Favre should return to Big Easy, give Saints new life
Posted: Wednesday January 4, 2006 5:18PM; Updated: Thursday January 5, 2006 11:46AM
Brett Favre is from Kiln, Miss., not far from New Orleans.
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The year 2005 was especially unkind to the New Orleans Saints. Whatever lofty goals the team carried into the season -- whether that was .500 ball or, loftier still, a berth in the playoffs -- were summarily wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. And while the floodwaters have since receded and civil unrest with it, the Saints, like their city, remain a franchise in decay, their future awash in uncertainty. The team's coach for the past six years, Jim Haslett, was shown the door on Monday. Its corroding Superdome lords over a pockmarked cityscape like a zit on prom night. Most of the team's fan base has relocated to higher ground.
And the Saints, by turn, could be doomed to a similar fate. While owner TomBenson will excitedly welcome his team back to its practice facility in Metairie, La., in two weeks and expects the Saints to resume play inside the Superdome by mid-September, the NFL's outlook on the team's future by comparison is far less enthusiastic. So grim in fact that commissioner Paul Tagliabue has even wondered aloud whether New Orleans will be able to support the Saints beyond 2006. "We think it can," he said in a five-hour meeting with Saints players and coaches last week, "but it's not a slam dunk" -- in which case San Antonio (which hosted five Saints "home" games at the Alamodome last season), Chicago (wanting of an 80,000-seat domed stadium and second NFL team before the Olympics in 2016) and the ever-thorny Los Angeles market become evermore viable options.
Naturally, all this impermanence has tested the patience of veterans such as the 28-year-old Aaron Brooks (who'd begin entertaining thoughts of retirement late last season) as well as the team's overall free agent pitch. With no home, no (bright) lights, few motorcars and not a single lux-ur-ee, the Saints have been reduced to the NFL equivalent of Gilligan's Island, only uninhabitable (compared to more practical NFL destinations like San Francisco and Houston). It would take a miracle to keep this franchise in New Orleans -- let alone competitive -- beyond the next 18 months.
Enter Brett Favre, equal parts iron man and Superman and no stranger to the miraculous. There was the 402-yard passing clinic against the Bears in '95, the he-did-whaat?! hurl to Antonio Freeman against the Vikings in 2000, the four-touchdown barrage against the Raiders in '03. The three MVPs, the Super Bowl ring -- certainly there's no questioning Favre's place among the all-time greats. Where he has waned, his critics allege, is in his overall effectiveness. A two-interception night against the Ravens in which he'd begrudgingly yield the Monday Night stage to rookie Aaron Rogers in Week 15 served as the exclamation point on a 4-12 season -- Favre's first losing campaign in nearly 1 1/2 decades.