COMMENTARY| The 2013 NFL season is six long months away, and the only thing to cure a football junkie's fix in March is NFL free agency and the NCAA tournament. With the tournament heating up, I created a bracket ranking the best New Orleans Saints players of all-time.
Each player is seeded and divided into two brackets: The Black region/French Quarter and the Gold region/Canal St. The Black region/French Quarter features the no.1 seed Drew Brees versus the 8th seed Marques Colston. In the bottom half of the bracket, the no.3 seed Sam Mills takes on 6th seed Deuce McAllister. In the Gold region/Canal St, the no.2 seed Rickey Jackson squares off with 7th seed Morten Andersen, and 4th seed Willie Roaf battles 5th seed Eric Martin.
Black Region/French Quarter bracket & Gold Region/Canal St. bracket
1) Drew Brees vs. 8) Marques Colston 2) Rickey Jackson vs. 7) Morten Andersen3) Sam Mills vs. 6) Deuce McAllister 4) Willie Roaf vs. 5) Eric Martin
1) Drew Brees vs. 8) Marques Colston
Since joining the Saints in 2006, no player in the NFL has amassed more yards and touchdown passes than Drew Brees. The 7-time Pro Bowler has 33,571 yards and 244 touchdowns in seven seasons as a member of the black and gold (according to NFL.com). Most of Brees' yards have come courtesy of Marques Colston, his go to receiver.
The 7th round pick out of Hofstra joined the team in 2006 and posted record numbers with 532 receptions, 7,394 receiving yards, and 58 receiving touchdowns (according to NFL.com). Colston produced 6 seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving, and broke former Saints receiver Joe Horn's record for most touchdowns in club history.
Both players are key cogs in the Saints high-powered offense, but Brees wins this matchup based on his importance to the team and responsibilities as quarterback.
3) Sam Mills vs. 6) Deuce McAllister
Sam Mills joined the Saints in 1986, and his stellar play at linebacker made him a cornerstone of one of the league's most ferocious defenses known as the "Dome Patrol." Mills was only 5'9", but played with a physical style that struck fear in the hearts of opposing offenses.
As a 5-time Pro Bowler and 4-time All-Pro, Mills recorded 1,319 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, and a touchdown (according to NFL.com).
Deuce McAllister is considered one of the best running backs in team history. His size (6'1" 232 pounds), power, and deceptive speed made him a threat on offense. McAllister was a dual-purpose back as both a runner and receiver. Although his 9-year career was hampered by injuries, he managed to collect 6,096 rushing yards, 49 touchdowns, and 212 receptions for 1,577 yards and 4 touchdowns (according to NFL.com). McAllister was also the first Saints running back in franchise history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in three consecutive seasons.
This is a tough call, but Mills advances to the Fleur de Lis final four based on his value to the "Dome Patrol" defense from a leadership perspective and overall skills in both run and pass defense.
2) Rickey Jackson vs. 7) Morten Andersen
NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson takes on Saints' Hall of Famer Morten Andersen in the first matchup in the Gold region/Canal St bracket. Both players were great at their respective positions for well over a decade.
Jackson was an anchor of the "Dome Patrol" defense and one of the game's best linebackers. He terrorized opposing quarterbacks as evidenced by his 128 sacks, which ranks third in NFL history according to NFL.com. Jackson accumulated 1,173 career tackles and grabbed 8 career interceptions.
Morten Andersen was the model of consistency as a kicker. In 12 seasons with the Saints, he was the most dependable weapon at producing points with field goals when the team's anemic offense couldn't engineer touchdown drives. Andersen holds numerous NFL and team records, including most career field goals (565); most career field goal attempts (709); most career points (2,544); most career game winning field goals (103); and a Saints scoring record of 1, 318 points.
Taking both players' fabulous stats into consideration, Rickey Jackson wins this round because of his superb play on defense. Arguably, Jackson and the defense kept the offense in a lot of games by holding opponents under 20 points, which gave Morten Andersen an opportunity to be in a position to attempt game clinching or tying field goals.
4) Willie Roaf vs. 5) Eric Martin
Willie Roaf and Eric Martin were two consummate professionals that excelled in their offensive roles. Martin didn't possess the prototypical size or speed characteristic of today's wide receivers. What Martin lacked in those areas, he made up for with precise route running and great hands. Martin could be counted on to make the difficult catch on third down to keep offensive drives alive. During his 9-year career, he set team receiving records for receptions (532), receiving yards (7,854), and most 100-yard receiving games (18). He also helped lead the franchise to their first playoff appearance in 1987.
Willie Roaf was a stalwart along the offensive line. One of the most gifted and athletic linemen to play the game, he made Sunday afternoons miserable for defensive linemen attempting to sack his quarterback. Roaf's great quickness and agility allowed him to explode out of his stance to block defenders. He was an intelligent player skilled at reading defensive formations. Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, Roaf was an 11-time Pro Bowler, a 6-time first team All-Pro, and a 3-time second team All-Pro according to NFL.com.
Roaf advances over Martin to the Fleur De Lis final four. Roaf's dominance at the position and his consistent great play on bad Saints teams gives him the edge.
Fleur De Lis Final Four
The Fleur De Lis final four features no.1 seed Drew Brees against no.3 seed Sam Mills, and no.2 seed Rickey Jackson battling no.4 seed Willie Roaf.
1) Drew Brees vs. 3) Sam Mills
Mills and Brees pit the quarterbacks from both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Both players are smart and possess tremendous leadership intangibles, but Brees wins this contest based on his ability to brilliantly manage every duty at the quarterback position from reading defensive formations, knowing when to to be aggressive, and knowing when to manage the game.
2) Rickey Jackson vs. 4) Willie Roaf
These two stars in their prime would need to compete against one another on opposing teams to determine who wins this battle. However, neither player won a playoff game with the Saints, although Jackson won a ring as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 1994. Roaf (no fault of his own) never got over the hump despite a few playoff appearances with the Chiefs. The edge goes to Rickey Jackson based on his ridiculous sack total and impact on defense.
Bourbon St. Championship
1) Drew Brees vs. 2) Rickey Jackson
The championship matchup of Brees and Jackson is a good one. These two top seeds are the franchise's best offensive and defensive players. Both have enjoyed outstanding careers and have meant a great deal to the team. Nevertheless, this matchup comes down to postseason accomplishments. Jackson made three playoff appearances with the Saints and lost all of them. A lot of factors contributed to the team's playoff futility, which isn't all on Jackson's shoulders.
Brees has a career 5-2 playoff record and has appeared in two NFC championships (2006, 2009), with one NFC conference title and a Super Bowl championship (the franchises first) in 2009. He tied New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady's Super Bowl record for completions in a game (32) and won the game's M.V.P. award.
To play at an elite level while dealing with the pressure of winning, and resuscitating the team after hurricane Katrina, speaks to Brees' greatness. Brees takes the crown of best Saints player of all time, and the black and gold king cake.
Daniel Miller is a freelance sports contributor for AOL Patch.com. He's also worked as a freelance sportswriter for the Dallas Morning News, sports editor for Sirius XM Radio, and a sports production assistant for KXAS-TV NBC-5 in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area.
You can follow Daniel on Twitter @dm26Nola
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- Willie Roaf
- Morten Andersen
- Marques Colston
- Drew Brees
- Rickey Jackson
- Sam Mills
- Deuce McAllister
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