Retrospect: the 2004 New Orleans Saints
August 21st, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The 2004 New Orleans Saints are the only team that I have seen pack it in during the second game of the NFL season.

It’s quite true. Years from now history will forget, but I won’t — the 2004 San Francisco 49ers were putting street free agents on their defensive line due to injury. For game two they started guys who weren’t in camp with them… or anyone. Ken Dorsey was the quarterback, playing in his first game for Christ’s sake! If you get beat by a quarterback starting his first game, ever, it’s actually indicative of a mess of failures within your organization and Dorsey, to his credit, almost did it.

The 49ers would have won the game if backup running back Jamal Robertson didn’t fumble and give the Saints one more crack with the ball, and even Yahoo didn’t mention it in the recap. The Saints had given up on the season, but an unforced miscue gave them a second chance.

I can’t fully explain how little they wanted to win that game. My brother said once that the team seemed like they were more interested in hitting up the strip clubs and giving each other a hotfoot than actually playing football on Sunday. I saw them play with a lead in the third quarter once in 2004. They acted like a team that was shocked at what time the game started each week. As if they were a disorganized flag football team. Whoa, playing at one o’clock?!! What the-? Is it early this week? Sure coach, I’ll get right to the game, don’t take the coin flip till I get there! Where’s my helmet?

I blamed the coach at the time — Jim Haslett — and his co-ordinators (Mike McCarthy on the offense and Rick Venturi on the defense) and I guess I still do, a little. For years the Saints played like they didn’t get any sleep the night before. It’s funny, seeing Mike McCarthy coach the Packers these days. It’s not as funny seeing our coach in 2008, Sean Payton, abandon the run just as easily as McCarthy did.

Two teams made it in 2004 at 8-8 and it really burns me that my mediocre team wasn’t good enough to be one of them, especially since they beat one of them outright (the Rams). Although! As bad as things were in New Orleans, I’d have hated to have to wish that my Super Bowl draught would end with Mike Fucking Tice at the helm (as Vikings fans would have, in 2004). There is a reason he never got another head coaching job in the league. When I grew up, the Buffalo Bills had a few like that before Marv Levy took over. It really does say it all.

In the end, the 2004 Saints were eliminated in the various tie-breakers because their former kicker — Doug Brien — missed like a 90 yarder that the Jets (who had nothing to play for) had him try against the Rams.  The way that Haslett cut him, I wouldn’t have blamed him if, rather than kick the ball, he simply took off his pants, revealed “FUCK” on his left cheek,  “HASLETT” on the right and hiked the ball himself into his own end zone.

And I will never forget the image of Johnathan Sullivan, the worst player in New Orleans Saints history, watching the game completely stone-faced. I am not going to make a fat guy joke here. Back in 2004 we still had hope.

I have a little bit of hope today, in August of 2008. Not much. Six times the Saints have made the playoffs and once, back in the 90s while I was in high school, I had to work a shift at the Hilton Big M during one of the games. They just don’t go often. It’s also a little funny to see Bobby Hebert win that stupid ESPN poll for “Best Saint of All-Time” considering his selfish contract demands, and subsequent refusal to play in 1990 wasted one of the prime years of the Dome Patrol defense, putting up 6 points in the playoffs against a Bears team that got creamed the next week against the Giants. (We could have been the team that got creamed in the second round that year!!) Hebert wasn’t great, but he would have done a better job than Walsh.

But if the team does do well, it’s important – for me – to remember how much terrible football I watched to get there. 2004 was one of those seasons.

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