Its May 6 and the NFL draft still hasn’t happened, making the offseason just a little more unbearable. Fortunately, bloggers have picked up the slack and are really starting to add more to their draft coverage/soothsaying/crystal-balling/hyperobole by coming up with some pretty insightful articles. My old comedy friend Ralph Marlborough recently wrote a good one here that suggests a bolder draft strategy for a team in “win-now” mode. Which got me thinking: what happens when we aren’t “win-now” mode? Its a popular discussion amongst Saints fans. When will the dark days return? Or, more specifically, when do Drew Brees and Sean Payton leave us? I’ve thought about this a lot myself, probably to an unhealthy extent. I even have a clear, detailed vision of what might happen. So, in honor of draft day still being 2 days away, here is my Book of Saints: Revelations. That’s right, its FAN FICTION. This is what happens when you move the draft back 2 weeks.
In 2018 the Saints win Super Bowl LII, making Drew Brees the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl at 39. Brees had been impressive the entire year, posting his best season statistically and breaking records that had to be made up by the NFL during the year just to keep pace with all the record-breaking. Ironically, his play was fairly average in the Super Bowl, as the win over the Patriots, dubbed “The Geezer Bowl” as Tom Brady is still New England’s QB, was mostly due to Rob Ryan’s suffocating defensive scheme. When asked if he would retire following the victory, Brees comments that he feels like he still has plenty of football left in him and notes that Payton Manning only recently retired at 41. Thoughts of Corey Wootton standing over Brett Farve’s lifeless-grandpa body briefly pass through the New Orleans fan base’s collective consciousness and then quickly fades.
Unfortunately, father time takes its toll on Brees and he has a disaster of a season in 2018. The Saints go 6-10, mostly due to poor QB play, and Brees tearfully retires at the end of the season. New Orleans Saints fans watch the press conference as if they were watching Christ be crucified on the cross right before them.
Brees initially tries to go into sportscasting following his retirement, but the most coveted job has already gone to Payton Manning, who replaced Al Michaels following his own retirement before the 2018 season. Manning is often and irritatingly compared to Frank Gifford, and even more infuriating are the calls for Eli Manning to replace Collinsworth after he finishes his career. In 2021 this becomes true, leading to mind-numbing Sunday Night Football commentary that has Payton doing all of the relevant talking and Eli either agreeing with him or asking if he can use the bathroom. Brees briefly contemplates returning to football and then even thinks about politics, but eventually he decides to pull a Joe Montana and quietly reign over his Jimmy Johns empire. Aside from the occasional NyQuil commercial, he is rarely seen. Much to Saints fans consternation, he moves back to his home state of Texas, albeit the Dallas area.
Sean Payton had always intended on leaving the Saints at the same time Drew Brees retired, but Mickey Loomis convinces him to stay for one more year. The 2019 season is even more of a disaster than the last, largely due to a quarterback carousel made up of veterans and a 2018 mid-round dual-threat draft pick Randall Cunningham II. Rob Ryan’s ever evolving defense continues to impress, however, and it keeps the team from falling below 6-10. The season collapses late, keeping Payton from pulling a Mora and leaving early, and he retires at the end of the regular season.
Multiple teams offer Payton huge contracts to coach but after seeing what life was like during his bounty gate season Payton decides to pull a Gruden and go into the more relaxed broadcasting life. Payton has little success in this arena, however. Gruden is intent on being at ESPN until he dies, leaving Payton to take a smaller gig at NFL Network. He isn’t very good despite regularly bringing a bat with him on set to pump himself up, and quits after a year. For a few months he becomes a CrossFit instructor and in 2021 Jerry Jones finally dies and Payton gladly takes the position of General Manager of the Dallas Cowboys, following in the footsteps of his mentor Bill Parcells. He is regularly seen golfing with Drew Brees, which Nola.com reports on as if it were actual news.
Fans applaud the supposed long-overdue appointing of Rob Ryan as head coach of the Saints in 2020, the dumbest of whom talk about the return to a “power-running” game despite the fact that NFL running backs now only amass about 500 yards and 5 touchdowns a year. Most people do feel especially lucky that the transition of power happened at all as Ryan had been offered several head coaching jobs, especially after the Super Bowl win. Ryan’s love for New Orleans, a handshake guarantee from Mickey Loomis that he would become coach after Payton retiring and an ever-rising salary keeps him in the Big Easy, however. He has immediate success, going 10-6 behind a much-improved Randall Cunningham II. The media laps up the Ryan/Cunningham pair and old Eagles videos are shown next to current Saints highlights on Sportscenter. Unfortunately the two subsequent seasons prove to be less than stellar. In 2021 Pete Carmichael becomes head coach of the NY Giants and Ryan’s lack of offensive game-planning becomes the same Achilles heel both his father and brother both suffered during their tenures as head coach. After going 7-9 and 3-13, Ryan is fired. A considerable amount of dumb fans think that its premature and that the team is doomed but they later feel better when watching several undrafted free agents “look awesome” doing 7 on 7 drills in training camp the following year. None make the team.
Ryan initially goes into a historic binge at Miss Mae’s, depressed from being the third Ryan to fail as a head coach (Rex still unsuccessfully coaches the Jets, for reasons no one understands). He is eventually approached by NBC to replace Eli Manning on Sunday Night Football, who has resigned due to a severe learning disability. The Peyton Manning – Rob Ryan tandem is a huge hit with viewers, with Ryan being regularly compared to John Madden. Electronic Arts jumps on the trend and has Ryan replace Chris Collinsworth as the voice of the Madden video game series. This leads to Collinsworth’s second suicide attempt, his first being after Eli Manning replaced him on SNF. Ryan embraces the Madden image. He over-uses his yellow graphics pen and eats turduckens on the regular. He dresses as Madden at Mardi Gras by merely wearing a wig and shaving off his goatee. Despite becoming a TV star, he remains in New Orleans and in 2030 he celebrates his 10th straight year as King of Zeus.
Saints Fans and The Organization
The Drew Brees withdrawl hits an all time high when the Saints eventually draft all of Brees’ sons over a four year period. As holes begin to wear through the fan base’s Superbowl 44 shirts most wonder if they’ll ever see another championship in their lifetime. The continued lack of success is popularly believed to be a long-term conspiracy put in place by Roger Goodell. As the sun begins to burn out of the sky and the universe starts to retract, one fan turns to another, Abita Amber in hand, and says, “Hey, it could have been worse, we could be from Cleveland”.