The cloudy skies and thunderous rain set the tone for last Wednesday’s monumental sports news.
The Saints’ 2012-13 season is doomed.
And it’s doomed several months before it even got under way.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the NFL dropped a skull-crushing hammer to the Black and Gold’s front office this week by suspending head coach Sean Payton for a full season.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the league also took away General Manager Mickey Loomis for eight games, snatched two second-round draft picks away from the team and also fined Payton, Loomis and the team $500,000 each.
If anyone is struggling to comprehend what this means, listen clear – the Saints are in deep trouble.
Immediately after the suspensions were announced, the local sports world shifted from calamity to complete uproar.
Facebook statuses piled up by the thousands to express displeasure with the decision. Of my own 901-friend pool, more than 100 folks immediately made status updates to discuss displeasure with the ruling.
On Twitter, the pattern remained true, as the words “Sean Payton,” “Roger Goodell,” “Gregg Williams,” “Bounty” and “Saints” all trended within seconds of the announcement being made.
Bitter Saints fans pounced Roger Goodell’s Twitter and wrote harsh remarks toward the commissioner to express displeasure with the ruling.
Anger, spite, rage – all that is warranted.
I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but the Black and Gold have now shifted from Super Bowl contenders to a chaotic mess.
Let’s start with the obvious factor – Payton being out for the season.
That’s a crippling blow.
The Saints’ coach is the complete dictator of the team’s offense.
I know, you’ll tell me that offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael did a solid job calling plays when Payton tore up his knee this past season.
But let me also remind you that Payton was still in the Saints’ building making the game plan for each week.
He was also upstairs in the booth piping in tweaks and adjustments he saw from the bird seats.
This year, Carmichael will apparently be on his own. He will be doing ALL of the work, not just some of it.
He will be making ALL of the decisions, not just some of them. If things get tough, he will not have anyone to turn to.
He will be on an island. Completely on his own.
That will surely change a lot for the young assistant.
We will now fully know if he is ready to make the next step in his coaching progression.
Replacing Payton’s impact on the team is a lot like replacing that of quarterback Drew Brees – it just can’t be done.
If anyone out there thinks the Saints’ offense won’t take a hit because of this, I have a message for you right now.
Hear me loud and clear: you’re crazy!
The Saints will definitely take a step or three in the wrong direction with Payton on the shelf.
The challenge for the team will be to make sure those steps backward don’t turn into giant leaps.
The second most obvious negative impact the team faces is the lost draft picks.
The NFL Draft is the lifeblood of the NFL. It’s where teams build the foundation of their franchise.
Sure, it may sound like two second round picks isn’t much. But in the world of NFL parity, two young-blooded ambitious bodies makes a world of difference.
Not having that will force the team into free agency where players are more expensive, which will affect the team’s salary cap situation. Again, a crippling blow.
But the team also faces less obvious challenges, which will also hamper the team.
First, the suspensions begin April 1.
That means the Loomis has until this week to re-up Brees. The Saints’ franchise quarterback has already said he’d hold out if he were forced to play under the franchise tag.
And with good reason – the last time he played as a “franchise tag player,” he suffered a near career-ending injury.
So the Saints are now officially on the clock. If a deal isn’t done by April 1, someone other than the team’s general manager will have to do negotiating with the best player in franchise history.
Sound good to you?
It doesn’t to me either.
Also, with Loomis and Payton gone on April 1, who will draft for the Saints?
Granted, the team doesn’t have many picks, but still. In the NFL, every pick – even late round selections count.
Just ask Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham.
They may have been late round selections, but they have had first round impacts.
So really, any way you slice it – this reeks of garbage for the Black and Gold.
New Orleans football fans have faced gridiron adversity before, but this dose will be more challenging than ever.
Last Wednesday’s rainstorm meant more than a bad weather day in the Tri-parishes.
It apparently marked the beginning of a year-long black cloud that will hover over the Saints.
Maybe when the team plays games this year, they should all wear giant letter G’s in red print on their chests.
Roger Goodell just laid the smack down on the New Orleans far worse than any bounty ever injured Brett Favre or anyone else.
Competitive balance my foot.
The Saints were used to make an example.
And that’s wrong.
Even to a Dallas Cowboys fan.