The Saints did an outstanding job of burying their past in 2006, shaking off a 3-13 record the year before, winning the NFC South title with seven more victories than the previous year and advancing all the way to the NFC Championship game before falling to the Chicago Bears.
There's no reason to think they can't get at least that far again this year as
they return all 22 players that started in the NFC title game -- including all
but one player (Joe Horn) from an exciting offense that led the NFL in total
Some added depth and a couple of new starters at two key positions should help
the defense improve, giving the Saints what they need to get over the hump and
make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in club history.
While they can draw on their experiences and success of a year ago, they
certainly won't dwell on it. Second-year coach Sean Payton made certain that his
team won't come down with a case of complacency when they buried the 2006 season
in a fitting ceremony in mid-June.
After concluding their Organized Team Activities, Payton and his team buried the
2006 season -- literally and figuratively -- in a makeshift black-and-gold
casket. Into the large box went replicas of 18 awards won by the team --
including Payton's coach of the year awards and general manager Mickey Loomis'
award for being named the NFL Executive of the Year.
A minister and a jazz band helped give the memorabilia from their magical season
a proper New Orleans sendoff, which was the idea of assistant head
coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt. Payton signed off on the funeral after he
tried to come up with a way to put some closure to the finest season in the
40-year history of the franchise.
"As soon as he brought it up, the thought of what we wanted to do was
immediate," Payton said. "It was a real good idea. The symbolism of
moving forward and on to the next season was something the players all
understood. This was a good way of drawing more attention to it.
"All that stuff went in this casket and we buried it," he said.
"It was time to move on. I think 50 years from now, somebody's going to
come across it and think it's a time capsule. But it's not really."
At first, left guard Jamar Nesbit thought the ceremony was a little strange. But
the message came across loud and clear: each of them had to leave the past
behind and look to the future.
"It drove home the point that each moment happens," Nesbit said.
"Once it happens, it's in the past. We had a great season, and that's all
it was -- one season. You can remember it and draw on it, but you can't dwell on
That's good because the expectations are certainly higher than ever. The Saints
are viewed by many as legitimate Super Bowl contenders with so many returnees on
offense and defense.
Yet, they realize it doesn't mean anything going forward. As a result, All-Pro
quarterback Drew Brees said they have to pick up where they left off and work
"Just because we finished where we did last year, it doesn't mean that
anything's going to be given to us," he said. "We have to go out and
"Once you reach that level of success, human nature is to just relax. But,
we're trying to take things to the next level. That is our No. 1 priority, our
No. 1 goal."
Saints Bury Their Past, Despite Their Success
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