Years ago — make that bad years ago for the Saints — esteemed colleague Brian Allee-Walsh came up with the Ex-Saint of the Week award — given to a one-time wearer of the Black & Gold who was excelling elsewhere while his former team floundered.
Well, while this season has been disappointing thus far, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome still houses a team with hopes for this season.
And while Reggie Bush, Jed Collins, Isa Abdul-Quddus and even Joique Bell, who had a cup of coffee on the active roster in 2011, might come back to burn their old team Sunday in Detroit, there hasn’t been anyone in the “Why in the world did we let him get away?” category since Jake Delhomme led Carolina to the 2004 Super Bowl after Jim Haslett opted for Aaron Brooks to be his quarterback.
In fact, while NFL rosters are littered with ex-Saints, in the nine-year Sean Payton era, none has made a Pro Bowl since their departure.
That’s an obviously high standard, and Darren Sproles could well break that streak this season. But the point is that the team has made few mistakes in talent evaluations, at least not once they’ve gotten the players into camp.
Rob Ninkovich, drafted once and cut twice, who has since carved out a solid career at linebacker for New England is the biggest exception to the rule.
But has anyone heard from safety Chip Vaughn or linebacker Stanley Arnoux, fourth-round draft busts from 2009 lately?
They are among 13 of the 16 draft picks of the last six seasons either no longer with the Saints or on anybody else’s active roster, recently released linebacker Khairi Fortt being the latest example.
What that says about the Saints’ drafting acumen of date is a story for another time.
Cap decisions are a different matter.
Obviously, the Saints would have preferred to have kept tackle Jermon Bushrod after his stellar 2011 and 2012 seasons. But not for the big bucks he would get from Chicago. And after a rough patch with the Charles Brown experiment, the Saints seem to have found their left tackle of the future in second-year man Terron Armstead.
The locker room presence of secondary stalwarts Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins and Jabari Greer (now retired because of injury) is certainly missed, and Harper and Jenkins are enjoying second lives with Carolina and Philadelphia, respectively.
But of the rest of the defensive starters from the Saints’ Super Bowl championship team, only cornerback Tracy Porter remains in the league, and he has appeared in just one game with Washington, his third team since leaving the Saints after the 2011 season.
Bush and Bushrod are the only offensive starters from 2009 now with other teams, and there are a handful of reserves from that season (Jonathan Casillas, Tampa Bay; Jo-Lonn Dunbar, St. Louis; Usama Young, Oakland) hanging around.
As much as anything, that points out how fleeting careers in the NFL can be.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the past few days about the impact Reggie Bush had on the team, especially the excitement created when he was drafted and contributions in the Super Bowl season.
It’s not every player who brings Kim Kardashian to the victory party. The general fan feeling may be different, but Bush is regarded by those still around from five years ago as a talented, hard-working teammate.
Still, it’s not like the team has suffered without him.
And if there are second thoughts by Payton on any players the Saints have either cut, traded or didn’t retain in free agency in his tenure, including Sproles, he isn’t likely to admit it.
“I think that we can’t, in our business, be hypothetical,” he said. “I am happy to see Malcolm, Roman, any of those guys who have played here, having success and their teams doing well, as long as it is not against us.”
But just in case Bush or any others do, the Ex-Saint of the Week award is always ready to be dusted off and used again.