NEW ORLEANS — Welcome to the scariest New Orleans Saints moment of our lives. Have you prepared yourself for the possibility the next time we see Drew Brees in a Saints uniform will be the last time we see Drew Brees in a Saints uniform?
I have not.
Have you acknowledged the best 4-year stretch in Saints history very well could end in heartache without another Super Bowl? That is could be viewed by history as nothing but bizarre and horrible endings instead of the crowning achievement at the end of Drew Brees' career?
The 2017-2020 Saints without a Lombardi might as well get 'No-Call' and Minnesota Miracle' tattooed on their foreheads — or maybe Bill Vinovich.
I am not ready for this. I've been enjoying 2020 Saints football too much to contemplate it.
Why would I or any Saints fan plan or draw up our emotional response to the end of the most appreciated stretch of Saints football in our entire lives?
It's like asking if we've thought about a loved one dying. Like a normal rational human being, I threw those thoughts out of my head and enjoyed the Saints giving Tom Brady the worst beatings of his entire career instead.
The chaos awful lousy grim tragedy that is 2020 has pushed Drew Brees' farewell to the back corner of concerns. We don't even get a proper goodbye because the Superdome has been empty on game days.
But now the end is upon us.
We've been traveling to this moment all season. Drew signed with NBC Sports to cover Notre Dame football whenever he retires from playing, and his body is clearly telling him the party is almost over.
He's playing through broken ribs and a punctured lung after tearing his thumb in 2019. Drew probably wanted to retire after 2018 by raising a Lombardi Trophy, but he's been chasing the ending stolen from us the last 2 years.
The Saints signed Sean Payton to be the coach on January 18, 2006 and added Drew Brees 2 months later on March 14. They are both still here. 149 wins, every passing record, 7 division titles, and a Lombardi Trophy over 15 years in March 2006 would have been conceived as silly and preposterous.
The Saints went from being the punchline Saints to must-see football with a brilliantly innovative coach and record-setting quarterback.
Anyone under the age of 30 only knows Saints football through the experience of Drew Brees as a quarterback. There's an entire generation of Saints fans who have no idea what bad and hopeless football feels like — I love that.
Memories of terrible Saints football become funny over time, but it's not some badge of honor to celebrate. I'd love 15 more years of fun. Watching a decade of seasons with no possibility of success never did anything good for me. Supporting horrible football doesn't build character or loyalty, it only makes us long for good times.
There's no next year with Drew and it's terrifying. It's not just the prospect of the Saints being awful at quarterback, it's something else.
This team the Saints have built since 2017 is the deepest, most resilient, fun football I've ever watched.
They have overcome the most players put on injured reserve in 2017, bounced back from the worst officiating in the history of the sport in 2018, overcome Brees getting injured back-to-back seasons, AND the loss of the 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Thomas, for basically the entire 2020 season.
They've won 49 games since 2017 and I want them to have their championship. Not just because I want my t-shirt and $300 of Saints 2020 World Championship merchandise — I want a Lombardi for them, and I want to say I rooted for the greatest Saints team of our lives and they overcame everything and got their ring.
This team can't just be some footnote in the tormented team section of NFL history.
And yet that outcome is looking us directly in the face.
It did not.
We are a damaged fan base. Part of me thinks having the Superdome empty might actually be a good thing for the Saints. After the "No-Call" against Rams and heading into overtime last year against Minnesota, the Dome was 70,000 people having a panic attack, and it might be best if that negative energy isn't around the players for a close playoff game.
Author Amos Tversky has a great quote on why being pessimistic never really works out well, “When you are a pessimist and the bad thing happens, you live it twice. Once when you worry about it, and the second time when it happens.”
I find no comfort in the “Saints are cursed so I'll just prepare for the worst and that will make it hurt less” outlook. Has that plan ever succeeded for anything in your entire life?
These Saints ending, whether it's Drew hoisting a Lombardi in Tampa, walking off the field after a third straight home playoff loss, or something in between is going to deliver tears. It's on a question of which kind.
So what are we to do?
In 2009, I would listen to this Cold Play song almost every night before bed and think of different scenarios for how the Saints would win the Super Bowl.
