With the Saints marching into town this week for some joint practice sessions and the first pre-season game of the year, I thought it would be a good opportunity to do some collaborative work with one of Bloguin’s fellow football writers. Saints Nation is an awesome New Orleans Saints blog that recently moved onto the network after several strong seasons of covering the team as an independent blog. In order to help us get to know our opponents a little better, I asked the site’s lead writer, Andrew Juge, a series of questions about the Saints, and he, in turn, asked me a few about the Pats. His responses are below, followed by a link to Foxboro Blog’s Q&A session on Saints Nation.
1. First off, congrats on XLIV! What was it like for you to watch your team win its first Super Bowl?
Thanks! The buzz honestly still hasn’t worn off. I grew up a Saints fan my whole life and I turn 30 this year, so I’ve experienced a lot of losing and disappointment. The mentality for a long time was to expect losing. To be honest, my goal going into seasons early in my life was “make the playoffs” and maybe win a game in the postseason. Winning a Super Bowl never really entered the equation. All in all in made it more emotional and meaningful, I think, when we won. I know the story is overplayed and lots of NFL fans that aren’t Saints fans roll their eyes when they hear about the bond between the team and the fans, but I really do think that the win was more than just about football, and it wasn’t just a token cliche statement. There is a sort of vindication that comes with being the laughing stock of the league for so long and finally winning. I was mocked a lot for being such a diehard fan. I’ll definitely remember us winning for the rest of my life. As a huge sports fan, no other sporting memory will ever top it. The organization faced really long odds, even before Katrina, to pull something like this off. I get giddy just thinking about it.
2. Drew Brees has always been one of the league’s most under-rated quarterbacks. Now that he has a ring, does he deserve to be in the discussion with Brady and Manning for the leagues best QB?
I think so. If you look at it purely by the numbers, Brees is now #2 all time in passing yards in a season behind Marino. The Saints have been the #1 offense in the NFL 3 times in the 4 years Brees has been there. Manning has the MVP’s and Brady had the 16-0 season and the touchdown pass record, but Brees’ numbers have been right up there with them. Some people will say that Brady is better than Manning solely because of how many rings he has. I disagree with that, because Roethlisberger has more rings than Manning and he never enters the discussion as a superior quarterback to the aforementioned three. Football is played with 11 men on the field at a time. Having an elite quarterback is a huge component of winning, but it’s not the only factor that plays into winning a Super Bowl. I think even before the Saints won a Super Bowl, Brees belonged in that discussion. There is no question he deserves to be there now, though. I will admit that with winning comes more legitimacy. I don’t think winning a Super Bowl is the main way we should identify “the best” quarterbacks, but it should play a part. I think some could make the case that Brees is currently, as of today, the best quarterback in the NFL. I’m sure Patriots fans don’t agree, but I really do believe the Manning-Brady-Brees discussion is pretty interchangeable at this point. You can make a case for all three being the best.
3. What are you the most excited about heading into the 2010 season?
This is going to sound really lame, but just going into it with the satisfaction that we’ve won at the highest level. I hope the team still feels that pressure to prove last year wasn’t just a flash in the pan, but for me as a fan, I think losses will be easier to stomach this year with the satisfaction of last year. In the past I wanted them to win so bad I would get pretty bent out of shape by heartbreaking losses. I’m sure that’s still going to be the case to a degree, but I’ll at least be able to console myself with the idea that we are defending Super Bowl champions. I don’t know how long that feeling will last, and you guys can probably fill me in on it since you’re the experts, but I just feel less pressure as a fan to will them to victory. Beyond that, I’m just really looking forward to seeing how they respond to winning. I’m not going to lie, I’m half way expecting them to have a bit of a hangover from the end of last season. There was a lot of celebrating. I believe they have the mental makeup to re-focus, but I wonder if you can play with the same passion after reaching that kind of summit. Probably a question for you guys!
4. What do you think the Saints’ weak point is?
I would say their front 7 against the run, and left tackle on offense. You can make plays on the ground against the Saints from time to time if you have a solid rushing attack, and you can expose them a little bit by attacking their left tackle Jermon Bushrod on passing downs. The rest of the Saints’ o-line is so good, though, that they double team, chip and shift a lot to that side to help.
5. Putting all emotions aside, from a pure cold-hearted football standpoint, if you could choose between Sean Peyton and Bill Belichick to coach your team for the next three seasons, who would you chose?
Probably Belichick. Payton actually mentions in his book that he took a lot of things from meeting Belichick during his time coaching the Pro Bowl in 2007. The two spent a lot of time in Hawaii hanging out together and have become decent friends. Payton respects Belichick a big deal and he credits that experience for helping him during the Super Bowl run. That said, I do think Sean Payton is the premiere offensive mind/play caller in the NFL. I think Belichick is probably a slightly better motivator and well rounded coach, but I think Payton is a better offensive mind. If I was forced to pick between the two, though, there is no denying at this point that Belichick has a much longer track record of successful seasons. I think many teams go up against the Patriots at a severe disadvantage based on coaching alone. That’s not even taking into account the massive amount of talent the Patriots’ players have.
6. What is your prediction for the Patriots this season?
I think they’ll win the AFC East this year. I know the Jets had a big run last year and everyone is loving on them after the offseason they had… but I just think they got really lucky last year winning A LOT of close games despite mediocre play at quarterback. Mark Sanchez gets a lot of props, but he was largely pretty awful last year. They peaked at the right time, so give them credit, but I just think they are due for a letdown. There’s huge expectations for the Jets this year and I just don’t think they’re going to live up to the hype. The Patriots are just solid as always, and I think they’ll bounce back from a rough season last year. Once you get to the playoffs it’s a crapshoot, but I think the Colts are the team to beat in the AFC right now and I’m picking them to go back to the Super Bowl.
7. What is your prediction for the Saints this year?
I hate to admit it but I don’t see them repeating. I think they’ll compete and make the playoffs, but it’s just too hard to win back to back Super Bowls. I’m sure my followers will crucify me for saying that, and I love their enthusiasm. But, a lot of good things have to go your way. Atlanta is a team that scares me, but I think we’ll hold them off and win the NFC South again. I’m not sure how the playoffs will play out but I’m going to say the Saints lose in the NFC Championship this year. I hope I’m wrong and that they go further.