Monday, January 22, 2007

Chin up, Saints Fans

My pastor came up to us after worship yesterday. He, being a Chicago Bears fan, told us that (*cue the harps and bright light*) an Angel of the Lord came to him last night in a dream. That angel told him to comfort my family with the knowledge that, while the NFC Championship game pitting Da Bears against the New Orleans Saints (America’s and God’s team) would be disappointing for Saints fans, God wants us to know He has greater plans for the His Team. We shared a good laugh because he didn’t really have an angel appear to him; we were just fans of opposing teams trash talking. But, the more I thought about it, the more I see how he is right.

For the first time in the history of the Saints franchise, I believe they have something they never had before – a future. They’ve had a few winning seasons, a few playoff games, but never before have they had the opportunity they have before them now. Right now, this team has the chance to become a modern-NFL dynasty. And, truthfully, that’s better than a one-time Super Bowl trip for the city of New Orleans. Ask Tampa Bay, Atlanta or Carolina, how they feel about their Super Bowl trips and the next season(s). What have they done since their Super Bowl trips? Nothing.

In today’s NFL, a dynasty cannot be defined as it was in the past – multiple Super Bowls in a row. Gone is the dominance of the Steelers in the 70s, 49ers in the 80s, Cowboys in the 90s. Today, a dynasty is better defined as getting to the Conference Championships consistently, winning most of them to get the the Super Bowl and winning it. For example, the Patriots are a modern-day NFL dynasty. The only dynasty the Saints have had is the Ain’ts Dynasty. But, with their youth, heart and fire, they have the opportunity to become a true dynasty for the first time in history. Isn't that what the Katrina-ravaged city needs more? A dynasty brings more to the New Orleans economy than a one time trip. Plus, being a perennial winner brings more hope than say a perennial loser. I mean, did you feel hopeful last year when the Saints ended their season 3-13? I'm betting nope.

While many saw the Bears dominate the Saints, I saw something different. I saw a team that for the first time in it’s history play to win rather than play to control the margin of loss. I saw a team of youth learn valuable lessons that only come with experience. I saw a coach make decisions to help give his team a chance to win and challenged them to do so. I have never seen a Saints team play with the heart and determination I saw this season. Regardless of what the scoreboard said, the Saints kept fighting. And, that’s what makes this team different than any other team in its franchise history.

So, Saints fans, while your heart aches this morning, take comfort in the future. This team is poised to do wonderous things for the city. They no longer are the Ain’ts. We don’t have to wear paper bags on our heads. We have a truly blessed team. This is only the beginning.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Marty Balled

Ever since the Chargers lost to the Patriots, there's been talk of San Diego firing it's head coach, Marty Schottenheimer. The man has over 200 wins over his career, but has a lousy record in the playoffs - something like 5 - 12. So, he's gotten a bad rap for not being able to win the big one. He's never won a Super Bowl. But, does that make him a bad coach? Or at least bad enough to be fired?

His team had the best record in the NFL this season. His #1 player is the league MVP. The Chargers lost two games by a total of 6 points to AFC Playoff teams. His team ended the Colts 2005 undefeated season. They've gone 43-22 since he took over, won the division twice and made the playoffs twice.

But, he didn't get to or even win the Super Bowl, so he should be fired. Sorry, I don't get that. Here's my theory why: Consistantly winning teams make more money than teams that win the Super Bowl one year and flop the next.

Examine the case of Tampa Bay head coached by Tony Dungy (now of the Colts). From 1996 - 2001, he built a killer defense, went 48-42, had 3 winning seasons, won the old Central divison once, and made the playoffs 4 out of 6 years. They even almost made it to the Super Bowl. The next year they did and won it... under a new coach. The 2002 Bucs - the team that Tony built - took home the trophy under new head coach Jon "Chucky" Gruden and have since done squat. We'll never know, but there isn't much doubt that Coach Dungy would have won that Super Bowl had he been allowed to continue with the success he built.

As evidenced when he was hired to coach the Indianapolis Colts and continued being successful. The Colts may not have one the big one or have a good playoff record. But, they have been consistant winners with Coach Dungy at the helm. Since 2002, the Colt have won the divison four out of five years, made the playoffs every year and amassed an incredible 60-20 record. A consistant winner. Who do you think made more money from 2002-2006? I'm betting on the Colts.

Now, take a look at Bill Cowher. He's been head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for 15 years, since 1992, retiring at the end of this season. In that time, he posted a 143-80 record, won the divison title 9 times, made the playoff every year but 3, made it to the Superbowl twice and won it once. Only three seasons were losting seasons - 6-10 at worst. If that's not consistant winning, I don't know what is.

When a guy has that much success, you don't fire him. The bottom line for NFL teams is to make money. Is Marty making money for San Diego? You bet. I don't see how they fire him. From a business point of view, it would be stupid.