For years in the Crescent City, nothing was more anticipated than Peter Finney’s annual prediction column.
The only thing that came close: At the end of every year, the same joker would send Pete a copy of said column, with everything he got wrong carefully marked through in the same blue ink.
Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I did a Saints prediction column at this time last year. And, sure enough, a few days later there was an email promising to keep a running tally on how much we got right and how much we got wrong.
Don’t know if it was the same guy or not, but after free agency we got the first update.
No more, though. Maybe he got tired.
At any rate, as a public service, here are those predictions and how well we did with them:
1. The Saints will lose to Tampa Bay 23-10 giving them a 6-10 record to end last season. (Would have happened if the Bucs hadn’t tanked in the fourth quarter.)
2. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be retained. (BINGO! At least for then.) But assistants Wesley McGriff, Bill Johnson and Brett Ingalls will be fired. (There were firings, but not these guys.) In a front-office shakeup, college scouting director Rick Reiprish will be fired. (Got it!) The team will bring back Dennis Allen. (On a roll!)
3. Center Jonathan Goodwin will announce his retirement. (He was released and hasn’t played this year. Shouldn’t that count?)
4. The team will decline to re-sign Mark Ingram, who will become a free agent. (Good thing they didn’t).
5. Marques Colston and Jahri Evans will be released. (Ditto on the good thing. Times two.) Others not retained: Patrick Robinson (right), Benjamin Watson (wrong), Robert Meachem (right), Broderick Bunkley (failed physical), Shayne Graham (right) and David Hawthorne (wrong). Ben Grubbs brought back after a salary reduction. (Wrong.)
6. Drew Brees will restructure his contract to avoid a $26 million salary-cap hit. (Waiting to see if he’ll do it in 2016.)
7. Free agents signed will include Jeremy Maclin and Pernell McPhee. (Wrong, but wouldn’t they have been better than Brandon Brower and C.J. Spiller?)
8. First-round draft pick will be guard/tackle Brandon Scherff of Iowa. (He went to the Redskins at No. 5, so the Saints took Andrus Peat.) Cornerback Alex Carter of Stanford will be taken in the second. (He went to the Lions in the third round.) The Saints will draft a quarterback in the fifth round or later. (They took Garrett Grayson in the third.)
9. The Saints will void the final year of the contract to hold training camp at The Greenbrier. (Wrong. Not only are they going back, but the Pelicans spent a week there, too.)
10. Stanley Jean-Baptiste will be released at the end of training camp. (Another winner. But that one was pretty obvious.)
11. Jairus Byrd will make a return to full health and lead the team with seven interceptions. (Hey, he only needs six in the final two games to make it happen.)
12. The team will improve from 31st in total defense and 29th in points allowed to the low-to-mid 20s in both categories. (As of now they’re 31st and 32nd, but if they can hold the Jaguars and Falcons to negative yards and no points, they’ve got a shot.)
13. Jimmy Graham will have fewer touchdowns and yards than he had in 2014. (He did, but in Seattle.) Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills will each have more than 80 receptions, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. (Cooks has 74, 993 and eight! Willie Snead, Stills’ replacement, has 62, 874 and three.)
14. Brees will fail to surpass 5,000 passing yards (even if he plays the final two games, he needs 865 more) but will pass Dan Marino for third on the league’s all-time touchdown passes list. (He’s passed Marino but has in turn been passed by Tom Brady.)
15. The team will finish 8-8, losing its season finale against NFC champion Atlanta. (They can do no better than 7-9, and Carolina has won the division, so we overestimated the Saints and the Falcons, by a wide shot, and underestimated the Panthers, by perhaps a wider shot.)
16. The team will schedule a major announcement for two days later. (That one has yet to play itself out.)
That’s 13 right and 18 wrong with one to be determined. Not sure how Pete did, but it was probably better than this.
In my introductory column for The New Orleans Advocate back in September 2012, I sought out the person I felt best could express the sports spirit of New Orleans.
It was Jerry Romig.
“This has always been a city that has supported sports with a passion,” was his answer. “And it’s only gotten better over the years.
“They may get down, but they never give up.”
This year has epitomized that with the Saints and Tulane both having losing records and the Pelicans seemingly headed for one in 2016 after scraping into the playoffs last season. Heck, we don’t even have a state high school football champion to brag about.
And now, another downer. Jerry Romig died Wednesday at age 86.
As the PA announcer of the Superdome, who, in his lifetime, has helped us experience more of those uplifting moments of sports in the city?
I’m sure, then, Jerry will understand if we’re all a little down today because of his passing.
But he’d also be the first to tell us not to give up.
RIP to a good friend to us all.