Saints Bury Their Past, Despite Their Success

New Orleans did the unthinkable in 2007, rebounding from a dismal season in 2006 and fighting their way into the NFC Championship under the watch of a rookie head coach. But that's all behind them. They're ready for 2007 to begin.

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 yards.

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 it."

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 even harder.

"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 work harder.

"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."

Scout NFL Network Top Stories