Final Score: Chiefs 27, Saints 24
Complete Box Score
STUMBLING INTO GOODELL'S ABYSS
Here's the thing: every loss hurts.
Remember how you felt after that loss at San Francisco last year? Have you completely moved past it? Will you ever?
All of these losses are painful, and a lot of them stay with you forever. In that regard, yesterday's loss was no different.
What was different about yesterday's loss was that it felt so ... permanent.
At least with the handful of losses in the recent past, there was still that beam of hope on the other end. But now? After three games, it's exceedingly difficult not to feel hopeless for 2012.
Look, I've been among the most myopically deluded of Saints' fans when it comes to this season's prospects. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about if you've periodically read this blog. But at some point, you see reality for what it is. And that reality now is downright fucking bleak.
It's not a situation we Saints' fans are that far removed from, which means it won't be that difficult to reacquaint ourselves with the possibility of being emotionally shanked on a week-to-week basis this season. Beyond that? Who knows? And that's the real question.
Will the Payton/Brees Saints ultimately recover from this? Or was this offseason a death blow?
It would be pointless to microscopically deconstruct the ubiquitous contributions to the Saints' precipitous decline; that would be to miss the overarching point. That point, specifically, is a team that is operating in a hopelessly overwhelmed state of dysfunction. I tried my best to suppress that reality, but I can't do it anymore. The signs are everywhere.
To say Kromer's in over his head is an obvious understatement. Is it any coincidence why the offensive line--the position group coached by Kromer--has looked consistently and terrifyingly overmatched in three straight games? But come on, it's an enormous mistake to blame "0-3" on Kromer.
Yes, the defense is staggeringly, hypnotically bad. The Saints' still might be 2-1 or 1-2 with Payton around, but I'm sure it wouldn't reek of morbid doom.
One can no longer--and maybe I'm just speaking for myself here--in conscious, lucid thought look at the 2012 Saints' season and not see it for what it is right now: a painful, unmitigated disaster. Maybe that will change, but I wouldn't count on it.
The feeling that engulfed me near the end of the third quarter is still lingering. Specifically, it's this: what if the championship form of the Payton/Brees era is now permanently behind us?
Sure, that might likely be a raw overreaction. Even if it is over, it's not the end of the world. But if it does end this way, it's a travesty regardless of who you blame. After everything that's happened over the past seven months, it's difficult for me not to rationally believe it's at least possible now.
Regardless, at present, it's not the fault of Aaron Kromer's unpreparedness or Brees' contract demands or Spagnuolo's bad defense or horrid officiating or an unconscionably porous offensive line. The ineptitude is so pervasive, it's faulty to assign it to one area. I tried already, and was clearly oversimplifying it.
Try as I might to avoid thinking it, it's impossible not to pin most of this on Roger Goodell. Laugh at me all you want and call me a delusional homer.
The Saints' performance on the field is largely the end result of Goodell's misguided quest to use the Saints as a one-alarm fire he publicly extinguished in a transparent gesture of five-alarm nobility.
Yes, it's partly fair to blame Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton for not stopping the pay-for-performance program they'd been warned to stop, especially in light of the Vicodin scandal. But because they could have potentially prevented this outcome doesn't mean that whatever consequences are levied upon them are acceptable.
It doesn't justify Goodell's decision to railroad the Saints' into irrevocable oblivion and pawn them off as some taxidermied pelt of "culture change."
Pinning the blame on the Saints' organization for what's happened as a result of BountyGate is to accept a system in which evidence is meaningless; recourse is absent; and proportionality of punishment rests on an arbitrary standard. Doing so--laying the blame on the Saints like Boomer Esiason did on Sunday--is a faulty way to rationalize the disastrous results of 2012. This is a perfect storm of the Saints' disregard for opinion outside of their organization, and Goodell's incapacity for reason.
Goodell wrecked the 2012 Saints only because he (thought he) had something to gain by doing so. Not for anything they actually did.
And while NFL observers nationwide decry the glaring hypocrisy of the NFL's employment of scab refs, the astute among them will look at the Saints as representative of the NFL's larger truth: Roger Goodell's conscious destruction of a once high quality product, all in the name of what he perceives to be the interests of the NFL's owners.
Goodell's self-deluded infallibility knows no bounds and it won't be complete until he's burned Rome beyond repair, while his rich enablers fiddle away what was once an unrivaled product.
The Saints are just a portending microcosm of the larger doom.
The evidence is not just suggestive, it's an all-encompassing mushroom cloud: 18 game seasons, European expansion, London Super Bowls, Thursday night games, primetime drafts, open collusion, scab refs, and a whole host of other shit I'm sure I'm neglecting.
When it all comes to pass, when Goodell and the owners have sucked every penny out of the NFL before they let it perish with a whimper, at least we'll be able to utter the four greatest words in the English language:
"I told you so."