If you’re a relatively new Saints fan, you may never have heard of the “Same Ol’ Saints” routine. That catch phrase is a holdover from a dark era that lasted a very long time. Given the Saints’ recent success, though, I’ve noticed there are so many more Saints fans around the world that are recent supporters. Something I’ve never really witnessed prior to the Sean Payton era. One of this blog’s biggest followers (actually the biggest) is from the Netherlands and he’s never set foot in the city of New Orleans. Another guy that has written for this blog is a diehard Saints fan from England. In 2010 I remember seeing a car with Saints stickers in a parking lot in Virginia and as I saw the owner get out of the car I shouted “WHO DAT!”. He just looked at me with stern puzzled stare in his eyes. A few months ago a construction worker parked in my neighbor’s driveway (still in Virginia) had huge Saints symbols all over his truck. When I asked him where he was from, he said Australia. The point is, Saints fans are everywhere and I’ve come to realize the story of rebuilding from Katrina and the winning has won over a lot of people. When I was growing up as a kid in south Louisiana there were as many Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers fans around as there were Saints fans. If you went anywhere outside the New Orleans city walls Saints fans were nowhere to be found. People in Baton Rouge didn’t even care for them that much. Why? Because the Saints were terrible and people like to root for winners. Northern Louisiana used to be squarely Cowboys country and they lean very heavily Saints these days. Now the overwhelming majority of kids in the entire deep south are all Saints fans. And they’re fortunate coming to the Saints as fans at a time where “Same Ol’ Saints” is thrown out by the old guard only seldom.
Same Ol’ Saints started as a defense mechanism against expecting much. From the late 60’s to the late 80’s the Saints never once made the playoffs or ever had a winning season. There were no expectations. During that period the team was written off as a joke near and far, fans used to wear bags on their heads joking (or maybe not joking) that they were too embarrassed to be recognized in public as fans of the team, and they were labelled as lovable losers. When the Saints made the playoffs in 1987 for the first time with a 12-3 record, there was a youthful movement of hope. That’s when “Same Ol’ Saints” really came to the forefront. Jim Mora posted 5 winning seasons in 6 years including 4 playoff berths and the team/city got their first taste of success. As the expectations and excitement grew, though, the old guard “Same Ol’ Saints” refrain grew in negativity. The team was winning more games, but Mora posted an 0-4 record in the playoffs.
After Jim Mora was the Mike Ditka era, and the franchise immediately reverted back to the first 20 years in terms of horrible decision making and performance. At that point getting back to the playoffs with even an outside chance at a postseason victory was considered a pipe dream. Negativity and anger in the fan base grew because at this point people were realizing that maybe the Mora era was over and the team was heading back to it’s rightful place.
When Jim Haslett came in 2000 the team defied all odds and won the division (for only the second time ever) and beat the reigning Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams in the 1st round of the playoffs. The impossible had been done, never again could the “Same Ol’ Saints” guard say the Saints would never win a playoff game. Unfortunately that team would plunge into this abyss of mediocrity from that point forward never again making the playoffs from 2001 through 2005. By the end of the Haslett era the Saints almost left for San Antonio and any good will from that playoff win was all forgotten. The “Same Ol’ Saints” comments were as strong as ever. That’s when Drew Brees and Sean Payton came on board.
In year one, the Saints won their division, won a playoff game and made it to the NFC Championship. Then it became “the Saints will never make a Super Bowl”. Did it in 2009. Ok, but the Saints will never WIN a Super Bowl. Did that too. And even after all that, last year’s “Same Ol’ Saints” movement went hard after narrative that the Saints couldn’t win a big game on the road. For the first time in franchise history they went into Philadelphia and got a playoff win on the road. The Sean Payton era has squashed every single narrative the “Same Ol’ Saints” have tried to come up with. I’m almost willing to see what they come up with next just so this version of the Saints can put an end to that too.
I think it’s time we give Sean Payton, Drew Brees and co. the benefit of the doubt here. They are the same as the Saints of prior generations in emblem and location alone. Otherwise, it’s almost unfair to give them any association. This team has been to the playoffs 5 times in 8 seasons (one of which is a write off since Payton was suspended) and they’ve won 6 playoff games. The team’s previous failures have clearly had zero bearing on this incarnation’s success and any past trends clearly are not dictating any future.
It’s time to put “Same Ol’ Saints” to rest. There will come a time where Payton and Brees struggle, they’ve already done it at times during this insanely successful run. But at this point it should be looked at with surprise, not expectation. The doom and gloom is part of sports and all fan bases carry it to some degree. Some fans look at their team’s fortunes as glass half empty so the let down won’t be so hard. I get it. But you can do that without referring to the past as an example of why that will happen. The past has been disproved at every turn, so if you’re going to continue with negativity you’re going to need to find a new slogan.