The New Orleans Saints have been a perennial contender essentially since the arrival of head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in 2006. But it’s arguable you could begin tracing the Saints success not to Sean Payton or Drew Brees, but the man who helped orchestrate their arrival, general manager Mickey Loomis.
NBC Sports recently ranked the top NFL general managers of the 2021 season, and the aforementioned Loomis came in fourth:
The Saints’ past four seasons were a textbook example of going all in. Spending big in free agency. A first-round trade up for a defensive lineman. Emphasizing the backup quarterback position. Not only did the approach produce 49 victories in four years, it generated an 8-1 record with No. 2 signal callers over the past two seasons. There is nothing more Mikey Loomis and Sean Payton could have asked for … except a Super Bowl. The Lombardi never arrived, but the bill came due all the same. Or did it? Years of paying for tomorrow today coupled with the coronavirus’ decreased salary caps created an expectation of the Saints’ roster being blown to smithereens this offseason. It didn’t happen. Players like TE Josh Hill and P Thomas Morstead had to go, but Loomis and Payton solved most of their problems with some of their trademark restructures. That approach is part of the reason why the Saints’ highest 2021 cap hit is Drew Brees’ dead money. It is difficult to argue with the results, even if they haven’t included another trophy. Like Bill Belichick in New England, the Saints’ biggest test is just beginning as they navigate the post-Brees waters. Like Belichick, they have earned the benefit of the doubt after nearly two decades of using every tool at their disposal to build teams that consistently post double-digit victory totals.
Loomis’s fourth-place finish came behind Bill Belickick of the Patriots (1st), Kevin Colbert of the Steelers (2nd), and the duo of Andy Reid and Brett Veach of the Chiefs (3rd). To those curious, around the NFC South, Jason Licht of the Buccaneers came in 12th while Terry Fontenot (Falcons) and Scott Fitterer (Panthers) failed to make the list due to their new roles.
The fourth-place ranking for Loomis and Payton seems fair, but if the pair are able to do what no team has been able to do before - that is, lead a team to a winning season in the year after a future Hall of Fame quarterback moves on - the narrative on the duo could change for the better and they might further cement their own tickets to Canton.