NEW ORLEANS -- I’m not sure what really qualifies an NFL team as a dynasty anymore. Back-to-back Super Bowl wins? Perhaps. But what’s the real time frame for a team to be considered a dynasty? Just for the sake of argument, let’s make it five years. In that scenario, I say a team has to go to the playoffs at least four times and win two Super Bowls. We’ll use those parameters to throw out three reasons why the New Orleans Saints can be a dynasty -- and three reasons why they may not be one.
Three reasons why the Saints can be a dynasty.
Drew Brees is 31 and in his absolute prime. That alone is a huge start. Brees is now in the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady stratosphere. He’s the heart and soul of this team and he’s the perfect fit with coach Sean Payton in an offense that really has no limits. History has indicated quarterbacks can play at a high level into their mid-to-late 30s and we’re not even including Brett Favre. The Saints have made some noise about signing Brees to a long-term contract, but it hasn’t happened yet. It will, though. Brees is too important to this team to even let him get close to the end of his current contract, which still has two years remaining.
The rest of the Saints are in their prime. We’re not even talking about Darren Sharper here because who knows if he’ll even play again? That doesn’t really matter. The rest of the core of this team is very good and relatively young. Players such as Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Marques Colston and Reggie Bush are in their prime years. More important, guys such as Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Sedrick Ellis, Tracy Porter and Malcolm Jenkins already are very good, but they probably haven’t even entered their prime years yet.
Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis are a dynamic duo. The two get along very well and there’s no reason to think they won’t be together for the long haul. They share a vision of what they want their team to look like and they’ve done a tremendous job of putting a strong nucleus in place. You can’t sit still and the Saints haven’t done that. Even after winning the Super Bowl, they let older players such as Scott Fujita and Charles Grant go and they’ll continue to work early draft picks such as Jenkins and Patrick Robinson into the mix.
Why the Saints might not end up being a dynasty
There’s a storm brewing in Atlanta. As good as the Saints are, you can look in the NFC South and see a legitimate challenger. The Falcons have put together back-to-back winning seasons, and with a healthy roster and quarterback Matt Ryan entering his third year, Atlanta might be ready for the next step. No NFC South team ever has repeated as the division champion. The Saints certainly seem poised to do that. But the slightest slip could be costly because the Falcons appear to be nearly on the same level with the Saints.
You have to know how to handle success. The Saints spent much of the offseason celebrating and that was great. But has the party really stopped? Just judging by the local media and what’s going on with all the fanfare in New Orleans today, it seems to be almost expected that the Saints will just continue winning almost all the time. With that kind of climate, a loss or two is going to put all sorts of pressure on this team. The Saints handled adversity well last season, but they really didn’t have much of it. The mark of a truly great team is being able to handle adversity on a consistent basis.
Is Payton as good as we think? Right now, it’s hard not to put Payton very close to the top of any list of coaches. He seemed to really grow last year, and hiring Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator was the move that put this team over the top. Payton’s always been daring, and the onside kick in the Super Bowl only added to that reputation. But think back to the two seasons before that when the Saints were mediocre. Payton took big gambles in those days and didn’t always come away viewed as a genius. Being bold and daring can be good. But you can’t get too caught up in living up to those labels. You’re not going to be right on every gamble.