And then there were two. Count them. Two out of the 53 active players that donned the black and gold uniform just five years ago to go down in infamy as part of the franchise's first SuperBowl championship. Drew Brees and Marques Colston. That's it, that's all.
I have been on record saying that the running back position is an overrated position in football. Hell, as a undrafted running back out of the University of Illinois, Pierre Thomas' entire career is a testament to the fact that good running backs come from the damnest places. Just earlier this week I said that I agreed with the Eagles trading Shady McCoy for a linebacker with All-Pro potential. It's just too easy to find a serviceable replacement these days to justify paying a tailback upwards of 11 million a year. So with that said, from a talent standpoint, I can't make too much out of the Saints releasing a situational running back who has gotten up there in age.
As I reference Pierre Thomas as situational running back I do him a distinct disservice. Perhaps the term I am looking for is 'a jack of all trades'. It's not that Thomas was great in one situation only, it was that he was very good in all situations. I make a big deal about losing Pierre Thomas not because he was an All-Pro running back. In most cases he wasn't even a starting running back. However, his contributions to the game on a weekly basis were undeniable. It's been said that football is a game of inches. No one exemplified that more than PT. He's the running back that turned a 1 yard gain into a 5 yard gain without you thinking twice. A player that never missed an assignment in terms of pass blocking. A player that rarely fumbled or let a ball his hands that he didn't catch. Pierre Thomas may be one of the best screen running tailbacks to ever grace the gridiron. That's a testament to his patience, vision, and ability to break tackles.
As I wax poetic about his abilities on the field, I overshadow his true value to the Saints. Pierre Thomas was the very definition of selfless. In an egocentric NFL, it's hard to find a player that will put aside personal stats for the good of team. It's hard to find a player that will say all the right things and do all the right things. Without question he has sacrificed his career starts to remain in a rotating trinity of running backs that the Saints employ on a yearly basis. Sometimes he was the most talented back, often times he was not, yet you never heard a peep from him. He was the consummate leader. The consummate teammate.
2009. The season that the Who Dat Nation will never forget. The playoff run that was marked by many memorable moments. To say that Thomas had hand in a few of them would be disingenuous. Without Pierre Thomas the Saints aren't playing in the SuperBowl. Whether it be his 40+ yard catch and run touchdown, his 9 yard rushing touchdown, his lengthy kick return in overtime, or his converted 4th and 1 where he went up over the top of the defense to put the Saints in game winning field goal range. Pierre Thomas was one of the few reasons that pigs flew, hell froze over, and the Saints made it their first Superbowl. Of course no one will forget his touchdown that came after "ambush", the infamous onside kick to start the second half the SuperBowl.
I hope Sean Payton knows what he is doing. You can't run an NFL franchise based on sentimental value. However, last year's roster purge of veteran players, and the subsequent loss of leadership, coincidentally resulted in the loss of more games than any Saints fan would have imagined. While Thomas' production on the field is replaceable, it remains to be seen if his team first attitude is as well. I think I speak for all Saints fans when I wish the PT Cruiser luck during the next stage of career. He'll always be a member of Who Dat Nation, and he'll always be a part of history.
Classy as always, even in his departure....