Drew Brees is a record setting quarterback and leader of their high powered offense
In the wake of the destruction and despair that Hurricane Katrina wrought on the city of New Orleans and the wider state of Louisiana, America and the wider world were left in shock. In the aftermath the people of New Orleans looked for something to rally behind, for many their symbol was their football team, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints home stadium, the Louisiana Superdome, though damaged in the storm, was used to shelter those left homeless and vacated by the organisation for the 2005 season as the team played the rest of that years home games in Texas. Questions were then raised whether New Orleans could accommodate a team and plans were made to move the franchise. The Saints, however, stayed faithful to the city and by the time of their next home game in 2006 the Louisiana Superdome had been fully restored. What followed that night was one of the most emotional games in NFL history as the Saints went on to win the game and become the emotional embodiment of a city recovering from Katrina. In that year the Saints went 10-6 and made the NFC Championship, at that time their best season in history, and though that magical campaign had come to an end, the seeds had been planted that would eventually bloom into Super Bowl success.
A Dynamic Duo
The genesis of the post-Katrina Saints begins with the hiring of head coach Sean Payton in 2006. Payton, a former quarterback and in his first head coaching job, began looking for players to revitalize a lacklustre Saints team and help build a franchise through his high flying pass first style of offense. One such player the Saints acquired that season was quarterback Drew Brees from the San Diego Chargers. Brees had always been a relatively good player at the San Diego but at the Saints he took his game to the next level as he quickly developed a great chemistry with Payton. The result is one of the greatest head coach and quarterback combinations the NFL has ever seen. As a result of Payton's pass orientated offensive schemes and trust in his players, Brees has set numerous records for quarterbacks. Not only has Brees, nicknamed Breesus by the New Orleans faithful, set the single season passing record in 2011 with 5,476 yards, he broke Johnny Unitas's record for most consecutive games scoring a touchdown, a record that had stood for 52 years and many considered to be unbreakable.
Pushing The Envelope
A quarterback though, no matter how good they are, needs reliable receivers to throw it too and the Saints certainly have a plethora of options he can choose from. One such target is fourth year star Jimmy Graham, one of the new breed of tight end players who are used mainly as a receiving threat rather than a blocker. Graham has relished this style of play as his athleticism makes him a match up nightmare for any defense, success soon followed as he has at one time held the single season yardage gain record for tight ends. Another weapon Payton has in his offense is wide receiver Marques Colston. Colston, a third down specialist, can make catches in any type of coverage and holds all major passing records for receivers in Saints franchise history. Another is running back Darren Sproles who is equally at home running the ball as he is catching it out of the backfield and also holds the record for all-purpose yardage from scrimmage. Though the Saints are known as being an offensive team they still have a stout defense with a number of play makers. Jonathan Vilma, though injured for part of this season, has done a lot to shore up a lacklustre defense and provides an emotional centre to the Saints defensive team.
The Comeback Kids
Though the current incarnation of the Saints is based on offensive prowess, the true identity of the franchise lays its fan base. Nicknamed the "Who Dat" Nation, the New Orleans fan base is as passionate as any in the league and has one of the greatest game day atmospheres that can be experienced. Throughout most of their existence the Saints have been a woeful team, ranked among one of the very worst in the history in the NFL but the New Orleans faithful have always stuck by their Saints through thick and thin. Their patience and loyalty has eventually been rewarded when in 2009 the Saints made their first Super Bowl and in a thrilling game took home New Orleans first Lombardi Trophy uniting a city in celebration. The most recent chapter in Saints history hasn't been smooth sailing as a number of its players and coaches were implicated in a bounty scandal in 2012. It was discovered players were being paid extra and given incentives to injure opposition players, a move the NFL react to swiftly, banning coaches and players, including Sean Payton for the whole 2012 season. Payton is back this year where he belongs this season as the Saints look to shake off the transgressions of the past and solidify themselves as championship contenders once again.
Head Coach: Sean Payton
Super Bowl Appearances: 2009
Division: NFC South
Biggest Rivalries: Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jersey to buy: #9 QB Drew Brees, #51 MLB Jonathan Vilma, #80 TE Jimmy Graham, #12 WR Marques Colston, #43 RB Darren Sproles