Not everyone is happy for the Saints

I am scheduled to fly to New Orleans on Thursday to judge the finals of the Tulane Sports Law Moot Court competition. What a time to go -- smack in the middle of the Who Dat Saints winning it all and Mardi Gras. I wonder if I’ll find a town that’s hung over from the Saints’ Super Bowl victory or just revving up for Mardi Gras. The answer, of course, is both.

The Saints are the winners, no doubt about that. They’ve survived every test and done so with some financial challenges as well, which I’ll detail in my next column.

However, there are many who have to be feeling sick about Sunday night’s result, mostly due to their own mistakes coming back to bite them at the hand of Drew Brees and the loveable Saints. Those feeling ill as a result of what happened last night include:

The Colts. Of course, they did not play badly, and in one of the most tired phrases ever uttered, they played well enough to win. However, that “well enough to win” would be for a regular-season game against an average opponent, not well enough to win against the Saints. Pierre Garcon, you cannot drop that pass, not on that stage against that team. Hank Baskett, you cannot whiff on that onside kick. Again, the norm for the Colts is that those kinds of mistakes can be easily overcome by the greatness of Manning, but not against the opportunistic Saints.

The Vikings. They outplayed the Saints two weeks ago and lost. They possess a superior defense to the Colts, a reason I picked the Saints to win. The Vikings also played “well enough to win” but also did just enough to lose, as did the Colts. Although it sometimes comes off as disrespecting the winner, the truth is that most games are lost rather than won. With credit to the Saints, the Colts and Vikings lost those games as much as the Saints won them.

The Dolphins. Drew Brees wanted to be a Dolphin, but it was not mutual. As much talk about the “calling” he felt from New Orleans and the wonderful things he’s done with the city, he preferred Miami to New Orleans when he was a free agent in 2006 after being shunned by the Chargers in favor of Philip Rivers. Coming off a serious shoulder injury, Brees was put through an exhaustive medical exam and by the Dolphins, who chose Daunte Culpepper and his balky knee over Drew and his shoulder. Culpepper played four games for the Dolphins, who have invested in older veterans (Trent Green, Chad Pennington) and consecutive second-round draft picks (John Beck, Chad Henne) with limited success. Now they watch as Drew Brees – whom they could have had at hello – wins the world championship on their home field.

Jim Irsay. Irsay publicly proclaimed that he would make Peyton Manning the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL. That bravado sounded bold in the midst of the recent love fest for Manning. Now, not as much. Manning is still deserving of eclipsing his brother and Rivers’ recent extensions but will now have his 9-9 postseason record brought up when that deal, which may approach $50 million guaranteed and $140 million total, is negotiated. The lavish deal will also take place against a backdrop of ownership grumbling about player costs rising much faster than revenues.

Other notes from the weekend:

I get that Super Bowl Sunday has become a national holiday for commercials and all their accompanying hype, but it makes for a disjointed game without the flow needed for viewers to become truly invested. It seemed to me like there were smatterings of football among the ad clutter….

Michael Irvin and Warren Sapp are both accused of violence against women. Two enormous personalities with an ability to draw people to them have been alleged to have used that gift wrongly. In talking to people about the allegations against each, there’s a noticeable lack of shock and almost a shrug of non-surprise….

Jimmy Johnson is promoting a male-enhancement product. I won’t go there; I wonder why he did….

LaDainian Tomlinson said he would not take a pay cut from the Chargers, then revised himself to say he expects to be playing elsewhere in 2010. Sounds like LT was informed that to stay with the Chargers, he would be taking a pay cut. Soon, the Chargers will be “retiring” one of their all-time greats with flowery language about what a wonderful player and person he is, sounding more like they’re rewarding him with a new contract than releasing him. Like so many running backs who excelled recently only to be pushed into semi-retirement – Shaun Alexander, Deuce McAllister, Edgerrin James – Tomlinson will have an exit from the team for which he was a signature player for almost a decade….

No labor talk in this column, but this will be the place to be for all you need to know (and some you don’t) about the new way of doing business in the NFL.

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