Did I mention the Saints are in the Super Bowl? You know, as it wasn't very long after that I started my website New Orleans Saints History, that I began to ponder the possibility of the Saints in the Super Bowl. Now keep in mind, this was about 1997 and "Iron" Mike Ditka had just taken over. By 1999, I decided that I had plenty of time to think about what I would say on NoSaintsHistory.com should that glorious day ever arrive but when Jim Haslett took over in 2000, it began to look like maybe, just maybe that day would appear. The seasons after that first ever playoff victory proved once again that I had time again. I began to seriously wonder if the Black and Gold would ever have the honor of playing in a Super Bowl.
The Saints once again flirted with a possible appearance to the Big Dance in 2006 when Sean Payton took the reigns and with Drew Brees guiding the offense, a first ever NFC Championship game was realized. But as always, the following years had me wondering if all the superstitions and crazy talk of curses just might be a reality after all. But here we are. February, in the year of our Lord 2010, Super Bowl XLIV (that's Super Bowl #44), less than 36 hours away as I bang away at the keys of my keyboard, and THE NEW ORLEANS SAINT ARE IN THE SUPER BOWL!! So here I am. Over 10 years of wondering and planning for this day. So, without further ado................................................................................................................
Now, I could use the standard unbelievable statement that I've been a Saints fan since since birth (actually, I don't believe people when they say this) but that wouldn't really be true. I can vaguely remember going to a couple of Saint games in Tulane Stadium as a 4 or 5 year old, but I don't recall much. I can say that I started paying attention to Saint Games on TV around 1977 (....not a good year). My first memory of avidly following the Saints has got to be the signing of Dick Nolan in 1978 and hearing all about his "Flex Defense" he was bringing to New Orleans. Little did I realize the amount of frustration and heartache that my fateful decision would bring me. But for the next 30 years I hoped and dreamed. Playing backyard football with the neighborhood kids had me imagining I was, you guessed it................Archie Manning throwing game winning touchdowns or scrambling over the goal line with time expired. I still remember playing with my GI Joes and whatever other movable Action Figures I had and pretending they were the Black and Goal terrors of the Gridiron. My favorite was the "Bionic-Man" Steve Austin figure ( FIGURE, not doll) that dwarfed the other Action Jackson and Big Jim toys. This towering Giant was always the hero of my Action-Figure/Fantasy team that went undefeated season after season....... Oh sure, there was the occasional upset every 2 or three years, but in my imagination, they triumphed Super Bowl after Super Bowl.
Let's get back to reality, shall we?
Those mornings at the bus stop before school shall be forever burned in my mind. I shared this bus stop with a whole family of Dallas Cowboy fans. 4 brothers that subjected me to an endless tirade of smack that lasted the whole bus ride every Monday morning. I don't think we called it "smack" back then, but it was the same thing. Pld school guys will remember Dallas had that great dynasty back in the 70s that featured Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and that "Domesday Defense" led by the likes of Randy White, Harvey Martin, Too-Tall Jones, Bob Breunig and Charlie Waters. And the Saints had........ well they weren't so good. And I got to hear about it every Monday Morning usually following some humiliating Saints loss.
Then came High School. Along with all the usual interests of a teenage boy playing football, I managed to keep a eye on my beloved Saints. Bum Phillips brought a new hope after the disastrous 1-15 year of the Bagheads, but delivered more frustration. I can still feel the betrayal every time I recall reading about Archie being traded to Houston. I shake my head every time the memory of Richard Todd trade or the signings of Kenny Stabler and Earl Campbell come to mind. At least Bum did lay the groundwork for a new and vastly improved Saints defense that would later become the legendary Dome Patrol.
Enter the Jim Mora Era. Mora finally gave us a taste of what winning was like. A nine-game winning streak and a playoff appearance in 1987, never before winning seasons in the late 80s and early 90s, 3 consecutive playoff appearances between 1990 and 1992 with a Western Division Championship in 1991. It was stuff that up until then we had only dreamed of as Saints fans. But for reason, the loser stigma seemed to stick more during these years. We never seemed to be able to win when it really mattered. No matter how much success we would have, either San Fransisco or Atlanta was there to make sure it was short lived.
After Mora it was Mike Ditka, the big bad guy that had brought Chicago a Super Bowl ring, that had his turn at transforming our Saints. After 3 bizarre seasons and all of 15 victories, Iron Mike was shown the door.
Jim Haslett was next. Haslett brought a fiery emotion that hadn't been seen in New Orleans in quite some time. After the Saints experienced the first ever playoff victory in the club's history, many were saying that the Saints had finally arrived. With an explosive offense led by Deuce McAllister and Aaron Brooks and a more than capable defense, it looked like a Super Bowl was within reach.
Deja-vu. The explosive offense turned inconsistent and ineffective almost overnight. The stout defense went soft with no explanation. For another 4 seasons it seems our Saints would do just enough to remain competitive until the last few games of the season. Then, it was like they would just let go and throw away any hope of salvaging the year. The frustration of the Haslett years all came together in one final zenith that was the 2005 season. The year of Hurricane Katrina. The battered Saints were almost a reflection of the battered city of New Orleans.
But now, the Saints are in the Super Bowl. Just 4 short years since the devastation of Katrina. Sean Payton has been at the forefront of a "new" New Orleans Saints team. Since 2006, the very culture of the Saints has been revamped. An explosive offense that has lead the NFL in scoring this year has replaced the bumbling comedy acts of the past. Greg Williams' defense may not be the most prolific, but one certainly has to take note of the heart and aggression it possesses. Yes. This team is not your daddy's Saints. Your daddy's Saints always seemed to find some way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This team is the exact opposite. Come from behind wins against the Dolphins, the Jets and the Redskins provided plenty of excitement. And, this team won when it had to. Much was made of the 3 straight losses to end the season. But all fears have been put to rest with the proof being a 45-14 trouncing of Arizona followed by the 31-28 overtime battle that sent the Saints to their first Super Bowl. No. These aren't your daddy's Saints. The Saints are in the Super Bowl. I haven't got tired of saying it yet. For someone who seriously wondered if they would ever be able to see that day, I don't think I ever will.Part 2 of this Article