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pakowitz 01-06-2003 07:50 PM

ESPN analyst vents on Saints' collapse

Earlier this season, ESPN pro football analyst Sean Salisbury predicted the Saints would play the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl.

At least half of that prediction won't come to pass.

Salisbury ripped the Saints this week after the team went from a 6-1 start to a 9-7 finish and did not make the playoffs.

Salisbury said the Saints are "the most disappointing team in football."

"They should have made the playoffs," he said.

The fact that they didn't still puzzles Salisbury.

"With a good football coach and with all of that talent, I cannot believe that we're sitting here talking about them losing to three teams (Minnesota, Cincinnati and Carolina) who were 15-33 that they should have beat," he said.

Salisbury said he didn't understand what happened to the Saints at the end of the season. "You know what, I wish I could bottle that up, and if I knew I'd sell it for a lot of money and wouldn't have to work any more. I say that kiddingly."

Salisbury said he doesn't attribute the fade to injuries "because everybody has them."

"I'm a (Saints coach Jim) Haslett fan," he said. "Mike Riley was my coach. I know Rick Venturi. It's a combination of a lot of things."

Salisbury said he doesn't know if the Saints had enough "killer instinct."

He also said Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, who injured his right shoulder in a game against Tampa Bay on Dec. 1, was not the same player at the end of the season.

"I think (Brooks) has got the prettiest and best throwing motion in football," Salisbury said. "When I watch him play he's got some weaknesses like every quarterback does . . . but the last few weeks that ball didn't come over the top like Aaron Brooks is used to. It didn't have the velocity. He throws a beautiful ball, and it was just different."

Yet Salisbury is not sure the team should have played backup quarterback Jake Delhomme.

"I wouldn't have pulled Aaron if he was playing and throwing some incompletions just because of his performance, because you play your best player, and Aaron is a better player," Salisbury said. "But if the injury was letting him play at 75 or 80 percent, you bet you've got to play somebody else."

Still, Salisbury said he's confident that the Saints can correct their problems and have a strong season next year.

News and notes

-- Last Sunday's Carolina Panthers-Saints game on WVUE had a local 35.3 rating and a 60 share.

-- "Two things that might be a little overrated when we talk about the playoffs: emotion and home-field advantage." -- CBS analyst Phil Simms.

Instant replay

-- Best line No. 1: "If you came from the moon and hadn't seen the Saints go 6-1, you would think they were the Cincinnati Bengals." -- Buddy Diliberto on WWL Radio last Sunday.

-- Best line No. 2: "If they (the Saints) were a horse and they had a stretch run like this they would probably be tabbed for the glue factory." -- Joe Trahan on Fox 8 Sports Sunday last week

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