What Has Happened to the New Orleans Saints in 2012
By Robert Ruiz
What has happened to the New Orleans Saints in 2012? This is the team many thought could be in the Super Bowl. The Saints are 2-4 record after six games. The Louisiana team started with a four game losing streak before winning game five.
Granted, head coach Sean Payton was suspended by the NFL this spring for a whole year for his alleged part in the bounty scandal. Granted, General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight games, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who was to handle the team in the absence of Payton, was suspended for the first six games of the season. Some NFL experts, however, thought that with the talent the team has, including quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints could still contend for a championship, despite all the obstacles.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell made the suspensions after bounty scandal accusations the team had a secret "slush fund" it used to play players for causing injuries to the players on opposing teams during games from 2009, the year the team won the Super Bowl, through 2011. Officials never penalized any player during a game, however, for any "illegal" hits by the 22 to 27 players.
Saints' owner Tom Benson has refused to fire anyone over the scandal. Many NFL fans have not looked at the team, which became a national favorite after turning from perennial losers into champions in 2009, the same. The program was allegedly started by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and he was indefinitely suspended from the league.
Many thought the team would still be able to outscore opponents regularly, regardless how the team's defense would do, because of Brees. They did think everyone still with the team, from the coaches to the players, would have to do an outstanding job to compensate for the loss of Payton, who was suspended in April.
In a game October 7 this year, Brees Broke, the $100 million player, broke the record set by Johnny Unitas set in the seasons from 1956-1960 of throwing at least one touchdown pass in 47 straight games by completing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game to Devery Henderson. He also threw three touchdowns to Marques Colston, as the Saints won the team's first game of the year, 31-24 over the San Diego Chargers. Many credit the turnaround of the Saints this decade not only on the talent of Brees, but also on his leadership.
Some experts thought the Saints still had the talent and experience to win, even without the head coach. They thought the players had gained the heart Payton has. Brees has been outspoken in the way the NFL has handled the bounty scandal. Some believed the team might win based on motivation alone after the scandal.
Some began to wonder if the Saints were preoccupied with the bounty scandal after the team started the year by losing to Carolina, a 6-10 team last season and the Washington Redskins with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, a 5-11 team in 2011. Even though some expected Carolina to be improved, they did not expect the Saints to lose that game. Some also thought Brees was not playing his best early in the season, although he has improved since.
Others have noted the offensive line of the Saints has not protected Brees as it should. No matter how talented he is the quarterback still needs time to throw.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive line has given up too many yards rushing. Carolina rushed for 219 yards against Carolina, and Buffalo gained 153 yards on the ground in games one and two. Some criticized Brodrick Bunkley and Curtis Lofton for not doing enough to stop the ground game of opponents. Some say the team is not used to the new defensive scheme. These weaknesses have led to many big plays by opponents.
Some with knowledge of football believe the team misses Payton. They also believe it is preoccupied with the scandal.
Do the Saints still have time to turn around the things that have gone wrong this year? Many still believe the team is talented to win as it did in the past. Football fans will see.