I’ve said elsewhere that in 2014 we saw the deterioration of a team, while in 2015 we saw the formation of a team.
A franchise doesn’t press the reset button and trade away most of its assets unless that’s true.
2014 was primed with expectations while 2015 was met with quiet optimism that all but evaporated 3 weeks in.
While both teams started the year 1-4 and finished at 7-9, they were headed in two different directions. The 2014 team faltered down the stretch, seemingly giving up in multiple games, something I had never previously seen from a Sean Payton coached team.
We saw just the opposite out of the 2015 squad. While they had their share of bad losses, you never got the sense that they gave up on the field. Whatever the deficit, they battled to the end. While fans won’t be or should be satisfied with moral victories, this season, and how it was managed, was all but necessary.
Peat, Lelito, Kelemete, Hill, Anthony, Kikaha, Swann, Davison, Breaux, Richardson, Edebali, Qwacham, Barnes, Snead, Coleman, Murphy, all young players that received significant playing time to varying degrees. It’s not Sean Payton’s MO at all. He has always preferred playing the veteran, but with the roster turnover and Brees’s playing career in its final chapter, the team needed to take its lumps.
There’s just no replacement for games in terms of player development. Coaching and practice will only take you so far. So if this gamble is going to work, these young players need to be seasoned immediately.
The results were most certainly mixed, but there’s a lot to be encouraged about.
They were able to be compete with Carolina in both games until the final minutes, impressive during a season where the Panthers have been so dominate. Even though they lost both times, they were generally exciting games, and it looked like they belonged on the same field.
On the flip side, a year after getting swept by the Falcons, the Saints finally restored order to the relationship, capping off the season with the sweep.
There was the mugging of Andrew Luck on the road, the shoot out against the Giants at home, and probably the most balanced game of the year at Tampa, where both sides of the ball both did their jobs on the same day.
There was also that time where J.J. Watt single handedly destroyed our offensive line, and the games where the Lions and Redskins put our linebacker deficiencies on center stage. The Redskins game in particular made our defense look like a personal escort service to the end zone.
By the end of the year I think you saw a young team that was learning to close out game. I think you saw a young team that played for each other and the staff, formed by the adversity of the long season. I think you saw the foundation of a team that Brees and Payton think they can win with.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think they went through the hardest part of the rebuilding process this year. Granted, not every young player I’ve mentioned will be a starter or even be on the team in the coming year, but at the very least the team developed some valuable depth.
So with some savvy free agent pickups and another solid draft we’ll be right back to hyping each other up again. Let’s be honest, even if that doesn’t happen, we’ll do it any damn way.