The New Orleans Saints aren’t the best team in the NFL. They might not even be a playoff team.
But they’re certainly much better than the San Francisco 49ers.
Heading into their Week 9 tilt in Santa Clara, it’s hard to ignore the different paths these two franchises have taken over the last 10 years.
The Saints hired Sean Payton, who was born in San Mateo but raised in Illinois, in 2006 to be the team’s head coach. He’s been in that position ever since.
There have been ups and downs — most notably his yearlong suspension for his part in the bounty scandal of 2012. But his team has always been competitive and fun to watch, as long as him and Drew Brees are working together.
The same cannot be said for the 49ers.
New Orleans has enjoyed a Super Bowl, an NFC Championship, three NFC South titles and five trips to the postseason under Payton and Brees.
The saddest part for the Faithful: The 49ers could’ve been in this position if their front office had endured whatever feud led to Jim Harbaugh leaving the franchise. Because that’s what wins games, a long-term commitment to a competent coach with vision. Harbaugh has it; Payton has it.
“We have to build it week to week,” starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick said when asked how the 49ers can mirror the Saints’ consistency. “Every practice, every day, that’s something that you have to build upon and it does take time. But we have to do everything we can to speed up that process.”
The jury is still out on if Chip Kelly will be around long enough to create that kind of a connection. He’s still in the infancy of what could be a successful long-term relationship — that is, assuming he’s allowed a steady foundation that begets winning.
Harbaugh is a one-of-a-kind force that will likely win as long as he maintains his zeal and steadfast approach to the game. Kelly isn’t exactly that. But 49ers leadership should learn from their missteps that cost them one of the best coaches in football and apply those lessons to their current, solid head man.
If Kelly goes the way of Jim Tomsula — who, for the record, is in no way, shape or form on the same level as Harbaugh or Payton — the team will remain a bastion of uncertainty.
This week won’t look good for the home team in the South Bay, but that isn’t the main concern for the organization anymore. That should be building a longstanding system between a capable head coach (which I believe they have in Kelly) and a quarterback.
The Niners are well on their way to securing a franchise signal-caller with their top pick in the upcoming draft, because their franchise QB isn’t on the current roster. I believe that Kaepernick has the potential to be that player, but not with this team — he so badly wants to leave, he agreed to give back millions of dollars in injury protection.