It happened in 2021 – sort of

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Drew Brees
Derick E. Hingle/New Orleans Saints Pool Photo

NEW ORLEANS – The last sports year was a crazy one – COVID-19, Hurricane Ida, coach firings and hirings, the end of a Hall of Fame quarterbacking career, injuries, opt-outs and more COVID.

It featured a lot of disappointment for the New Orleans Saints, a lot of frustration for the Pelicans, more mediocrity from LSU and a drop-off for Tulane.

And other stuff.

As 2022 arrives, here’s a look back at what happened in 2021, sort of:

Ohio State routs Clemson 49-28 in the CFP semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl as Saints officials finalize their draft board. … Alabama defeats Notre Dame 31-14 in Arlington, Texas after the other semifinal is moved from the Rose Bowl due to COVID complications. … The Crimson Tide rout the Buckeyes 52-24 as Nick Saban wins his seventh national championship. …

The Saints win their fourth straight NFC South title, enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the NFC and beat the Bears in a wild card playoff. In the divisional round, though, the Saints lose to the Bucs as Drew Brees throws four interceptions in what is widely believed to be his final game.

Tampa Bay defeats Kansas City 31-9 as MVP Tom Brady wins his seventh title. … Struggling Pelicans make the biggest comeback in franchise history, overcoming a 24-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 120-115 in overtime. … Former Times-Picayune executive sports editor Bob Roesler dies at 93.

The Saints release Thomas Morstead, the most accomplished punter in franchise history and one of just two remaining players from the 2009 Super Bowl championship team … Just 10 days later the last member of the championship team also departs as Brees makes his retirement official and joins NBC Sports, ending the most successful era in New Orleans NFL history. … The Saints overhaul continues as 11 more contributors either leave as free agents or see their contracts terminated to help the franchise get under the shrinking salary cap. …

The Pelicans, wallowing under .500 for most of the season under first-year coach Stan Van Gundy, move Zion Williamson to point forward and flirt with reaching the breakeven mark.

Kim Mulkey
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

Jared Butler of Reserve, La., and Riverside Academy is named MVP as Baylor wins the NCAA men’s basketball title, denying Gonzaga an undefeated season as the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers pop champagne corks. … Speaking of Baylor, LSU AD Scott Woodward hires Tickfaw native and Bears championship coach Kim Mulkey to replace Nikki Fargas as the Tigers’ women’s basketball coach. …

The Pelicans’ fading playoff hopes all but vanish during an overtime loss at New York. They fail to hold a three-point lead in the final seconds of the fourth quarter when Van Gundy’s instructions to foul rather than allow potential tying 3-pointer go unheeded by Eric Bledsoe, who wanders into a concession line to order a hot dog during the pivotal timeout.

Van Gundy’s Pelicans overcome the odds to avoid all 10 Western Conference post-season opportunities, finishing 31-41. … After a first-round exit in the SEC baseball tournament, Paul Mainieri announces his retirement effective at the end of LSU’s season before the Tigers receive an NCAA bid.

Mainieri’s final Tigers team comes through the losers bracket with four straight wins to claim the Eugene Regional before being swept by Tennessee in the Knoxville super regional. … Speculation about Mainieri’s successor heats up as various reports have AD Scott Woodward being turned down by the likes of Mike Bianco, Pat Casey, Kevin O’Sullivan, Tim Corbin, Tony Vitello and Jimbo Fisher before settling on Arizona’s Jay Johnson. LSU chat rooms immediately are overloaded with angry questions about why the Tigers haven’t score more runs since Johnson’s hiring. …

Pelicans chief David Griffin, who extended Alvin Gentry’s contract a year before firing him, fires Stan Van Gundy less than a year after hiring him to replace Gentry. Griffin hires former New Orleans Hornets player and current Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green to replace Van Gundy.

Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Saints coach Sean Payton reveals that WR Michael Thomas underwent surgery in June for an ankle injury suffered the previous September and will miss the start of the season. … David Griffin hires Fletcher Mackel as a consultant to advise on “really creative multi-team trades.”

Hurricane Ida forces the Saints to evacuate to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, LSU to Houston, Tulane to Birmingham and the Pelicans to Nashville. … Jameis Winston beats out Taysom Hill to be Drew Brees’ successor as Saints quarterback.

