Drew Brees won the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year this week. Brees was a great choice and should have won it after the post Katrina 2006 season. When Brees' career history is written and people debate where he belongs among the all time greats, he will have done one thing no other quarterback in NFL history has done; he kept a team from leaving town. Drew Brees kept the Saints in New Orleans. If you asked him he'd never take credit for it because he's just too modest, Brees would tell you it was the players, Sean Payton, and the city supporting the team that kept it in New Orleans. Don't believe it.
It was mostly Brees. The NFL is a quarterback league and if you don't believe me just ask the Arizona Cardinals. Two years ago Kurt Warner had them at the brink of a Super Bowl title and last year they won the NFC West. Warner leaves to dance on TV and now what is Arizona? They are a smoldering crater led by a quarterback who just cast himself in the next Coors Light football commercial. In the NFL if you don't have a quarterback you have nothing.
If Brees had gone to Miami or didn't recover from shoulder surgery where would the Saints be? They would have drafted Matt Leinart if Brees had been a Dolphin. Leinart's so bad Arizona cut him to let Derek Anderson lead them. Leinart as a Saint would have taken his place along side Heath Shuler and Danny Wuerffel as Sunday ruining signal callers. The only thing worse than having to watch Sean Payton find a quarterback to run his offense would have been Saints fans' drinking on Sundays.
Without Brees all the ticket sales and good will the Saints had from fans post Katrina wouldn't have lasted. Do you really think the Superdome would have had five years of sellouts if the Saints had been mediocre or worse? No way. Most likely the Saints would have been angling to head out of town and America would be saying, 'Well New Orleans can't support an NFL team.' Never mind the Saints being awful and not deserving of a full Superdome. I can tell you I wouldn't be driving in from Houston to watch a 3-8 Saints team led by Leinart or some other disaster at QB. New Orleans has always supported the Saints when they were bad but it's never been unconditional love. The Ditka Era had plenty of empty seats. If you think New Orleans would have filled the Dome post-Katrina to watch bad a Saints teams you're kidding yourself. I'll tell you where the Saints would be without Brees; San Antonio.
Thankfully because of Brees that nightmare never happened.
By all appearances Brees seems like an incredible human being. He has set up charities and genuinely seems to care about New Orleans. Like any athlete or celebrity we think we know him but we only know what we see on TV. The one thing I know for sure is without Brees the Saints wouldn't be locked into New Orleans until 2025 and as a Saints fan to me that's his legacy.
To this week's games
Last Week: 2-3
New Orleans (-7) at Cincinnati: I watched the Saints-Dallas Thanksgiving day game surrounded by family which mostly consists of old people. The funny thing about watching the Saints with old people is how quickly they revert back to 'They stink, they always blow it, they will lose, and where is my paper bag?' Saints fan. I'm not saying I wasn't nervous and sure I went from misery to elation in the time it took for Roy Williams to clinch the Dallas win and then watch Malcolm Jenkins literally rip the victory from his hands. All during the Cowboys comeback I kept saying, 'Saints will win this. Super Bowl Champions don't lose games like this.' I was mocked. Listen, I understand as Saints fans we have 40+ years of failure, heartache and disappointment. I also have seen champions like the great 49ers teams steal wins which the Saints seemed to have locked up. I don't know about you but I've waited my whole life to root for a champion who crushes other teams' dreams with skill, great quarterbacking, and a little luck. Until Drew Brees shows me consistently he isn't elite and capable of late game heroics when I watch the Saints I'm going to believe. I might bitch and complain before and after but during the game I believe. Besides it's 1000 times more fun watching the Saints blow a 17 point lead and expect the best and not the worst.
If Malcolm Jenkins Thanksgiving play is one of the best moments in Saints history then the Saints last trip to Cincinnati is one of the worst. In 2002 the 9-5 Saints went to Cincy and lost to the one win Bengals. Some guy named Nick Luchey scored twice. The Saints had multiple wounds of differing size and pain and every one was self inflicted. Aaron Brooks threw four interceptions, the Saints fumbled five times, and Boo Williams dropped a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. The Saints completed their death spiral the next week to miss the playoffs. On any list of horrific Saints losses this one has to be in the top five.
Back to 2010, the Bengals are still the Bengals. Carson Palmer in name is a good QB but in performance is awful. I'm much more concerned with the Rams next week besides the 2010 Saints deliver their best beatings on the road. If not for Reggie dropping a punt and a touchdown pass they would have done so in Dallas. The Saints defense tightens up and Chris Ivory makes us believe the running game is in good enough shape for the playoffs.
Tampa Bay (+2) vs. Atlanta: I'm in denial about the Falcons. I don't want to believe they are a 13 win team. When the Bucs are down 17-3 in the 2nd quarter Sunday I'll be kicking myself. My hate of Atlanta overrides my good judgment much like my childhood love of McKenzie's buttermilk drops.
Detroit (+3) vs. Chicago: In an NFL picks pool I'm in I've been riding the Bears as most people think they aren't any good. Now that everyone finally believes they are good I'm bailing on the Bears. The Jay Cutler 'Robert Smith sad' face returns!
New York Jets (+3) at New England: If Jon Gruden becomes head coach at the University of Miami I'll be sad because THIS GUY loves Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football. Ok maybe I don't love him but the thought of ESPN replacing him with Matt Millen makes me want to take a long nap in a running car. Enjoy Gruden gushing over QBs while you still can!
St. Louis (-3) at Arizona: Do you think Drew Brees or Tom Brady melts down in post game interview if asked the same question about laughing on the sideline like Derek Anderson did? No way. Even if Brady or Brees was seen laughing during a blowout loss they'd just say, 'Gallows humor. Next question.' Anderson's meltdown is reason 34579 why Arizona should have done anything but what they did do at quarterback when Kurt Warner retired.