The Olin Kreutz Situation: Untimely, Yet Understandable

Olin Kreutz

I will be the first to admit, I did not see this one coming. 

Life for the New Orleans Saints had been relatively smooth sailing over the course of their first five games, as few key injuries and solid offensive play had led to a solid 4-1 record.  Then the squad traveled to Tampa Bay, and that once smooth-sailing life suddenly hit a few rough waves.  From a disheartening 26-20 loss to the Buccaneers this past Sunday to the untimely announcement of the leaving of Center Olin Kreutz, one thing is for certain:  “The Big Easy” suddenly got a little more difficult.

When the story about Kreutz was first broken to me, I felt generally disgusted at the former Bear’s decision.  At first glance, it seemed like a selfish move; usually telling the team that you’re “not feeling it” and leaving sounds quite childish.  But then the details began to make their way to the surface, and now the situation seems more reasonable. 

So what is the intent of this relatively short article on this fine Saturday?  Simple:  to try and clear the air and to make Kreutz’s decision slightly easier to comprehend.

Kreutz, a 13-year veteran and 34-year old Center, found his way to the Saints after being unsuccessful in contract talks with his former franchise, the Chicago Bears.  In six games this season, Kreutz has experienced his share of struggles in terms of health, as a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee has kept him out of two contests this season (He only recently returned to the field against the Bucs.).  After having a roller-coaster-type first quarter of the year, he finally decided to see head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis regarding the remainder of his season.  After being talked out of leaving the team at first, he gave it one last thought, and then decided that what was best for him was to leave the squad.  He stated, “I just know, it's not in my heart.  I'm not going to keep collecting a check if I know deep inside me I can't bring what I need to bring to play every week.”

Now, the situations seems less selfish, and more along the lines of righteous.

The idea is this:  if you can’t bring your “A” game, then don’t bring anything at all.  So Kreutz opted to leave the team (he will be placed on the “left-team” list and later released), and he is expected to be re-signed by the Bears either later this season or next offseason, where he will retire as a member of the franchise that groomed him for virtually his entire NFL career.

Now the question remains for Saints fans; how will Kreutz’s loss affect the offensive line? 

All in all, it depends on who you ask.  John Clayton of believes that the loss leaves “a hole in the middle of the Saints’ offensive line.”  Ask me, and I’ll tell you something a little differently.  In the two contests that Kreutz missed this season, backup center Brian de la Puente replaced him admirably.  In both games (against the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars), QB Drew Brees was able to have plenty of time in the pocket, and the run game played effectively (RBs Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Darren Sproles rushed for a total of 166 yards against the Jaguars.).  In fact, the organization was so impressed with De la Puente, that the team was rumored to have been shopping Kreutz around the league.

In conclusion, the loss of Kreutz was unexpected, yet understandable.  Without hearing the details, this story could tend to leave a bad taste in the mouth of “Who Dat Nation,” but honestly, I’d rather have a young guy out on the field who is inspired to play rather than a veteran who just “isn’t feeling it.”  So I say best of luck to Mr. Kreutz, and hello to Mr. De la Puente.  As they say in the NFL, “next man up.”

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