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New Orleans Saints: Five awards for 2016, including MVP

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Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks to his players in the fourth quarter of their game against the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Raiders won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks to his players in the fourth quarter of their game against the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Raiders won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

The disappointing 2016 season is in the books, and it can be hard for fans to take away much positive from the New Orleans Saints’ performance. But there are a few players very deserving of recognition for their stellar effort and execution over the year.

The New Orleans Saints played with heart throughout 2016. It’s easy to see, and it’s easy to love. A far cry from those horrible seasons in 2014 and 2015. Even in their blowout losses, no one can question the Saints’ effort or focus during the season. From the top to the bottom of the roster, players left it all on the field.

That’s a reassuring sign. It indicates that, as almost all Saints players unanimously agree, this locker room has the right makeup. And clearly, Payton still knows how to motivate his team.

But the problem is: there’s no prize for moral victory. This league is about wins, and for the third season in a row, the Saints failed to field a winning product. The problem, at least how it appears to us on the outside, is not a lack of effort or focus. It’s a lack of talent. Yes, the roster is filled to the brim with solid players. No way could you make that claim last year. But too few of those solid players are game-changers. Too few have elite or even above-average talent.

The playoffs are not an unrealistic goal for this 2017 squad. But Sean Payton and the Saints front office will need to have an extraordinary offseason if this roster is going to compete for a championship anytime soon. And with Drew Brees’s window closing fast, that’s exactly what they’ll need to do.

Yet all that said, there were a number of Saints who went above and beyond expectations, and put together remarkable seasons.

And a few of these players deserve acknowledgment for their performances. In a depressing year, these few stood out and gave fans a reason to tune in. We are forever grateful.

These are the sorts of talents that the Saints need to build on, to find and nurture within their organization, if they want to get back to the level of success they enjoyed from 2009-2011. Don’t doubt that Sean Payton has the offensive mind to coach a powerhouse, and the locker-room presence to develop a dynasty. But he needs to improve his personnel decisions if he wants to upgrade this roster. That starts with bringing in players with a similar makeup to these stand-out players.

So, without further ado, we give you our picks for the Saints’ 2016 season awards.

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