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CheramieIII 09-11-2004 11:00 AM

Saint's are a Mystery!
From the Bogalusa Daily news:

Saints are a mystery

Billy Gomila

the Sports Editor
BOGALUSA n Part of being a sportswriter is trying to predict things for certain teams through their seasons. You look at how teams did last year, what kind of moves they made, but in reality you just make your best guess.

That's all it really is, a guess. You never know. If you did there are far more lucrative ways of making a living. A guess is random. It's pulled out of thin air. You can research and hypothesize all you want based on all the empirical data you can scrounge up, but in the end you never really know just how the games are going to play out.

Never more has this been true with the New Orleans Saints, who kick off their season Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in the Superdome.

Most of the so-called national "experts" on the NFL for ESPN or Fox are painting the Seahawks as a Super Bowl candidate for this year behind Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasslebeck and head coach Mike Holmgren, who won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.

The same pundits tend to give mixed reviews on the Saints. Universally they're regarded as a talented ball club, especially on offense, but the inconsistency that has plagued this team the last three years leads to a general consensus of another year sans-playoffs in the Big Easy.

Parity has made any prediction regarding the NFL generally shakier than a wooden chair in the Pavarotti household, and the boys in black and gold just may be the league's most mystifying team.

Few can match New Orleans for offensive talent. Deuce McCallister is one of the league's top five runners, Joe Horn is a Pro Bowl receiver and youngsters Donte Stallworth and Boo Williams are primed for breakout years, yet the Saints have continuously wilted at crunch time like a daisy in the summer heat.

Generally most of the blame is cast on the shoulders of Aaron Brooks. Such is the case with quarterbacks, who in general receive both the accolades and diatribes of the fans and media. Granted, Brooks fumbled an astonishing 11 times last year, but also lead the NFC in passer rating and threw fewer interceptions (eight) than any other quarterback.

There are holes in his game without a doubt, and this season will likely tell the tale as to whether or not he's ready to make the leap into the upper-echelon of league quarterbacks, but it can be done.

Ultimately the fate of this team is far more tied in to its defense. New Orleans has been pathetic in that area in recent years, especially against the run. Jim Haslett hopes he's fixed the problem with an influx of a few fresh faces and some minor tweaks to the old ones.

This much is certain. If the Saints defense continues its recent string of ineptness, it won't matter if Brooks throws for 5000 yards and 40 touchdowns. Defense wins the NFL. Period.

The time has come for Jim Haslett to get this team into the postseason. Whether or not he will get them there is anybody's best guess.

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