Looking back on the best to ever wear Black & Gold

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 4:26 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It all began on Jan. 18, 2006. The day the Sean Payton era began in New Orleans.

One of his first orders of business was finding his franchise quarterback, which is exactly what he did when he landed Drew Brees. It proved to be a perfect marriage of head coach and player. The duo would go on to re-write the record books of NFL offensive football.

Payton’s first team in 2006 was a crazy collection of players in a city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. Yet somehow, they won.

No victory was bigger than in week three when the Saints officially returned for the reopening of Superdome against rival Atlanta Falcons and let the world know...New Orleans was back.

FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2006 file photo, New Orleans Saints' Steve Gleason (37) sprints...
FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2006 file photo, New Orleans Saints' Steve Gleason (37) sprints through the end zone after blocking an Atlanta Falcons punt in the first quarter of their NFL football game at the newly re-opened Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. The Saints recovered for a touchdown. When the New Orleans Saints host rival Atlanta on Monday night, it'll mark the 10-year anniversary of the stadium's reopening, and a victory over the Falcons that symbolized a city's determination to rebuild from one of the worst natural disasters in American history. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)(BILL HABER | AP)
FILE - This Sept. 25, 2006 file photo shows the bronze statue titled "Rebirth," outside the...
FILE - This Sept. 25, 2006 file photo shows the bronze statue titled "Rebirth," outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which depicts former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason blocking a punt against the Atlanta Falcons during the first Monday Night Football game, after the Superdome re-opened after Hurricane Katrina. When the New Orleans Saints host rival Atlanta on Monday night, it'll mark the 10-year anniversary of the stadium's reopening, and a victory over the Falcons that symbolized a city's determination to rebuild from one of the worst natural disasters in American history. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)(Gerald Herbert | AP)

That season, the team went 10-6 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game. Payton was named Coach of the Year.

In 2009, something special was brewing behind Payton and Brees and a new attack-style, take-the-ball away defense. The Saints took the league by storm.

They opened 13-0 and eventually made it all the way to the mountain top, defeating the Colts on the back of an unforgettable second-half interception to win Super Bowl XLIV.

Many consider Payton’s 2011 team better than his championship-winning group. Despite going 13-3, that team’s season ended in heartbreaking fashion in San Francisco.

The Saints should have been contenders in 2012 until the NFL dropped a bomb on the organization and suspended Payton for the entire season for his involvement in the team’s “bountygate” scandal.

Payton entered the lean years in 2014-2016. The Saints suffered three 7-9 seasons. During that stretch, Payton was rumored to have interest in other jobs, but ultimately remained in the Big Easy.

His decision paid off. From 2017 through 2020, the Saints accumulated one of the best rosters in all of football, and it showed on the field. The Saints won four straight NFC South Division Titles but were stung in the postseason year after year.

In 2017 it was the Minnesota Miracle.

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2018, file photo, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14)...
FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2018, file photo, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) makes a catch over New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams (43) on his way to the game-winning touchdown during an NFL divisional football playoff game in Minneapolis. The Vikings defeated the Saints 29-24. New Orleans is counting on Williams, a 2017 second-round draft choice, to build on a largely promising rookie campaign that helped solidify the Saints’ secondary and propel the club back to the playoffs for the first time in four years. At issue now is how Williams will move forward from the missed tackle on Diggs last January, It’s a question that, for now, Williams declines to field. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)(Jeff Roberson | AP)

In 2018, it was the NOLA No Call in the NFC Championship that prevented the Saints from getting to another Super Bowl.

FILE-In this Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019 file photo, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis...
FILE-In this Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019 file photo, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) works for a catch against Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) during the second half the NFL football NFC championship game, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. New Orleans Saints fans have found some pretty creative ways to express their displeasure over the infamous “no call” during last weekend’s Saints-Rams championship game. But their newest tactic may make the loudest statement - a Super Bowl boycott. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)(Gerald Herbert | AP)
FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton reacts to a...
FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton reacts to a call during the second half of the NFL football NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, in New Orleans. The Saints have no time to waste if they want to win another Super Bowl with record-setting quarterback Drew Brees under center _ which is why three of their top four 2019 draft slots have already been traded away. The Saints aren’t slated to pick until late in the second round _ 62nd overall _ because they largely mortgaged the top of this year’s draft in hopes of winning it all last season. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)(David J. Phillip | AP)

In 2019, the Saints season ended in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and in 2020, Brees played his last game in an empty stadium.

This leads us to 2021, with no franchise quarterback and a gutted roster. Combined with Hurricane Ida and multiple COVID issues, the journey was very long and very challenging.

Still, Payton and the Saints charged on, pouring every ounce of energy into weekly game plans, somehow producing a 9-8 record with a team whose talent did not match.

Payton will walk away after 16 years, 15 seasons, with a franchise-best 152-89 record. The Saints, under Payton, recorded a 9-8 postseason record, where the organization had a grand total of one postseason win before Payton arrived.

Payton’s offenses with Brees consistently ranked near the top of the league every season, and made for must-see TV, as evidenced by their annual slate of numerous primetime games.

While his days in New Orleans are now over, Payton’s legacy is secured.

He is simply the best to ever roam the sidelines in black and gold.

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