We’ve hit the home stretch of the offseason with precious little time remaining for players and coaches to get their non-football lives in order. The first practice for the 2013 season is Friday.
WWLTV.com will take a look at 10 questions for New Orleans entering training camp and the season. They’re in no particular order, just numbered.
We’d love to get your thoughts on each day’s topic. Leave your comment below or on the station’s Facebook page to further the discussion.
Which is the critical game on the '13 schedule?
Can Will Smith make the transition from DE to OLB?
Can Jonathan Vilma return to form?
Who will step at WR behind Colston, Moore, Morgan?
Who has the best shot of being this year’s breakout star?
What happens at left tackle?
No. 4: Will the Drew Brees of ‘09/’11 return or the ‘10/’12 Brees?
For the past seven seasons, Drew Brees has set a new standard for quarterbacking in New Orleans. But it’s the past four years that have set him apart from most others in the league.
But for the Saints to succeed, they need him to be the quarterback of 2009 and 2011 and not of 2010 and 2012.
It’s not that Brees had bad seasons in either 2010 or 2012. In fact, there were aspects of both that would make you say they were fine seasons. He had 43 touchdowns in 2012. He completed 68.1 percent of his passes in 2010.
But he completed only 63 percent of his passes in 2012 and threw 19 interceptions. In 2010, he threw 22 interceptions and tossed “only” 33 touchdowns.
Compared to his 2009 and 2011 seasons, however, it’s easy to see why the team needs the Brees from those seasons to return.
In 2009, when he led the Saints to their only Super Bowl win, he threw just 34 touchdowns but turned the ball over only 11 times with interceptions. He also completed a then-record 70.6 percent of his passes. In ’11, he threw 46 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions, set an NFL record with 5,476 passing yards and bettered his NFL completion percentage record at 71.2 percent.
The belief that he was trying to carry the defense during the down years doesn’t necessarily hold water; in 2010, the defense finished the season ranked fourth in total defense and seventh in scoring defense while in 2009, the defense ranked 25th overall and 20th in scoring.
However, there appears to be a correlation between the run game and Brees’ seasons. It may not be causation as much as correlation, but since 2009, the years the Saints have failed to average at least 100 yards per game on the ground have been the years he has been “off.”
In 2009 and 2011, when the Saints went 13-3, New Orleans ranked sixth in the NFL on the ground, averaging 131.6 yards and 132.9 yards per game. In 2010 and 2012, the Saints were 28th and 25th, going for just 94.9 and 98.6 yards per game rushing.
Is he subconsciously pushing for more through the air? It’s certainly a possibility.
There’s one more possible correlation.
Brees will never admit as much, but the other thing in common with both ’10 and ’12 were offseason off-field distractions and the questions that followed them into the season.
He may be one of the best prepared athletes in today’s game, but he’s also human.
In 2010, the Saints had a heavy dose of the post-Super Bowl travel circuit. And once training camp began, so did the “Super Bowl hangover” questions. The team didn’t admit it then, but some have late admitted to the fact that the pressure and distractions played a role in the inconsistent play in 2010.
In 2012, there was Brees’ lengthy contract holdout, not to mention the bounty scandal. While the rest of the team was focusing on the season during organized team activities and the minicamp, Brees wasn’t. That has an effect on play during the season.
But this offseason, Brees has not only been focused on training with the team, he has his close friend Sean Payton back in the fold.
Add to that the likelihood that Payton will put a focus back on the run game and it all adds up to a better season for Brees.
If we were a betting organization – and we’re decidedly not – we’d guess that Brees hits 2013 with a vengeance, playing more like the man who could do whatever he wanted on the field in ’09 and ’11 than the one who struggled during stretches of ’10 and ’12.