Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bobby Hebert and John Fourcade

Like many Tulane undergrad, I retain a great fondness for all things New Orleans. Except while I was in the Army, I have returned to the city just every year since I graduated. I’ve pushed out to Acadiana and Bayou Teche. I love both Mother's and Prejean's.

But one thing I never picked up was any sort of affection for the Saints football team. Mind you, I don’t “dislike” the Saints particularly. I’ll save disdain for our division rivals: Dallas, New York, Washington. The Saints are just another collective to me. Frankly, I booed New Orleans like crazy back in September- and remember with disgust the Saints ending the good multi-year run the Eagles first core group had under Reid back in 2006.

It is odd because I have a goodly number of friends that I keep in touch with from my days at Tulane- none live in New Orleans, all officially root for NFL teams other than the Saints. Yet, all sort of seem to be enjoying the Saints run through the play-offs. And certainly, the people’s sympathetic choice is New Orleans over Indianapolis- the Saints long ago having acquired a minor version of the Chicago Cubs’ national rep as “loveable losers”.

Oddly, that is probably part of it. The Saints have this national reputation for losing- but I was there in New Orleans during a pretty good run for them: 1987-1990 (histoy here- Saints fans might like this site). Jim Mora coached the Philadelphia Stars to a pair of USFL titles- then did a darn good job for the Saints. They got decent quarterback play from Bobby Hebert- and those Dome Patrol ‘backers were super. The Saints were on the verge of being an NFC power (beat the Eagles twice while I was there, including in the Dome on MNF), won 12 games in 1987… I dunno, it was hard to get on any sympathy train while I was there.

Secondly, I was there when John Fourcade and the "replacement players" captured the city’s affections- and, while I am no labor activist, I didn’t like that all that much. The NFL players perhaps weren’t justified in walking out. However, I think I would have walked over the salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts. Guys with short careers facing catastrophic injuries have a right to be worried about their paychecks. Regardless, I don’t like scabs all that much- let alone wildly embracing them over guys who were playing their hearts out for the city (en route to twelve wins) a couple of weeks earlier.

Well, that was a generation ago- has nothing to do with this Sunday. Thinking about Bobby Hebert made me realize how rich football can be to argue about. Hebert is a guy a lot of fans could put in any bucket- from bad to okay to good. I was never that big a fan- a lot of the affection he gets is because he is a local boy made good. He won 60% of his starts in New Orleans- which is fantastic. But that 135 TDs to 124 Interception ratio isn’t good at all, and probably confirms what a lot of folks’ suspect: Hebert’s success was a product of Mora’s defense.

No shame in that- managing games to not mess up is a skill in itself. But one reason Mora was never able to translate regular season success to play-off success might be the quarterback. In another city, Hebert was probably Eric Hipple.