Life in Technicolor - Coldplay
My dad had died that October and dreaming up ways for the Saints to win the Super Bowl was a better way to try to sleep than missing my dad. I never dreamed of Tracy Porter becoming immortal. Reality is better than dreams sometimes kids.
Super Bowl 44 Tracy Porter interception!
This year I'm going to think of 16-year-old me in 1992 after the Saints lost their fourth straight playoff game under Jim Mora. If I traveled back in time and told him everything that happened from 2006-2020 he'd be so overjoyed to experience every minute of it he'd probably be more excited than my 5-year-old son on Christmas morning.
Appreciate the journey or something.
I both want our happy ending, and I don't want this to end at all.
I am still where we started...I'm not ready to say goodbye to Drew.
Saints Fan Mood and Meditation Music:
Ted Lasso Theme – Marcus Mumford and Tom Howe
Have you watched Ted Lasso? It's my favorite TV show of all time. It's the story of an American football coach hired by the owner of an English soccer team.
The owner wants to burn the team to the ground as revenge against her ex-husband. The only problem is Ted Lasso is a cross between Vince Lombardi and Mr. Rogers. He is relentlessly positive even as his life is seemingly falling apart.
As a show, it shouldn't work as it's seemingly every sports movie cliche thrown together, except Ted Lasso wins you over just like he does everyone on the show. Seriously, binge watch it, and inject Ted Lasso's positive energy into your veins in preparation for the Saints playoff game.
The Ted Lasso theme song is great and is perfect for the moment at which we've arrived.
Yeah it might be all that you get
Yeah I guess this might well be it....
If you're coming up for air breathing in
You know I'll be there when you first begin
And when everybody's telling us we
Have no time we'll prove 'em wrong again
'Cause yeah it might be all that you get
Yeah I guess this might well be it
But heaven knows I've tried
And heaven knows I've tried
There's no rehearsal, getting ready, or preparing for this Saints moment. I'm going to try to be Ted Lasso and be a fire hose of optimism until the conclusion arrives, no matter the ending. One final deep breath, this might well be it.
New Orleans (-9) vs Chicago: I hate the Bears and I'm still not over all their fans stupid signs and Katrina jokes in 2006. Also the Bears foisted the fraud that was Mike Ditka upon us and nearly set the Saints franchise back to the Stone Age. If Drew Brees only has one last 'God Mode' spectacular game in him, watching Brees burn Chicago to the ground would be fine by me.
The Bears late season 3-game win streak and offensive resurgence was against the 31st, 29th, and 27th ranked defenses by points allowed. Chicago's defense is good but not elite like it was in 2018-19. The Bears only rank 17th in sacks.
Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky can't throw downfield and tends to make horrible decisions. The Bears offensive improvement is based entirely on their new-found ability to run the ball and allow Trubisky to not have to do anything besides stay out of the way.
Even if Alvin Kamara can't play, the Saints will have key players they didn't during their 26-23 win. Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Marquez Callaway were all out the first time these teams met.
I expect the Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to try and blitz Drew Brees, press the Saints
receivers with tight coverage, and see if Brees can make tough throws. The Bears defensive plan in the first match-up was ok but with Brees having a fully stocked receiving corps, the Bears either get to Brees or they get clobbered.
The Saints are superior to the Bears from top to bottom. If they don't turn the ball over and can stop the Bears from running the ball, they'll win comfortably.
It's time to settle old grudges and all family business for Drew Brees before he exits stage left. The Bears about to get the beating from the Saints they've been deserving for 15 years.
Buffalo (-6.5) vs Indianapolis: A Bills-Saints Super Bowl would be cool.
Los Angeles (+4.5) at Seattle: UPSET ALERT! I have no idea how the Rams win, but they will.
Tampa Bay (-8.5) at Washington: The Saints will have another round with Tom Brady sooner than you expect.
Baltimore (-3.5) at Tennessee: The Titans defense is abysmal and a bunch of Ravens turnovers won't help them like what happened in last year's playoffs.
Pittsburgh (-5) vs Cleveland: The Browns head coach has COVID. I'm going to pick the team without the interim coach on the sideline.
Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.