When the Saints met as a team for the final time of the 2017 season this week, it didn’t take long to figure out the premise of their offseason organizational message.
Sean Payton: “"There's nothing promised. I think we've got a lot to do this offseason. We've got a lot of work to do in a lot of areas we've got to address. I think I would just say we'll see."”
Drew Brees: “While I think we do have a talented team, I know that each year you have to go out and you have to prove it.”
Thomas Morstead: “Excited about the future, but it’s no guarantee we’ll be back.”
I’ve been around the locker room long enough to know when this team wants to get a point across. This one is pretty clear. The Saints want to make sure everyone understands that success in 2017 means absolutely nothing from here on out. Thus, any talk of excitement about the team’s future was countered with the reality of the work that must be done to get there.
It’s easy to get why they feel this way. The fear of developing a sense of entitlement is very real. It’s exactly what happened to them in 2014, the last time the Saints entered a season coming off a playoff run. That entire team got a little arrogant and entitled, and it blew up in their face.
That year, they let players like Lance Moore, Roman Harper, Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins walk while signing guys like Jairus Byrd to a record-breaking contract and Junior Galette to an unnecessary extension. They decided on the Greenbrier for training camp and complied one the worst draft classes in recent team history. That season started an organizational tailspin that took them three years to get out of.
No one wants to return to those days. So, credit the Saints for having the foresight to know what could happen if they’re not careful and hammering it home to those that need it most.
Which brings us back to 2017. It was a special season. They didn’t just win; they won with a high volume of first and second-year players. It was incredible to watch a new generation form right in front of our eyes.
However, sometimes that kind of instant success can give a false sense of accomplishment. That false sense of accomplishment can lead to complacency in the offseason where the work put in to get to this point isn’t matched to get back there and beyond. There’s a feeling of ‘we’ve made it,’ which is something the Saints obviously want to avoid.
No one is accusing this group of falling into that category. It doesn’t appear any of the young players have that the makeup that would allow that to happen to them. Plus, the gut-wrenching finish to the season alone should be enough motivation for every player coming back to grind even harder.
But coaches have been around long enough to know what should happen doesn’t always occur and that complacency CAN happen to anyone. And they’ll make sure to do whatever they have to avoid it creeping into the organization again.
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