Saints What If Wednesday: What if there was no Ricky Williams trade?

Ricky Williams, New Orleans Saints
Ricky Williams, New Orleans Saints / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

For this New Orleans Saints "what if" scenario, we explore how things could have been different for the Saints if they don't make a draft day trade in 1999.

Similar to how the Herschel Walker trade is the measuring stick for all blockbuster NFL trades, the New Orleans Saints trading their entire 1999 Draft (and some change) to Washington so they could draft Ricky Williams is seemingly how all Draft day trades are measured. The trade effectively crippled the Saints, and ended Mike Ditka's tenure as coach. How could things have been different if the Saints didn't allow Ditka to make the deal?

Oddly enough, this probably wouldn't be all too different in the grand scheme of things. For the sake of simplicity, let's just say that Washington stays put and just takes Williams, whose career ultimately ends up the same. As for the Saints, with Ditka still eager to move up and draft an offensive star with his tenure on his last leg, swap with the Detroit Lions to draft quarterback Daunte Culpepper ninth overall.

The 1999 season still goes similarly, Ditka is still fired, and the Saints hire Jim Haslett to take his place. Still needing a premier running back (this was the early 2000s) after all, draft Jamal Lewis during the 2000 Draft. The Cinderella Saints of 2000 are very much still at thing, since the trade for Williams doesn't affect Az-Zahir Hakim muffing the punt for the Rams in their playoff game against the Saints.

Fast forward to 2001, and the Saints decide they need more on offense to go with Culpepper and Lewis. With Duce McCalister not really an option, they instead go for the best receiver on the board, Reggie Wayne from the U.

With this young offensive core, coupled with a talented defense, the Saints are a prennial playoff team throughout the early 2000s. Unfortunately, that's really all she writes as far as that's concerned, as they aren't quite talented enough to get over the hump in the NFC.

By 2005, there is still the need for change, and off we go. So in conclusion, all that really changes if the New Orleans Saints don't allow Mike Ditka to make the trade for Ricky Williams, is that the early 2000s go from wildly average to slightly above. At the end of the day, it isn't like Washington ever did anything with that haul anyway.

dark. Next. WIW II. Our last "What If Wednesday"