Rabalais: Saints fans, you need to be in that number this year

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Saints coach Sean Payton Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Saints coach Sean Payton

For those of us old enough to remember their woebegone days under such past-their-prime-time coaches as Hank Stram and Bum Phillips, the sight of the New Orleans Saints coursing through the city in a Super Bowl victory parade five years ago remains a memory that still that doesn’t quite register. Sort of like seeing a famous actress in person or being able to remember why you ever thought “American Idol” was worth watching.

For such a once-forlorn franchise, there will never be another experience like 2009. The first time was the best time, never to be duplicated. It was like 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, only to find a Four Seasons resort on the other side of the trees.

Of course, the second line can be a fun place to be, too. If you missed the jazz band five years ago, that doesn’t mean you can’t still pass a good time.

The 2014 Saints have an excellent chance to re-create the euphoria of that still recent triumph and win another Super Bowl. Maybe it wouldn’t be quite the same, but the party would still register on the Richter scale.

All the pieces are in place:

— A driven, imaginative coach

— A savvy, veteran quarterback still at the height of his considerable powers

— A strong defense

— An improved running game

— A newly re-signed All-Pro tight end/wide receiver/whatever you want to call him as long as he catches 1,000 yards in passes.

Heck, even Saints punter Thomas Morstead is one of the very best in the NFL.

Now, all New Orleans needs is a little cunning, a little luck, some good health and plenty of bubble wrap in which to encase Drew Brees between starts in case he trips over something sharp.

And send someone over to wrestle with Drew’s boys — at least until Feb. 2.

That’s Groundhog Day. This year, it’s the day after Super Bowl. And on this particular Feb. 2, the sun could peek over the mountains east of Phoenix (the 2015 Super Bowl is in Glendale, Arizona) and wouldn’t be shocked to see the Saints clutching another Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The Saints aren’t boasting they should be Super favorites, but they aren’t exactly dodging such talk, either.

“We know what we look like on paper,” Brees said. “We look pretty good on paper. But we have to go out and put together the team we know we can.

“It’s going to be competitive out here.”

It may be dousing cold water on the flames of anticipation for this season, but it’s worth remembering that the Saints didn’t win their division last season, the Carolina Panthers did. And the Saints didn’t win the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks did. And the San Francisco 49ers are under the stubborn impression that they’re pretty good, too, just two years removed from playing in the Super Bowl on the Saints’ home turf.

It’s also worth remembering that the Saints are virtually impregnable at home in their dome, but susceptible to catching a cold defeat when they venture outside. Sure, you can win a Super Bowl via the wild-card route like the New York Giants, but better odds are found in home-field advantage. It was enormous for Seattle last year. It would be just as big for the Saints this season.

Before you start booking tickets and tee times for Super Bowl week in the Valley of the Sun, consider that most Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Saints only the fifth favorite to win the Super Bowl behind Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and New England. Certainly not bad company to keep, but it’s indicative that just saying this is the best Saints team ever — on paper — doesn’t exactly make New Orleans the team to beat.

But you can take your chances with this squad, thanks in large part to the groundwork laid by last year’s team.

The 2013 Saints not only reversed the curse of Bountygate with a playoff-caliber season, they broke the franchise’s 0-for-the-road playoff jinx with a wild-card victory at Philadelphia.

Yes, the pieces are in place. But a little humility is still …

“This is the year I get a Super Bowl,” said defensive end and Chandler, Arizona, native Cam Jordan.

Oh, why fight it? Strike up the jazz band, y’all.

It’s time to second line.