywhere near what he could do in 2011, but there also wasn’t a wide receiver in 2011 - including Marques Colston - that could do what Michael Thomas could in 2018. The Saints offensive line was one of the best in Saints history in 2018, giving up fewer sacks and a lower percentage of drop-backs than the 2011 unit.

While Jimmy Graham was a dominant force in 2011, he still wasn’t the developed route-runner that Michael Thomas is, and Ben Watson was no slouch for the Saints in 2018.

On the ground, instead of a pair of backs like Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the Saints had a quartet of runners in Ingram, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory, and Pierre Thomas.

The 2011 team might have had more quality playmakers on offense (like Lance Moore and Robert Meachem), but the quality of the playmakers in 2018 (like Mike Thomas and Alvin Kamara) was unmatched in any year in Saints history. Throw in the Swiss Army Knife that is Taysom Hill, and you can see why the 2011 and 2018 offenses were at least comparable.

But it’s really the 2018 defense that makes the team stand out from 2011. Take it from former Saint and Super Bowl Champ Scott Shanle himself in an interview with Mike Triplett for ESPN:

“Obviously taking the ball away, that was our thing [in 2009 and 2011]. Super aggressive, blitzing. But when you talk about consistently being a great defense, I have no problem admitting that [the 2018] defense was probably better over the long haul[.]”

Pretty persuasive stuff.

The 2018 Saints defense has arguably the best cornerback in Saints history in 2017 Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore. The 2018 squad also boasted quality depth at every level, on the defensive line anchored by Cam Jordan, at linebacker led by Demario Davis, and in the secondary with Lattimore himself.

The difference between the 2018 defense and the 2011 offense, is at least close to the difference between the 2011 offense and the 2018 offense. But what about special teams?

In 2011, Darren Sproles set the NFL record for all-purpose yards, getting a chunk of those in the return game. While the 2018 Saints didn’t have nearly as prolific a return specialist (and no, Tommylee Lewis does not count. I don’t know that name. That’s silly you would even bring him up.), the 2018 squad has one of the best place kickers they’ve had in recent memory in Wil Lutz. I would say the 2018 and 2011 special teams units are a wash.

Then how can we say the 2018 squad was better? If the special teams were roughly the same, and each year performed better on one side of the ball, what gives the nod to the 2018 team as a whole?

That starts at the top. Sean Payton is the same, aggressive offensive coach in both years with Pete Carmichael as his Offensive Coordinator and Joe Lombardi coaching quarterbacks. In 2018, gone is the warm body that was Joe Vitt and at Defensive Coordinator the Saints have Dennis Allen rather than the ultra headhunter “aggressive” Gregg Williams.

As a whole, the 2018 coaching staff was light years better than the 2011 staff. If that isn’t clear by now, can you Saints historians out there recall who Director of Pro Scouting was for New Orleans in 2011? That would be none other than the infallible Ryan Pace. The same Ryan Pace who later traded up to draft Mitchell Trubisky over some other available quarterback no one has ever heard of.

You might think the fans got this one wrong in the poll. They didn’t. The 2018 team was the best Saints team in history to not win a Super Bowl - and maybe even the best Saints team in history period. They deserved a better fate than the one they were given.