On January 9, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons to end their 2021 season.
The victory capped a two-game win streak and the team won four out of their last five.
Despite their victory, and final 9-8 record, the Los Angeles Rams lost to San Francisco in overtime on the same day.
#Saints Did what they needed to do in Atlanta, but thanks to the Rams, their 2021-2022 season is over. A crazy year full of injuries and close games, the Saints end 9-8 and barely miss the playoffs. Who else still thinks Sean Payton deserves to be in the COTY conversation?? #NFL pic.twitter.com/fqY9uWhrR9
— Jackson Grant (@Jaxadus) January 10, 2022
That final tiebreaker meant that the Saints would have to wait for next season.
Unfortunately for Saints fans, this was only part of an otherwise miserable year.
Retirements, Injuries, and Losses
2021 began with the retirement of longtime quarterback Drew Brees.
Drew Brees retires after 20 seasons in the NFL.
He is the league's all-time leader in passing yards, completions and completion percentage. pic.twitter.com/eMvNy0QA6V
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 14, 2021
Brees came to New Orleans in 2006 after five years with the San Diego Chargers.
Before he arrived in Louisiana, the Saints had played in the postseason only five times in team history.
New Orleans would appear in the playoffs nine times during Brees’ tenure with the organization.
That run included a Super Bowl XLIV victory in 2009.
In 2020, the Saints went 12-4, beat Chicago in the Wild Card round, then lost to Tampa Bay in the Divisional round.
On March 14, 2021, Brees announced his retirement, exactly 15 years to the day that he signed with the franchise.
Winston beat out Siemian and Hill for the starting role in training camp and began the year playing well.
Then, during their Week 8 victory against the Bucs, he went down with an ACL tear.
— Fake Teams (@faketeams) November 1, 2021
Siemian took over and lost four straight, followed by Hill’s start against Dallas which was also a loss.
New Orleans ultimately missed the postseason because of their five-game skid, but the future looked good.
If the team re-signed Winston this spring, and the team reloaded in free agency and the draft, a return to the playoffs in 2022 wasn’t out of the question.
That was until Tuesday when longtime Saints coach Sean Payton announced that he was stepping away from the franchise after 16 years.
Sean Payton announces he's stepping down as head coach of the Saints. pic.twitter.com/9wsxHu6faE
— NFL (@NFL) January 25, 2022
Payton and Brees have been joined at the hip since 2006.
Payton helped develop Brees as well as a plethora of All-Pros and Pro Bowlers.
He was a Coach of the Year in 2006 and led the organization to their victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
Payton did not coach the team in 2012 due to NFL discipline for the Saints’ role in “Bountygate.”
He returned the following year to guide New Orleans to a Divisional round loss to Seattle.
Payton’s overall record in New Orleans is 152-89.
There’s no doubt about it.
Saints fans are in for a difficult offseason.
If the organization doesn’t re-sign Winston, they will have to address the position in free agency or the draft.
Finding a new coach won’t be easy, although there are a number of good candidates available.
Barring another Brees/Payton-style connection in 2022, Saints fans may have to wait a few years before their team gels and they see the postseason again.
2021 was a rough year for New Orleans.
It may only get worse.