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FAILED EXPECTATIONS: Even If Saints Bring Him Back, Brandon Coleman Has Never Lived Up to His “Hype”

Brandon Coleman

As an undrafted rookie wide receiver out of Rutgers University back in 2014, now former Saints WR Brandon Coleman was being referred to as the "Baby Calvin Johnson", a nickname given to him by a sports writer who noted the similarities back then between the the 6-foot-6 Coleman and 6-foot-5 All-Pro (and now retired) Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson.

Fair or not for a player that went undrafted, that's what Coleman was LABELED AS, coming out of college.

But after 4 years total (he spent his 2014 rookie season on the Practice Squad) with the Black and Gold in which he tallied 79 receptions for 1,099 yards and 8 TD's, it's probably safe to say that Coleman never quite lived up to the "hype" that he entered the NFL with.

79 receptions for 1,099 yards and 8 TD's is great numbers for 1 NFL season, but not 4 of them.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

Perhaps that's what the team had in mind yesterday when it was announced that they had released Coleman with a failed physical designation, apparently ending his time in NOLA with the Saints. 

However as New Orleans Advocate beat writer Joel A. Erickson noted last night: the door is still open for Coleman to return if he's able to get healthy.

Coleman suffered a neck injury in the Wild Card Playoff win over Carolina that knocked him out of the Divisional Playoff game the following week in Minnesota, and the lingering effects are still a problem. 

"He's got two injuries; he's got a hip and he's got a neck," Saints coach Sean Payton said to Erickson and other reporters in last night's press conference with local media.

"Both of them are going to require some time. It'd be too early for me to say three weeks, four weeks, but his progress is going well. It's just going to take a little bit longer, and right now, with where we're at, we've got to keep making room so we can play these games."

"I would anticipate that it's not the last time we'll see him," Payton said. "He and I had a good visit today, we're all on the same page."

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hinton, The New Orleans Advocate

Coleman, 26, missed all of the team’s off-season conditioning work with an undisclosed injury.

He re-signed with the Saints on a 1-year deal back in April, after the team declined to tender him as a restricted free agent. Coleman played the second-most snaps of any receiver on the team last season, staying on the field for 62.8 percent of the offensive plays.

Naturally, the next question that needs to be asked is:

What does the future hold in store for Coleman, who was already in the proverbial "fight of his life" to make the Final Roster along with a handful of UDFA wide receivers, all of whom are vying for what's likely the 5th and final WR spot when the team kicks off the regular season at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 9th?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Even if the Saints bring him back, there's no reason to suspect that his productivity will increase in that time.

Coleman finished 2017 with 23 catches, 364 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those aren't exactly numbers that "pop off the charts", but Coleman still played a lot because of his run blocking ability.

But does that ability to run-block JUSTIFY his notable lack of production, which clearly wasn't anywhere close to the gaudy numbers put up by the player he has been most often been compared to?

In his brilliant NFL career that spanned 9 seasons and saw him retire in "his prime" at age 30, Calvin Johnson amassed 731 catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns; and was selected to 6 Pro Bowls and led the NFL in receiving yards and TD's in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

It goes without saying: Coleman never has possessed the talent that Johnson did, nor will he ever.

Is Coleman a "serviceable" player at the wide receiver position? Sure he is.

But he is NOT an "elite" caliber player as a pass-catcher, and there's no reason to suspect that he will somehow magically 'morph' into one.

The ONLY thing that Coleman and Calvin Johnson ever had in common is that both men are very tall, height-wise.

That's it.

So any comparison of Coleman to Calvin Johnson was always a shaky one, at best.

It sounded great in principle — but was lacking in practicality.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Coleman essentially had already fallen down the depth chart thanks to the team signing former Chicago Bears WR Cam Meredith in Free Agency, and the selection of this year’s 3rd Round draft pick Tre’Quan Smith out of the University of Central Florida.

And if Sean Payton does decide to bring him back?

He'll still be pushed for the final WR spot by last year’s currently "red hot" and the team's #5 WR last season in TommyLee Lewis, veteran WR's Micheal Floyd and Brandon Tate; former undrafted New England Patriots WR Austin Carr; and the other talented UDFA from this recent off-season in rookie Keith Kirkwood

Does anyone in their right mind, suspect that Coleman capable of surpassing ALL of those players for the 5th and final WR spot?

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Yeah — me neither.

The bottom line was, is and will remain going forward, that Brandon Coleman simply just never lived up to the "hype" that he entered the League with.

And unless a bolt of lightning strikes him from out of the sky and somehow miraculously provides him with the talent to emerge as a viable threat in the Saints offense, perhaps it's time to end the final chapter and close the book on the Brandon Coleman Story in New Orleans, once and for all.......

Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 50-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports editor and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of Sports Talk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, attended games at the old Tulane Stadium and grew up as a long-time Saints fan; following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......

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