The Saints open the season with a stunning 38-3 “home victory” against the Packers in Jacksonville while New Orleans recovers from Ida. … Seven assistant coaches are sidelined by COVID and the Saints lose to the Panthers before defeating the Patriots. … No. 16 LSU opens with a loss to UCLA before beating McNeese State, Central Michigan and Mississippi State. … Tulane opens with a five-point “home” loss to No. 2 Oklahoma in Norman, thanks to Ida, then beats Morgan State in Birmingham and loses at Ole Miss before returning home to lose to UAB. …

On the eve of training camp the Pelicans reveal that Zion Williamson is sidelined after undergoing “Mike Thomas surgery” on his foot, but will be ready for the season opener in mid-October.

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson
(Photo: Stephen Lew).

Saints return to New Orleans and fall to the Giants after a fourth-quarter collapse before beating the Football Team and the Seahawks. They defeat Tom Brady and the Bucs on Halloween in the Superdome, but Jameis Winston is lost for the season to a knee injury. … LSU loses to Auburn and at Kentucky before upsetting Florida and losing to Ole Miss. … Tigers reach a buyout agreement with head coach Ed Orgeron, who will coach through the end of the regular season. … Green Wave lose to East Carolina, Houston, SMU and No. 2 Cincinnati. …

The Pelicans prepare to open the season without Zion Williamson, whose return from foot surgery is delayed indefinitely. David Griffin explains that reporters and fans misunderstood his “in time for the regular season” comment that should have been understood to mean “we have no idea what’s going on.”

Trevor Siemian takes over as the Saints starting quarterback and the team loses to the Falcons, Titans, Eagles and Bills while injuries to key players mount. … LSU has close losses against Alabama and Arkansas before beating Louisiana-Monroe and Texas A&M in Orgeron’s finale to get bowl eligible. … Tulane loses to UCF and Tulsa, beats South Florida and loses to Memphis to finish 2-10. …

Pelicans start the season 1-12 as unemployed basketball coaches around the country update their resumes. … Having lost Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC, the Big XII announces that it is adding a team comprised exclusively of former LSU players that entered the transfer portal during Ed Orgeron’s tenure. The former Tigers open as 27½-point favorites over Kansas in their conference debut.

LSU, Kansas State head to the Texas Bowl and Baylor and Ole Miss paired in the Sugar Bowl. … After reportedly being turned down by Jimbo Fisher, Lincoln Riley, Bill Cowher, Bill Belichick and Mike Ditka, LSU hires Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. … Saints fall to the Cowboys for their fifth straight loss before beating the Jets and shutting out Tom Brady and the Bucs, then losing to the Dolphins. …

Will Wade’s LSU men’s basketball team gets off to a damn strong start, winning its first 12 games and climbing to 16th in the AP poll before losing its SEC opener at Auburn. … Inspired by the overwhelming popularity of the LHSAA’s select/non-select championship format, the CFP announces that it will expand its field to 96 teams. …

A video of new LSU football coach Brian Kelly speaking to a crowd at a Tigers basketball game goes viral after allegations that the Massachusetts native poorly faked a Southern accent. Dialect experts examine the video and determine that Kelly’s accent is “10 times more authentic than Louisiana Senator John Kennedy’s.” …

The NFL grants numerous teams access to International Home Marketing Areas for access to “marketing, fan engagement and commercialization opportunities … to enable clubs to build their global brands.” In an ongoing effort to demonstrate that the league absolutely, positively, 100 percent does not have anything against the Saints, the NFL assigns them Kabul as their market. …

The Pelicans, on a 10-6 run under Willie Green, remain optimistic about Zion Williamson’s impending return, saying it should happen “as quickly as the launch of the Louisiana sports betting apps.” … Nick Saban’s “Fired Coaches Rehabilitation Program” hires Ed Orgeron as “Defensive Line Coach/Supervisor of Practice Visitors.” … In a landmark ruling the U.S. Supreme Court grants Bobby Hebert exclusive rights to the term “Who Dat Nation.”

I can’t wait to see what happens in 2022.

Happy New Year!

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Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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