Tom Benson would have loved the upcoming postgame Super Bowl 53 title celebration for his New Orleans Saints.
Obviously, the outcome is just my early prediction, but we do know for sure that Benson loved a good party — and his team will do everything to start another one in his honor.
As the Saints were taking significant steps toward capturing the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy, Benson died Thursday at the age of 90.
He could rest easy knowing things are in good hands.
Normally, premier head coaches whose squads experience a dip after having spent a decade-plus in charge don’t end up regaining their mojo. Sean Payton, though, channeled Bill Cowher’s spirit and found new life working in unison with his coaching staff and trusted general manager Mickey Loomis.
After three straight 7-9 seasons that raised questions about whether Payton had lost his touch, the 2017 Saints went 11-5 and won the NFC South. New Orleans then completed a 3-0 sweep of division rival Carolina in the first round of the playoffs and was one missed tackle away from upsetting Minnesota the following week.
Considering the bulk of that roster will be returning, it isn’t as though New Orleans needed a splashy offseason to earn regard as a serious championship contender.
The Saints have crafted one, anyway.
The day before Benson died, the biggest personnel move was made. The greatest player in Saints history, quarterback Drew Brees, was back in the fold with a two-year, $50 million contract.
Brees could have pushed for more money by entertaining interest from suitors snubbed in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, but the reality is he didn’t have much leverage. The Saints knew the 39-year-old Brees didn’t want to leave, as entrenched as he and his family are in the community.
At least Brees can take solace in knowing the millions New Orleans saved with his contract are being spent to build a powerhouse around him.
The addition of safety Kurt Coleman following his release by the Panthers was a good start. Coleman, who will replace the departing Kenny Vaccaro, is motivated to prove his subpar 2017 campaign was an aberration. Coleman also welcomes playing a mentoring role in a young secondary.
The defensive backfield was further enhanced when Patrick Robinson re-signed with the team that made him a 2010 first-round draft pick. Robinson returns as a far better player after an excellent 2017 season as the Eagles’ slot cornerback.
Linebacker Demario Davis, who registered a career-high 135 tackles last season with the Jets, is headed to the Bayou. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is set to take a free-agent visit. And more help should be on the way through the draft — an area where New Orleans flourished last year thanks to the evaluations of college scouting director Jeff Ireland.
The last Saints team to look this good on paper — the 2009 version that won Super Bowl 44.
My favorite personal Benson memory came two days before that New Orleans victory over Indianapolis. Known for doing the “Benson Boogie” and twirling a second-line umbrella on the field after victories, I was well aware of how much Benson loved to dance.
As Benson and his wife, Gayle, wandered through an NFL party, I told a friend to time how long it took until he tried to cut a rug.
We only needed a minute before Benson’s body — as if possessed by Tony Manero in “Saturday Night Fever” — instinctively started grooving while he walked past a speaker far away from the dance floor.
Benson’s life was celebrated locally Thursday night in similar upbeat New Orleans fashion. Pity the opponent who must play in the first regular-season home game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome when Benson is similarly remembered.
It should be the start of a Saints conga line to Super Bowl 53 that will be as memorable as the man himself.
Alex Marvez can be heard from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Friday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.