The Curious Cases of the New Orleans Saints and Arkansas Razorbacks

Paul ThelenContributor IISeptember 21, 2012

Fans in New Orleans miss their coach dearly.
Fans in New Orleans miss their coach dearly.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The day after their 2011-12 campaigns came to an end, both the New Orleans Saints and the Arkansas Razorbacks had lofty aspirations for 2012.

After a two loss season—losing only to #1 and #2 on the road—Arkansas was celebrating their impressive Cotton Bowl victory. The Razorbacks were confident as they were returning an explosive offense led by first-team All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson, an experienced defense and a favorable schedule—LSU and Alabama each having to come to Fayetteville—into the 2012 season.

The Saint's 2011 season featured Drew Brees breaking Dan Marino's record, the emergence of Jimmy Graham, an absolute match up terror. Their offense ascended from 11th in 2010 to 1st in 2011. Their defense remained a respectable 12th. Parlay that with the assumed progression of their young defense and 1st round draft pick Mark Ingram, the Saints stock was pointing up.

I don't need to tell you what happened to each team next.

So what changed? Each team still had their celebrated quarterbacks. The post-modern belief in football is that a team is only as good as it's quarterback. The Saints and Razorback of 2012 have revealed flaws in that philosophy.

Arkansas has been abysmal on all fronts. With each missed tackle, dropped pass and quarterback sack, Bobby Petrino's stock rises.

With Petrino at the helm last January, the Hogs were circling their September 15 game versus Alabama. With John L. Smith coaching Saturday, Arkansas was humiliated 52-0. A week previous they lost to UL Monroe at home.

The Razorbacks have gone from national title contenders with Petrino, to crossing their fingers that they're bowl eligible with John L. Smith.

The Saints season hasn't been any better. Without Sean Payton the Saints have lost their first two games, each to teams with a combined 2-4 record. They're the only 0-2 team in the NFC. Who would have thought this summer that the Saints would be desperate for a win entering a Week 3 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs?

The good news for the Saints is that Sean Payton returns next season. Whereas the Razorbacks, whom will almost certainly hire a new coach next season, face an uncertain and painful future

We want to believe quarterbacks are essential to a great team. However, you take away the coach and the structure crumbles.

Conversely, in the case of Alex Smith, find the right coach, and he will make your quarterback better. Before Jim Harbaugh took the job in San Fransisco, Alex Smith had been labeled a bust. With the right coach, Smith and the 49ers were a fair catch away from the Super Bowl and have looked dominant in the first two weeks of this season. 

It's time to embrace the importance of a coach in football.