Saints need to be more good than lucky in 2017

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Tommylee Lewis #87
The Saints cannot any opportunity for a good start to the regular season slip through their fingers in 2017 (Photo: Parker Waters).

Baseball pitcher Lefty Gomez once stated that he would rather be lucky than good. One of the oldest, overstated axioms in sports is that good teams make their own luck.

Gomez pitched 14 seasons in the Major leagues, including 13 with the New York Yankees and one with Washington from 1930-1943. He won 189 games and lost 102. While he most certainly enjoyed some luck along the way, Gomez was good, very good in many of those seasons. He led the American League in victories and earned run average twice and in strikeouts three times. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

For the past three seasons, the New Orleans Saints have not been good enough or lucky enough. In the season opener in 2016, Craig Robertson was wrongly flagged for pass interference, a very poor call, which was the primary reason that the Oakland Raiders rallied to beat the Saints 35-34, a crippling loss that sent New Orleans into an 0-3 tailspin from which they would not recover. The Raiders took off and became a playoff team which could have advanced had it not lost its quarterback, Derek Carr, late in the regular season.

Going into the 2017 season opener at Minnesota, it is obvious that the Saints are faster, more athletic and deeper in the back seven on defense. Alvin Kamara appears to finally be the guy to fill the void left by Darrin Sproles after the 2013 season. Every draft pick this year has made the opening roster.

On paper, the Saints are a better team than a year ago. While no one in the organization would ever use the word, they were in the rebuilding mode beginning in 2014. The organization has finally rebuilt a younger, faster, more talented team to perhaps turn the corner but the enthusiasm is tempered by the good turning poor due to bad luck.

First, there was Nick Fairley, who signed a contract extension and was diagnosed in early June with a likely career-ending heart condition. Then, there was the debilitating injury to Terron Armstead, who suffered a torn labrum in mid June.

In August, the Delvin Breaux injury fiasco became public knowledge after an initial diagnosis turned out to be incorrect. With another fracture in his leg, Breaux will miss at least the first half of the 2017 season. Then came the official announcement that starting wide receiver Willie Snead, IV would be suspended for the first three games after an offseason DUI was brought to light. Most recently, deep snapper John Dorenbos, who was acquired for a seventh-round draft pick, was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm which will require open heart surgery and he is done in New Orleans and likely in the NFL. The trade is being rescinded.

Then, there is the matter of the Saints drawing the unlucky card of having to travel abroad to face the Dolphins on Oct. 1. The last time the Saints went to London was on Oct. 26, 2008. The Saints beat the Chargers 37-32 but it was a major inconvenience, not preferred by the organization, but a necessity as it is this year. Despite a bye the following week, it is a tough recovery. New Orleans lost to the Falcons two weeks after the win over San Diego in 2008.

New Orleans has opened on the road not won a road opener since Sean Payton’s first one in 2006, when the Saints won 19-14 at Cleveland. In 2007, the Saints were routed 41-10 at Indianapolis. In 2011, the Saints lost 42-34 at Green Bay. In 2014, New Orleans lost 37-34 in overtime to open the season at Atlanta. In 2015, the Saints lost 31-19 at Arizona.

In the midst of struggling over the past three seasons, the Saints have started poorly and were unable to recover. New Orleans opened 1-3 in 2014, 0-3 in 2015 and 0-3 in 2016. At no point in any of the past three years were the Saints above .500. Going back to the ill-fated 2012 season, New Orleans started 0-4 and reached .500 after 10 games only to end up 7-9.

In each of those four seasons, the Saints were able to rally to the .500 mark but could never win that game to put them above the line of mediocrity. New Orleans finished 12-6 in 2013, opening up with a 23-17 win over the Falcons and marking both the last time they were above .500 and the last time they won a season opener.

If you want to be good, it is a good thing to start fast. It is more important to close fast but without a solid start, the finish may not be enough.

Refuting Gomez, it is better to be good than lucky but to be good, you have to be a bit lucky, getting a break or two as the Raiders did against the Saints and remaining healthy or relatively healthy. Relatively speaking, the Saints have failed in that regard already. The hope is that they have built enough depth to overcome the lousy luck they have incurred over the past four months. Do not sleep on the fact that Gomez was left-handed. The Saints hope they have righted the listing ship.

I couldn’t resist!

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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