Will the Saints become a dynasty?

I know what you’re thinking: Great, the Saints win one Super Bowl and now the media wants to anoint them the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s or the Cowboys of the early 90s.

Relax – I’m not doing that. But I bring the topic up because there’s a case to be made that the Saints have all the pieces in place to become a mini-dynasty this decade.

Over the next couple weeks, the Saints will ensure that centerpiece Drew Brees finishes his career in New Orleans by giving him a very large contract extension. Whenever the time is right, they’ll also do the same with head coach Sean Payton and make sure that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is happy where he’s at in order to keep their two playcallers intact for years to come as well.

With those three vital pieces in place, the Saints could challenge for multiple Super Bowls and not be a one-year wonder. Continuity breeds success and considering they have a family-like atmosphere in their locker room, the team won’t have a hard sell on its hands in trying to bring free agents like Darren Sharper back to New Orleans next season.

But as I’ve highlighted below (after the jump), they do have some huge hurdles to overcome if they want to build upon their success from the 2009-2010 season.

No team repeats in the NFC
Over the last five years, there has only been one team to make a repeat performance in the NFC Championship Game, which ironically enough, was the Saints (2007, 2009). Since 2002, there has been a different NFC representative in the Super Bowl every year, unlike in the AFC where the Steelers, Patriots and Colts made multiple appearances. This is perhaps the weakest argument against the Saints becoming a dynasty because it has more to do with history than what actually happens between the hash marks, but it’s worth noting that no team has repeated in the NFC since the Cowboys in 1993 and 1994.

Decisions, decisions
The Saints have several key decisions to make this offseason, including what to do with their 18 restricted free agents. They have the right to matchup any offer for All-Pro guard Jahri Evans, running back Pierre Thomas, safety Roman Harper and offensive tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jammal Brown, but will one or more teams price the Saints out for these starters? Will the Saints try and keep key reserve players like Anthony Hargrove or David Thomas? Is Reggie Bush (a role player at this point in Payton’s offense) worth the $8 million he’s scheduled to receive next season? Mickey Loomis has a ton of decisions to make to ensure that the Saints can make a run next year, not to mention the next couple years.

Is their defense good enough?
For three quarters on Sunday night, Williams’ defense shut down Peyton Manning and the Colts’ offense. They were impressive in all three levels and it’s a testament to the job Williams did this year in reviving a unit that has held the Saints back over the years. But the numbers suggest that New Orleans’ D wasn’t as improved as many made it out to be. They finished 25th overall, including 26th against the pass and 21st against the run. They also finished 20th in points allowed after surrendering 21.3 PPG this season. Granted, anyone who watched the Saints play this year knows full well that their defense produced in the clutch. Tracy Porter’s interception of Manning with less than four minutes remaining in the Super Bowl is evidence of that. But if Sharper and/or Harper don’t return, they’ll need to fill both safety positions next year and they could also stand to get more athletic at linebacker. Even though the Saints’ offense is outstanding and the defense played well this season, it doesn’t mean that Williams’ squad couldn’t stand an upgrade at some spots.

The NFC South is tough
If history is any indication, then the Panthers are going to be playoff contenders again next year. They’ve been the model for inconsistency under head coach John Fox over the years, but they’re due to be “on” again in 2010. The Falcons also have a solid young core and gave the Saints trouble twice this season and if they continue to add pieces to their defense, Atlanta will be in the playoff hunt again next season. The Bucs are presumably still a couple of years away from competing for a playoff spot, but they did beat the Saints in New Orleans late in the year and turnarounds in the NFL happen quickly. If the Saints are to go on a run over the next couple years, it’s not going to be easy playing six games against the Panthers, Falcons and Bucs every season. Not to mention the fact that they’ll have a first place schedule and will become the targets of every team in the league.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, can the Saints become a dynasty in your mind?

Will the Saints become a dynasty?
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