From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 15, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / Febuary 15, 1999

For once, the New Orleans Saints did the expected this week.

It came as no surprise when it was announced Wednesday that the Saints would not resign Kerry Collins, their starting quarterback for the final seven games of the 1998 season. A main reason was the 14 turnoversCollins committed in those games in which the team went 2-5.

The decision means that the Saints will likely go into the 1999 season with Billy Joe Hobert as the team’s starter with Billy Joe Tolliver and either Danny Wuerffel or Jake Delhomme as his backups. Hobert was theSaints’ starter for three quarters before going down with an season- ending injury in the season-opener against St. Louis. The decision not to resign Collins and the release of wide receiver Qadry Ismail Wednesday means that most of the team’s major acquisitions over the last year will not be back next season. Linebacker Andre Royal wastraded to Indianapolis during the preseason and wide receiver Sean Dawkins will probably not be resigned. Strong safety Chad Cota andrunning back Aaron Craver are unrestricted free agents.

Looking at the decisions the Saints have to make this year, the team does not have to worry about resigning a player the caliber of a Joe Johnson or Winfred Tubbs like last year. As for free agency, do not look for the teamto be a big player even though it will have about $7 million of cap money to spend. This is a team that has already been burned too many times withthe likes of Royal, Michael Haynes and Eric Allen. Instead, look for theteam to concentrate its efforts on the draft.

Of course, the Saints have not always handled the draft well, either, through its history. Just look at the Lindsay Scotts, the Shawn Knights andthe Vaughn Dunbars that the team has taken with its number one picks.

Maybe what the Saints need is for another league to come into existence and then fold. The best years in the team’s history, 1987-92, came afterthe United States Football League went under. During those years, theSaints went 12-3, 10-6, 9-7, 8-8, 11-5 and 12-4 and made the playoffs four times. They did not have a winning season before or one since.Those teams included players drafted under Bum Phillips, including Rickey Jackson, Eric Martin and Morten Andersen, that were coming into their prime. Jim Dombrowski, Reuben Mayes, Dalton Hilliard and Pat Swillingand others came in excellent drafts by Jim Finks. But look what also cameover from the USFL – Bobby Hebert, Vaughn Johnson, Sam Mills and, of course, coach Jim Mora.

So start a new league, sue the NFL for being a monopoly, win the case and receive $3 for damages, cease operations and viola! The Saints have a chance to be playoff contenders again.

It’s just that simple.

Any takers?

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