The Adrian Peterson hype machine kicked into overdrive this past week as several prominent members of the black and gold went out of their way to flat out gush over the once vaunted running back. I’m lifting this with full credit straight from ESPN writer Mike Triplett (read his entire article here):
“He’s a stud, man. He looks the part,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “There’s something about handing the ball off to that guy and watching him run through the hole and take on anybody who tries to tackle him.”
The praise goes on and on (Terron Armstead and Kenny Vaccaro checking in among others) and if you want to check it out, I recommend checking out the Triplett piece. It’s nice to hear, but remain cautious: these are OTAs we’re talking about and we’ve heard all this before. I’m as hopeful as you that the Saints have fleeced the entire league and have a bonafide stud in their back pocket, but it’s June. Aging superstars can be a crapshoot – a Godsend, mediocre or a complete and total waste of time (and cap space!). Here’s our list of the best, the worst and the shades of grey in between:
- Darren Sharper: Sharper joined the Saints at the beginning of his 13th season as an unrestricted free agent with little fanfare, but a big name all the same. Sharper went on to have one of the biggest seasons of his career, tying a career high nine interceptions (with 3 TDs) and becoming a key catalyst in the aggressive Saints defense that would go on to win the Super Bowl.
- Dave Whitsell: Acquired in the expansion draft by the Saints in 1967, Whitsell was in his 10th NFL season with New Orleans. He did not disappoint, posting career high numbers in interceptions (10) and touchdowns (2), one of the lone bright spots in the Saints 3-11 inaugural season.
- Jim Everett: Everett joined the Saints in his 9th season as part of what most (other than Saints fans) assumed was little more than a retirement stop. Apparently Everett didn’t get the memo, passing for 3855 yards in 1994 and 3970 in 1995, with 22 and 26 TDs respectively. He also gets extra points for rolling Jim Rome on national television.
- Ken Stabler: Stabler came to New Orleans on the back end of his career following a long career that began with the Raiders and ended with a lackluster year in Houston. While his numbers never reached anything like his best, he nearly led the Saints to their first playoff season ever in 1983, falling just short of 9-7 and a post season bid. His place on this list is further muddled by the trade that brought him to New Orleans, as the Saints gave up franchise favorite Archie Manning.
Could have been better …
- Jeremy Shockey: This feels like cheating because Shockey was still a relatively young 28 years old when he was traded to the Saints in 2008. But the fact of the matter is Shockey was considered a stretch and a has been when he joined New Orleans, and proved to be solid over his three seasons with the club, including collecting a very memorable TD in Super Bowl XLIV. Still, his numbers were never close to his form in NY.
- John Carney: Yes, a kicker. But the fact of the matter is Carney was regarded as one of the best kickers (even at his advanced age) when he joined the Saints in 2001 for what would be his 14th season. Carney was solid, especially from short range, and lasted six seasons in New Orleans, even returning in 2009 before eventually being replaced by Garrett Hartley.
Never had a chance
- Olin Kreutz: This one always stings a little. Kreutz was considered one of the best centers in football and a class act all the way before a falling out with the Bears led to him turning down a deal. He signed with the Saints – a move at the time considered a Godsend as Jonathan Goodwin had just departed to San Francisco. But a short time later, Kreutz quit on the team – literally, citing he’d lost his passion for the game. He was cut shortly thereafter.
- Champ Bailey: I won’t lie – I was jazzed about this move even though my brain told me otherwise. Bailey was attempting his 15th NFL season in New Orleans when he was signed as unrestricted free agent, coming off a hall of fame career, largely with the broncos. Reports – not unlike what we’re hearing about Peterson noting how impressed fellow Saints corners were with Bailey went for naught and Bailey was released.
- Earl Campbell: I can only speculate how elated Saints fans must have been to get Campbell, at the beginning of his 8th season via a trade with the Houston Oilers (giving up a 1st round pick in the process). The details here … are eerily relevant … The Saints acquired Campbell despite having lead runner George Rogers, who had only recently been rookie of the year and NFL rushing champion. Campbell, despite his stature, saw his role diminished as the season went on, barely rushing for 468 yards and failing to record a 100 yard game (which – ugh – he did finally manage in 1985, rushing for 160 against (gulp) the Minnesota Vikings. Campbell retired after the season.
- Brandon Browner: Browner feels a little cheap here since his total NFL experience was a mere five years, but the fact of the matter is Browner was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005 by the Denver Broncos. He found his way to New Orleans as a much bally-hooed signing 10 years later, and is easily one of the, if not the biggest free agent bust in Saints history.
- Jim Taylor: A fullback who’d enjoyed a great career in the late 50s/early 60s with Green Bay, Taylor joined the Saints in 1967 and posted a meager 390 yards (fullbacks were a larger part of the game at this stage – at one point Taylor rushed for over 1000 yards in 5 straight seasons). The following season, he was relegated to special teams, refused to play in the team’s opening exhibition game, and retired prior to the start of the season.
Did I forget anyone? I’m certain I did and maybe a few of these guys don’t deserve to be on this list. Hopefully we can revisit next year with Peterson firmly on the first list!