10 years have now passed since the New Orleans Saints embarked on their first and only championship season. When the organization and fan base celebrated the win, they also looked forward to what appeared to be a bright future. After all, New Orleans boasted an elite quarterback in Drew Brees and innovative head coach Sean Payton to go along with top-tier roster talent and an excellent locker room.
Instead, the Saints have often struggled just to stay relevant in the last decade, missing the playoffs four times, including a three-year stretch from 2014-2016. While New Orleans did manage to return to the divisional round of the playoffs four times, they didn’t return to the NFC Championship game until last season. The Saints would have likely made their return to the big stage if not for the worst non-call in the history of NFL officiating.
Every year, each team aspires to win the Super Bowl, but the Saints may be facing a now or never situation. Brees is now 40 and his contract is set to expire after the season. The Saints young defense appears to be maturing and growing, but several key pieces are nearing the ends of their contracts.
This year could be the Saints best chance yet to win another Super Bowl, and they can’t afford to fall short again.
New Orleans Saints Expectations Clear in 2019: Win a Super Bowl
Decade of Unfulfilled Saints Expectations
Those of us who have closely observed the Saints over the last decade witnessed one of the strangest timelines in NFL history. Let’s take a moment to break it down.
- 2010: 11-5 record. Most of 2009 Championship team returns but struggles and fails to win the division, setting them up for a Wild Card matchup versus the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks on the road. Saints get eliminated, partially thanks to legendary Marshawn Lynch touchdown run.
- 2011: 13-3 record. Offense breaks records for most passing yards and total yards gained in a season. New weapons Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham each gain over 1,300 offensive yards. Eliminated from Divisional Round by San Francisco 49ers touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining.
- 2012: 7-9 record. Bountygate scandal punishments remove Payton as head coach for the season and several key defenders serve suspensions. Defense surrenders the most yards ever in a single season. Brees still throws for 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns.
- 2013: 11-5 record. Defense makes dramatic turnaround and ranks fourth in total defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Brees again surpasses 5,100 yards, but promising team is thwarted in both the regular season and divisional round by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.
- 2014-16: 7-9 records. As these records suggest, this was the same season on repeat for three years. Brees leads the NFL in passing yards each season. However, the defense finishes no better than 27th in yards or points allowed. Lowest point came in 2015, when Ryan is fired midseason and the defense breaks more records in futility.
- 2017: 11-5 record. Saints come roaring back into NFL relevance with a historic draft class that included both the offensive and defensive rookie of the year. Eight game win streak follows two blowout losses to start the season. Eliminated from Divisional Round again by Minneapolis Miracle in the closing seconds.
- 2018: 13-3 record. Saints win 10 straight games largely thanks to the most efficient Brees season to date and a second-ranked run defense. Entered postseason with top playoff seed for first time since 2009. Established early 13-0 lead over Los Angeles Rams in NFC Championship game, but Rams escape with a win, assisted by missed pass interference call.
Aside from the record-breaking offensive proficiency, this is hardly what the Saints organization and fans expected when the 2010 season began. While most of the Saints current players missed much of this rollercoaster ride, the struggle to get back into championship form currently defines the franchise
If not for the consistent success on offense, New Orleans might have faced a complete rebuild a couple of years ago with the possibility of both Brees and Payton departing. Fortunately, a locker room cleanup and good drafts in 2016 and 2017 miraculously made New Orleans a playoff team again.
While this has been an incredibly difficult path for New Orleans, the journey will be worth it if it was the franchise’s necessary path to secure another Super Bowl win.
No Motto Needed for 2019 Saints
Payton often chooses a catchphrase prior to the season to motivate his team. Last year New Orleans was picked by many experts to reach the Super Bowl, prompting Payton to select “Prove Them Right” as the Saints 2018 tagline. After such an emotional exit last season, it’s somewhat surprising that no phrase has been unveiled for the 2019 Saints.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise though, considering the Saints expectations are obvious. Computer models overwhelmingly predict New Orleans will win a Super Bowl. Every player and staff member knows how close they were last season. They were pretty close the year before too. The progress over the last two seasons has been too good to take a step back or stagnate in 2019.
In this sense, the Saints expectations are irrelevant. What matters is that every Saints fan can now taste another Super Bowl win, and every member of the organization should be possessed by the same lust. The opportunity is what matters in 2019. This team has all of the components to reach and win the Super Bowl aside from a couple of depth issues.
Last Word on 2019 Saints Expectations
New Orleans can’t afford to squander another talented squad’s potential. Their future Hall of Fame quarterback no longer says he wants to play until he’s 45. Brees now says he’s taking it one season at a time, meaning he could end his career in a matter of months.
Brees has already led the Saints to a Super Bowl win, and he’s likely their best chance to win a second trophy for a long time. Therefore, the entire organization must treat 2019 like it’s their last ever chance to win a championship.