This is a topic we’ll discuss on the podcast tonight and so being the amateur Saints historian that I am I’ve been really thinking about Saints history on this one. It’s a tough question because it’s totally subjective and impossible to quantify. At first the obvious answer that popped into my head was Marques Colston. After all, he never made a Pro Bowl and was generally disrespected throughout his career by the national media. His lack of self promotion really hurt him in popularity contests like the Pro Bowl, but it made him more beloved in New Orleans. If anything, I’d say Colston is properly rated locally. Media and fans alike vault him to the top receiver of all time in Saints history without question. So to me Colston is an obvious answer nationally and a poor answer locally. I wanted to make this conversation more difficult, so when I’m asking myself this question of “who is the most underrated Saint” – I really look at all angles. Not just national media, but the combination of that, fan base, and local media. Colston is only underrated by one of the three.
Currently, my answer is probably Zach Strief. No one gets more hate than him. He reminds me a lot of Fred Thomas, Scott Shanle and Roman Harper in that he’s a good player that gets crucified by fans. Those last three, though, all had significant drop offs in the latter stages of their careers which only fueled fan distaste for them. Strief is coming off the best season of his career and we haven’t seen a drop off yet. I think he struggles against speed rushers sometimes, and so the bad plays are remembered for the infrequent huge hits he has allowed on Drew Brees. Fans don’t seem to forget this.
Strief, Harper, Thomas and Shanle are all guys, in my opinion, that belong in the conversation. If you go further back, Stan Brock – who never made a Pro Bowl – is another name that really stands out to me. Frank Warren too. Their longevity was incredible, they played 186 and 189 games respectively (good for 4th and 3rd all time in Saints history). Jim Wilks and Hoby Brenner qualify based on this, too. Those four guys were never superstars in the league, never taken too seriously either locally or nationally, but their sustained solid play is unparalleled. Their loyalty to the Saints was special, too. There’s something to be said for longevity like that that you just don’t see in the league anymore. Jim Dombrowski deserves mention, too.
Derland Moore, I think, is a guy I consider just because sacks didn’t exist when he was a stud – and he had the misfortune of playing on a horrible defense. You can’t even measure his greatness statistically which is too bad because I think that context would help us put him up there against La’Roi Glover and other guys like that. He played 13 seasons for the Saints but only registered official sacks in the last 3. He got 12 total in those three seasons, but in the ten seasons that preceded it, I can promise you he had a lot more than that – including close to or over double digits more than once in a single season. It’s not impossible that Moore is second all time in Saints sacks and we don’t even know it. Consider that #2 Wayne Martin finished with 82.5 sacks in his career. Moore would have had to average 6.3 sacks over his 13 year career with the Saints to tie it. What I can say with strong confidence, though, is that Moore would be 4th all time in Saints history in sacks ahead of Will Smith. Smith had 67.5 and Moore had 12 in his last three seasons. That means Moore needs 57.5 sacks or more over 10 seasons to pass Smith. I’m pretty confident he did that. Pat Swilling is number 3 with 76.5 and my best guess is Moore was close. Moore also never made a Pro Bowl, which at the time was perhaps even more insulting than Marques Colston in his prime. That’s the reality of the times and the horrible Saints defense he played on, though.
The last guy I’ll throw out there is John Carney. Fans hate him for his lack of leg strength and the River City Relay extra point. That is one moment in franchise history that will never allow him to be forgiven. Carney is #1 in franchise history with a make percentage of 82.8% (minimum 30 attempts). Consider that Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen ended his career with the Saints at 77.6%. People will be quick to say that’s because Carney didn’t attempt kicks from as far away. But Carney was 73% between 40 and 49 (Andersen was 68.3%), and 55.5% from 50 or more (Andersen was 41.5%). In fact, Andersen was more accurate from closer than Carney. Most people think of Carney as accurate from close and no leg. But he was more accurate from further away than Andersen and not as good from close. Andersen made 91.7% of his kicks from inside 40 yards from the Saints. Carney was at 88.8%. So the big gap between the two in overall make percentage was because of a big gap in distance kick accuracy. I’m not saying Carney was better than Andersen, but he certainly stacks up and the narrative is plain false in a lot of cases.
I haven’t decided who I will lobby for yet on the podcast tonight, but currently I’m between Carney and Moore. Who would you say is the most underrated Saint of all time?