Sunday, January 03, 2016

Drew Brees is not the problem

Goodbye to the Dome for another year

Thanks to the Saints for not losing to Jacksonville at home last Sunday. The Jaguars almost never win road games... like ever... like really bizarrely they almost never ever win those.  So we were kind of worried that, given the way things had gone for the Saints this year, Sunday might have been just the moment for the Jags to pull off the unlikely.

That would have been interesting to see, I guess. But also it would have been sad. And we've been sad enough watching the Saints this year already. Instead we were treated to something really cool. We saw Drew Brees completely demolish an opponent while basically standing on one foot. Here's The Advocate's Nick Underhill.
You wouldn’t know Drew Brees was fighting through a foot injury on Sunday unless someone told you. He never appeared hobbled and only missed on a couple of throws, finishing with 412 yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-36 passing. … It didn’t appear the game plan was altered much to accommodate his ailment. He threw seven passes deep down the field, connecting on four of them. He got rid of the ball in an average of 2.3 seconds, which is a little faster than his season average of 2.5 seconds. That might have been by design, but it’s also possible his receivers were just getting open faster. It helped that he never really faced pressure. … Brees threw one of his more impressive passes of the season on Sunday. In the fourth quarter, he laced a pass just beyond the hand of linebacker Paul Posluszny and into the arms of Brandin Cooks, who was blanketed by a cornerback and a safety. The receiver deserves some extra points here for making an incredible catch.
Sure, nice catch, Cooks. But that ball was on time and was about as clear a statement as you'll ever see an athlete make.  Drew Brees is 36 years old. But he sure as shit can still play quarterback.  Seems like a lot of fans needed to hear that.

Even so, if you turn on your TV, radio, or internet this week you're still bound to find legions of fans crying for the Saints to dump Brees and his supposedly burdensome contract. These people are, to put it politely,  pretty goddamned well out of their minds. Here's Bradley Warshauer on that
Drew Brees' contract is worth a total of $100 million. The Saints gave cornerback Brandon Browner, safety Jairus Byrd, running back CJ Spiller, and the aforementioned Junior Galette contracts worth a combined total of $126 million. Galette is gone. Spiller was benched in favor of castoff Travaris Cadet, brought back to New Orleans just before the Jacksonville game kicked off. And on one play against the Jags, Brandon Browner was beaten for a long pass, Jairus Byrd missed a tackle on the receiver who beat Browner, and Browner caught up with the play only to himself miss a tackle.

Browner made up for that by allowing a 90 yard touchdown pass.

$126 million in contracts given out to players who are either no longer on the team or who make fans wish every week they would no longer be on the team. And the Saints' lack of talent is Brees' fault?
The Saints have spent a lot of stupid money in recent years but it's safe to say that the one deal worth the expense is Brees's. 

It's about midway through the third quarter of the season ending game at Atlanta as I'm typing this.  The score is tied and it's going just about like you would expect.  The Saints are moving the ball and scoring points while also playing terrible defense. That's the 2015 Saints. It's been fun.

But bad as you think the team is now, it becomes exponentially worse the second you part with your Hall Of Fame quarterback.  That's pretty much the one piece of the puzzle everyone agrees is most essential to putting a championship roster together. And there are like maybe 5 of them in the NFL at any given time. The Saints have one now.  And once he's gone they may not find another one for decades. Why would you run him out of town now just to expedite the advent of that long search by like 2 years?

Besides, if this season has been any indication, Brees is still good enough to play at a championship level next year and probably the year after that too.  It's been done before by other all time greats (and Brees certainly deserves to be compared to the all time greats.)  John Elway, for example, won two SuperBowls at age 37 and 38. This after having suffered through a period in the early 90s when he was expected to carry some bad teams single-handedly. It's not an exact analogue for what's happened to the Saints in recent seasons but it's close enough to serve as a precedent in principle.

There's still time for the Saints to patch up their current roster to make it just not sucky enough for another run. That is, as long as Brees is QB. Give Brees his two more seasons or whatever and then you can blow it all up and start over. Those two years will go by fast enough either way.  And while they're doing that they might as well keep Sean Payton around in the meantime.  It's what they both say they want, right?

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