The New Orleans Saints know what it takes to go "all the way" and win a Super Bowl. And although it's been 7 and a ½ years since they actually pulled it off, it's an experience that nevertheless still carries a lot of weight among NFL front office executives as well as older veteran football players across the League whom have never won one.
Despite their latest run of recent results that's seen New Orleans finish with 3 consecutive (7-9) losing seasons and has left them stuck "on the outside looking in" come NFL Playoff time, the Saints still have some veteran leadership remaining with the team that was there during that magical 2009 season that ended with a victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
One of those players obviously is 15-year NFL veteran, Super Bowl XLIV MVP, and future NFL Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
It's no great secret that both Brees and the Saints organization share a common goal, and are on a purposeful mission together: which is to win at least one more Super Bowl before the 38-year old eventually retires from the sport of Pro Football, for good.
It's also one of the reasons that it was the city and the distinctive culture of New Orleans, the Saints organization, and the presence of Brees, that attracted one of the sport's premier players of the past decade (other than Brees himself) to want to join the franchise and become a part of that mission as well.
That player of course is 11th year NFL veteran, 4-time All-Pro running back, and 2012 League MVP Adrian Peterson.
As Peterson made a handful of visits with several NFL teams during Free-Agency, one of the "selling points" for the Saints organization with Peterson no doubt had to be the glass case that contains the Lombardi Trophy (which the Saints won after their victory in Super Bowl XLIV) that's displayed inside of the main entrance of the team's Practice Facility on Airline Drive.
It's actually the very same trophy that Peterson himself almost won, if only one of his two costly fumbles hadn’t caused the Vikings to eventually lose in overtime to the Saints in the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
And it's also the same trophy that has managed to elude Peterson for his entire professional career, a definite Hall of Fame worthy-career that has seen him rush for nearly 12,000 yards (11,747) and 100 TD's (97, to be exact); but yet has never seen him get any closer to winning a Lombardi than that fateful loss to the Saints --- since the Vikings only managed to qualify for the Playoffs 3 other times (2008, 2012, and 2015) during his entire time in Minnesota (besides that unforgettable 2009 season).
For Peterson at age 32, there's nothing left to accomplish except for winning a Super Bowl; and clearly he felt that it was with New Orleans and having a fellow elite player like himself at QB such as Drew Brees --- after spending his career with less than stellar Vikings QB's such as Tavaris Jackson, Christian Ponder and Sam Bradford --- that will provide him with that opportunity.
Peterson confirmed as much to the local media covering the team at last month's Mini-Camp:
"It's all about having a guy that's going to get the ball to you, and without a doubt I know (Drew) Brees is going to," Peterson said. "We'll be doing that."
Peterson is motivated not only to show his critics that he's still 'got it' (contrary to popular belief among some that he's a 'washed up' player) as a runner, but that he is capable of also catching passes out of the backfield in the team's pass-heavy offensive scheme.
"I don't let it frustrate me too much," Peterson said of the criticism, "but I'd be lying to say to you it's not nerve-racking to hear (the media) say, 'He can't catch the ball. What is he going to do in this offense because they pass the ball so much?'
"It is what it is. In life, you just got to keep on pushing. Keep moving forward. That's what I focus on doing."
Conversely, the respect that Brees carries for Peterson's ability is reciprocated to the fullest.
In an interview last month during Mini-Camp, Brees told Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn on the "SiriusXM Blitz" Radio Show that Peterson's unique blend of raw power and pure athleticism was quite a sight to behold.
“We’ve had some time together at some Pro Bowls and, obviously, the first time you see the guy you’re like, ‘Wow! This guy plays running back,'” Brees said.
“He’s a big, physical presence and, obviously, have admired him from afar for a long time and then to have him on your team now and to sit there and hand the ball off to him and watch his ability to find the hole and then hit that thing, it’s like a freight train".
“Very few guys, every time they touch the ball, can you say it could go the distance, but he’s one of those guys.
"He’s such a hard guy to tackle. He is so explosive and I think he just runs angry, like he’s got a chip on his shoulder at all times.
"So he’s obviously a rare talent and he’s done it at a high level for a long time.”
The marriage of two men who both indisputably will be future Hall of Famers, might be looked at by some observers simply as a 'marriage of convenience'.
However, you can bet that from the Saints' perspective, their hope is that the pairing of these legendary players is a 2017 'recipe for success':
2 Hall of Famers = Super Bowl 52
Now whether or not that equation turns out to be a formula for winning a Lombardi Trophy or not, will largely depend on other factors; primarily the overall performance of the Saints' one true Achilles heel: their at times godawful defense which has finished ranked near or at the very bottom of the NFL with overall rankings of 31st, 28th, 32nd and 31st in total defense in 4 out of the past 5 years.
The Saints have also been derailed during their current 3-straight-years-worth-of-losing-seasons-streak by other stumbling blocks such as injuries (the Saints lost a whopping total of 8 players in their defensive secondary alone in 2016 and were literally reduced to signing players "off the street"), and perhaps even more so by bad investments in Free Agency on players that ended up as "busts" --- most notably names such as Champ Bailey, Brandon Browner, Jairus Byrd, C.J. Spiller, and James Laurinaitis.
So to say that the Saints front office hasn't been complicit in their own undoing would be a fallacy at best.
However, in a season that's shaping up already before the team has even reported to Training Camp (in a week and a half from now on July 26th) as a "do or die" season for many within the organization; executives, coaching staff, and players alike -- the pairing of Brees and Peterson together on a shared mission to win the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 52 is a combination seen by many as one with nothing to lose.
And when the two men eventually retire and are both putting on those gold jackets after being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, perhaps they'll look back on this upcoming season with fondness.
A season where they laid it all out on the line.
A season where they had hoped that by combining two of Pro Football's legendary greats, would become a recipe for success to ultimately claim the sport's ultimate prize........