The Saints’ 3-2 start says more about the fans than the team

The Who Dat Nation is spoiled.

The narrative thru line of the Saints’ 2021 season so far seems to be, “what do we make of this team?”  The Saints started 3-2 after a massive salary cap-driven roster overhaul (now might be a good time to point out the most painful roster cut – CB Janoris Jenkins – has been atrocious for the Tennessee Titans) and a changing of the guard at quarterback, and has endured an insane rash of injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak that knocked out a huge chunk of the coaching staff for one game.

Heading into week seven after their bye, the Saints have a winning record and are just a game behind the first place Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South.  And yet, the general consensus seems to be that no one really knows what to think about the 2021 Saints.

We are confused.  Lost. Out of our element. I’ve written about it and it’s been discussed by every media outlet that covers the team.

It’s time to start telling people what to think – Saints fans should be excited about the way things have gone.  Try to imagine that 2021 is happening in a vacuum.  If you forgot about the last 15 years, if Drew Brees had signed with the Dolphins and our most recent football experience was a bad one, the way the ’21 season has begun would be absolutely thrilling.

Nothing will ever recapture the magic of the 2006 season, which was the last time the franchise underwent a major paradigm shift.  Hopefully that will remain the case, because much of the joy experienced during that blissful time existed because of the stark contrast between the football greatness and the horrors of Hurricane Katrina and the long recovery from it.

The 2006 season was like expecting nothing for Christmas but receiving a shiny new Nintendo 64 with four controllers and GoldenEye 007. Everything was awesome.

But as discussed on Black and Gold B.S. (subscribe where ever fine podcasts are downloaded!), statistical comparisons between Drew Brees in 2006 and Jameis Winston in 2021 can be instructive. Or, at the very least, a reason not to hopelessly wish for a Deshaun Watson trade.

Here’s how both QBs fared through their first five games in Sean Payton’s offense:

Drew Brees (2006, 4-1 record): 111-170 (65.3%), 1,243 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTS.  -6 yards rushing and 2 fumbles lost.

Jameis Winston (2021, 3-2 record): 70-116 (60.3%), 892 yards, 12 TDs and 3 INTS.  86 yards rushing and 1 TD.  1 fumble lost. 

In their respective first years in the offense, both QBs had the same amount of turnovers, while Brees had about an additional full game’s worth of attempts and yards.  But yards are a vanity stat and not necessarily indicative of winning.  Yards are the bicep curl of football stats, if you will.

Through five games, Winston has 8 more total touchdowns than Brees did, and this includes the disastrous Panthers game, in which he did not throw a TD pass, but did hit paydirt once on the ground.  The score is the only statistic that matters, and Winston has outperformed Brees thus far in that metric when measuring their first seasons under Sean Payton.

Turnovers also matter, and in that category, the two QBs are even.

It’s also important to note that Winston is playing with receivers who would normally be third or fourth options and an offensive line that’s been missing two starters for most of the season, while Brees’ own third option in 2006, Devery Henderson, is better than anything the Saints currently have on the field.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying.  I’m NOT saying Winston is better than Drew Brees.  But I am saying that Winston’s performance so far is good enough to win and good enough to be excited about.

The Saints’ 3-2 start has mostly been fun.  The team will get a litany of suspended or injured players back in the coming weeks and is in a good position to go on a run, with the next five games coming against a Russell Wilson-less Seahawks, the division-leading Bucs, the lowly Falcons, the burnable Titans and the not-great Eagles.

Ultimately, the team’s 3-2 start says more about the fans than it does about the team.  Our reaction says that we are spoiled.

You may also like...