Here in Part Two of our series on what the Chiefs can learn from this year's Super Bowl entrants, we take a closer look at the Saints and the way they were constructed. Specifically, it's interesting to see that the desperate Saints post-Katrina, were in a position to lock in on a player that everyone else deemed a risk - and it's that very player that took them to the next level.
Back in 2005, the Saints had just finished 3-13 in a season they largely spent on the road since their home stadium was constantly under water and in desperate need of major repairs. The city's NFL team mirrored New Orleans' fate in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and a fresh start was needed for all parties involved. Enter Sean Payton, the offensive guru with connections to Bill Parcells - to whom he's often compared.
That offseason, an interesting move took place that would forever change the Big Easy's football memories. After surgeons with several teams, including the other finalist Miami Dolphins, deemed Drew Brees surgically repaired shoulder as "too risky" to get involved, the Saints were left as the only players willing to invest big money and a long-term contract in the promising Charger quarterback. In their final season under former Head Coach Jim Haslett, the Saints brass had seen enough of starters like Aaron Brooks and Todd Bouman and opened up the coffers for the live arm of Brees. It was a risk that ultimately worked out in the end, as we saw last weekend, and will forever define these Saints for years to come.
More after the jump...The first year under Payton was magical, as the Saints improved a full 7 wins from the previous season under Brees talent and personality. The team fell back into middling territory the next two seasons, but those were crucial years from a talent and scheme standpoint as "the right 53" needed to fall into place. Defensive issues continued to plague the team until this year, when Gregg Williams brought his complicated brand of football to a defense with newer players like Jonathan Vilma and Darren Sharper. Finally, after decades of languishing at or near the bottom, New Orleans has a winner.
But none of this is possible without the winning persona and ability of Drew Brees. Even now, some wonder if the Saints defense is good enough to hold up to the Colts. And certainly, the Vikings were able to move the ball seemingly at will against New Orleans. If not for an unseeming amount of turnovers, we'd be discussing the Minnesota/Indianapolis match-up. So it's on the arm of Brees that the Saints are riding high - and everybody knows it.
It's key here, then, to see just how magical that decision to sign Brees really was. Against the advice of everyone in the league, the Saints went out and got their man - a difference maker that all the naysayers didn't deserve a long-term contract. Certainly, no one would doubt the ability of Brees. In fact, he'd been quite impressive in his time with San Diego. Still, New Orleans were the only risk-takers at the table when Brees name came up and it's a ticket their still cashing in today.
So what can the Chiefs learn from all of this? Sometimes making it all the way means going against the strong cultural currents of mainstream press advice and the notions of other teams and making the splash to get your guy. If Scott Pioli & Co. can learn anything from these Saints, it's that you have to be absolutely confident in what you're putting together and go for what it takes to build that plan, even if others question, doubt or laugh in the moment. Sure, sometimes those same traits can define the Matt Millen's among us; but they also represent the best in the business - and it's worth noting for the Chiefs in this scenario.
Thus far, we've seen just that level of conviction. It came with the selection of Tyson Jackson at the #3 spot in the draft last year. It came with trading team icon Tony Gonzalez last off-season. It came with installing an emotional head coach in Todd Haley to run the whole ship. And it will most likely continue this off-season with several high draft picks and personnel decisions looming over key players. The Chiefs are lucky to have such a decisive front office. Here's hoping they become the right decisions in hindsight to take us to that next level.