Ever since the Jim Haslett era began in 2000, the Saints have fielded talented teams with players who had the capabilities and talents to help the team succeed. Before Jim Haslett became the Head Coach, the New Orleans Saints had never won a playoff game, and had never been considered a great team in the NFL.
They had had several decent years where they fielded good teams and made the playoffs, but could never quite make that push to get to where they wanted to go as a team.
When the Saints won their first playoff game in 2000, a game I still remember vividly, it seemed that their fortunes had finally turned around. They had just beaten the defending Super Bowl Champion, the St. Louis Rams, and had won a nail-biter of a game.
Unfortunately, in the next game they lost to the Minnesota Vikings and the dream season was over.
This scenario was ironically repeated once again when a few years later, first-year Head Coach Sean Payton; who had taken over for the fired Jim Haslett, lead the Saints to a division title and the playoffs.
A new corner was turned and the Saints finally appeared in the NFC Championship; after a dramatic home victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Hopes were high, but unfortunately the Saints lost badly in Chicago the next week.
The playoff appearances represent one part of this, but the regular season shows us the most glaring aspect of the 2000's decade of Saints football... inconsistency. Don't get me wrong, I love the Saints with a passion and will root for them no matter what, and to me they are a team that anyone could pull for, there is absolutely nothing to dislike about the Saints.
However, this team, especially in the past few years, has gone from amazing one week...to absolutely flat the next. In the Saints' past two seasons, they have never been more than one game above the .500 mark, and apart from that four-game winning streak in 2007, since that time they have not had a winning streak longer than two games.
I know that a lot of teams in football face the inconsistency bug, but this bug bites the Saints harder than most teams. This hasn't been going on just in Coach Payton's tenure...
I remember when Jim Haslett was at the helm, the Saints would look like one of the best teams in the league on some Sundays, and on others, would look totally lost.
I'll never forget, during the 2002 season when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, the Saints had started the season 6-2, and before the last three game stretch, would get to 9-4.
It seemed they were primed for a playoff spot, and what's most interesting was that they swept the season series with the Buccaneers, who would eventually go on to become the Super Bowl Champions that year.
During that last three game stretch, the Saints lost all three games to teams that were not even in playoff contention anymore...the Bengals, Vikings, and Panthers. Whenever I heard a local sportscaster, Kevin Foote, mention that Jim Haslett's teams could defeat the good teams but always lost to the bad teams, it really rang true to me.
Overall, I am happy with the Saints' successes over the past decade. Drew Brees has been an absolutely incredible player whose impact on the Saints is very similar to Chris Paul's impact on the Hornets, in that he brings both tangible and intangible aspects to the team that makes everyone play so much better.
Reggie Bush, in my opinion, has been a solid player, I believe the reason everyone harps on him so much is that people expected him to be Barry Sanders and Gale Sayers in one, and to me, the guy has done the best he can.
Reggie was outstanding in college, but the level of competition in the pros is far different, and you have to give him credit for what he has accomplished, there are several victories that the Saints have won on the legs and hands of Reggie Bush, and you can't take that away from him.
I respect Coach Payton and I believe he was the best possible Coach the Saints could have gotten, I just hope that he features the run game more, and with a back like Pierre Thomas, there is no reason why the Saints can't be successful with the run game.
So Saints fans, let's pray our Saints overcome the inconsistency bug and get some winning streaks going next year. If we're going to make it over the hump, it has to be done!