The New Orleans Pelicans and Saints couldn’t have a closer bond. The teams are under the same ownership, their respective homes, the Smoothie King Center and Mercedes Benz Superdome sit opposite one another on Dave Dixon Drive, and each employs arguably the best player within their sport: Anthony Davis and Drew Brees.
The future is now for both the Pelicans and Saints and yet the two couldn’t be more polar opposites when it comes to results.
The Saints just concluded the regular season with the best record in football, a first round bye in hand and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Pelicans, on the other hand, sit four games under .500 and own the second worst record in the Western Conference, sitting a disappointing four games outside of the playoff bubble.
Brees and the Saints seem poised to play for, if not win, a second Super Bowl to bookend the greatest run in franchise history. Along the way, Brees set the career passing yardage record, broke his own single-season completion percentage record and joined the 500 passing touchdown club. The glory days are slowly but surely coming to a close, but Brees and head coach Sean Payton are trying to end the era on a high note.
For Anthony Davis and Alvin Gentry, the glory days are either closing, already gone, or never even arrived. Davis, 14 years younger than Brees, is in danger of missing postseason play for the fifth time in seven years. The AD trade rumors have reached a fever pitch this season, the vultures — dressed in their Boston Celtic and Los Angeles Laker attire — are circling above and the mood surrounding the Pelicans is a mix of melancholy, apathy and a general sense of accepting what seems to be an inevitable departure.
Two men, two greats in their sport, are both making New Orleans want more. Brees is making the city yearn for more Super Bowls; Davis stans want more time with their once in a generation talent. Which brings us to the critique of Davis and Brees’ shared employer, the Benson family ownership. It is remarkable how one brain trust can take two different courses of action for two professional sports franchises.
The Saints, like all teams in all sports, have been hit or miss when it comes to drafting. But their hits have been monumental. In 2006 the Saints set themselves up for success in year one of the Brees/Payton era by getting valuable contributors like Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans and Zach Strief; they snagged Jimmy Graham and Michael Thomas outside of the first round in 2010 and 2016 respectively; and the organization set itself up for the post-Brees era with a remarkable 2017 draft that resulted in both the league’s offensive and defensive rookies of the year in Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore.
The Pelicans have used the draft rather unsuccessfully during the Anthony Davis era. Future picks are sent out left and right in attempts to piece together a roster that fits the skillset of their young superstar. Instead of trying to build a championship contending roster organically, the Pelicans have tried to build a winner with nothing more than duct tape and a hammer.
The Saints are the team of New Orleans.
The Pelicans are the neglected stepchild.
The Saints have a 50-year history with the city and are a pillar of the state of Louisiana; the Pelicans were here for a little bit, left due to Hurricane Katrina, came back — then almost left — but are here now...until maybe they aren’t anymore. Sure, both teams have New Orleans in their moniker and a Tom Benson memorial patch sewn on their jerseys, but the Saints have felt like, and been run like, the team; the Pelicans have always felt like the other team.
A year from now the Saints and Pelicans could have two completely different faces of their respective franchises. The Saints could win the Super Bowl and Drew Brees could retire with a second championship and maybe his first MVP in hand. Anthony Davis could be playing on the West Coast or the East Coast and be the odds on favorite to earn his first MVP and championship.
...Or both men could still be competing for the city of New Orleans in one last hurrah before the end finally comes to pass.
Time is hardly on New Orleans’ side, for either the Saints or Pelicans. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine the two franchises will ever have an MVP favorite playing on opposite sides of Dave Dixon Drive at the same time. New Orleans needs to make these possible final fleeting moments with Anthony Davis and Drew Brees count.
Management is taking that to heart with Brees and the Saints.
The same can’t be said for Davis and the Pelicans.