There’s no way to characterize the 2012 NFL season for the New Orleans Saints other than saying that it was bizarre and that it was a let-down. After all, they were facing the dilemma of “Bounty-gate” and the ensuing suspensions to guys like linebacker Jonathon Vilma and their dynamic head coach, Sean Payton, whose absence may have been felt the greatest.
To Saints’ fans disappointment, the team missed out on the postseason after finishing the year with a record of just 7-9, a far cry from their recent run of success. Their offense was still potent, but they had one of the worst defenses in the league last year. With Payton returning and New Orleans bringing in Rob Ryan to take control of the defense, many people expect the Saints to be much improved in 2013.
In actuality, the franchise better hope they are improved, because this team’s window of opportunity to get back to the Super Bowl is closing much quicker than many people think. This is a team that doesn’t exactly have a young influx of talent that they have been developing. Save a few faces on defense, Jimmy Graham and possibly Mark Ingram, there aren’t many players on New Orleans’ roster with a solid combination of talent and youth.
Essentially, the Saints’ window of opportunity will be open as long as quarterback Drew Brees is at the helm and performing at an elite level. The problem is that Brees is now at an age and point in his career where that amount of time is shadowed in uncertainty. At 34 years old, he has been able to produce over 5,000 yards passing and over 40 touchdowns the past two seasons, but how likely is it that he’s able to continue that past his mid-30s? As he gets older, the risk for injury and declining skills increase a great deal. Granted, other elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady defy the odds and age, but they are still declining somewhat and, at points, seem to be playing on borrowed time.
There’s no way of knowing positively when Brees will be done as an elite quarterback at the NFL. There are a ton of factors that play into that and a large amount of luck and chance are involved. What is certain, though, is that whenever Brees does start to show signs of slowing up, the Saints will likely be in big trouble.