Max Unger Is Surprisingly Sailing Off Into The Sunset, Concluding What Was A Smoother Ride Than The Saints Could Have Possibly Hoped For
It would be a huge disservice to the decade of dominant service Max Unger put in as the head of security at the oft-rushed gates to the thrones of the most notorious of vertically challenged quarterbacks to start off by talking about what the loss of Max Unger means to the immediate future of the Saints. The totality of his career is more than deserving of quite a few characters before tossing his name from the depth chart and flipping the script to the next chapter of the Saints' interior offensive line.
After all, we're talking about a guy that was so consistent in solidifying one of the only positions in which success can be measured by anonymity that he turned the most unforgettable of majorly forgettable first round busts, in Stephone Anthony, into a minor mistake. Meanwhile, his impact was larger than that of the infamous matchup nightmare he was, in retrospect, basically traded straight up for. You aren't supposed to be able to get rid of otherworldly weapons the likes of Jimmy Graham and live to tell the tale, never mind ultimately thrive in doing so, and I think it's fair to say that deal was made to look better and better with each passing day. That's no small feat for a center. Drew Brees executes his most surgically precise dissections from a clean pocket, and he was hardly ever done dirty with Max Unger snapping him the ball. The importance of that can't be overstated with how key the offensive line, by way of run and pass blocking, was to the Saints' resurgence the last two seasons.
I don't know that his retirement can be seen as entirely unexpected, as he's been successfully stonewalling 300+ pound physical freaks of nature for a full decade, but it certainly wasn't something that was foreseen outside the closed doors of the organization. Needless to say, it's an unpleasant surprise, as his largely penalty and pressure-free tenure in New Orleans was more pleasant than anyone could have imagined when it started. Hats off to him for being put in the precarious position of making up for the absence of someone who was larger than life in the Saints' offense....and, more importantly, succeeding.
In an expedited form and fashion that hardly allowed for the collective breath of the Who Dat Nation to be bated, the hole left on the line by the final farewell of a Pro Bowl caliber talent has already been filled, albeit in a way that makes for less stable grounds. However, it's not as much the loss of Max Unger's talent as it is the loss of his leadership and his fit in a locker room with boat loads of unfinished business that concerns me. The Saints were seemingly constructed perfectly last year, so every non-returning piece feels like one painstakingly pulled from an untouched Jenga tower. That's almost certainly an overreaction, but - no matter how good Nick Easton or Cameron Tom end up being - Max Unger's retirement definitely hurts the continuity of a roster that holds both a special and spiteful place in the heart of Saints' fans. He's earned every ounce of the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his unforgiving labor, but he will be missed by the team for which he was somehow as durable as he was dependable in his captaincy.