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OPINION

Lyons Yellin / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: lyellin@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- At its core, playing quarterback in the NFL is about decision-making. On any given day, the league's signal callers make an incalculable number of decisions that -- both on a personal level and within the fabric of their teams -- directly relate to their ultimate successes.

For quarterbacks, their ability to quickly scrutinize, discern and digest large quantities of information and see beyond what's on the surface is a skill that's frequently tested, and, moreover, few possess.

Consequently, the game's preeminent quarterbacks are often its best decision makers. Athleticism can make quarterbacks good, their decision-making prowess, great.

Case in point, Saints quarterback Drew Brees. What separates him from so many others are his decisions.

Whether it's been those on the field, or of a more personal nature -- choosing Purdue over Kentucky, and New Orleans over Miami Brees has been spot on every step of the way.

Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but so has been Brees' foresight.

He almost always makes the right call. Similarly, so does one of his backups, Ryan Griffin.

Last season, Griffin, an undrafted free agent from Tulane, chose to remain with the Saints, resisting overtures from another NFL team. Ultimately, his thirst for future success far outweighed his eagerness to play. For Griffin, the Black and Gold grass was greener.

Griffin saw the big picture: a chance to learn from Brees while remaining in a system he was familiar with. Tulane Coach Curtis Johnson was a former Saints assistant who brought much of their playbook to Tulane.

'We definitely weren't able to expand the playbook (at Tulane) like we have here,' Griffin said. 'It's probably two and a half (years I've been in playbook), because I kind of got a little head start on it (at Tulane), just with the terminology and everything.'

By remaining with the Saints, Griffin has positioned himself to possibly win the role as Brees' understudy, and potentially become his successor.

Like Brees, Griffin seems, figuratively, to have a knack for seeing the field. In a literal sense, though, Griffin is still fine-tuning that part of his game.

Griffin's improvement from last season is striking. Gone is the wide-eyed quarterback not sure he belongs. Throughout camp, he's shown he does. At last Saturday's Black and Gold Scrimmage, Griffin looked like No. 9 by completing his first eight, and then plenty more after that. Griffin has demonstrated he's a worker, and by doing so, earned the respect of his teammates.

'He's playing with a lot of confidence right now,' wide receiver Marques Colston said after the Black and Gold Scrimmage. 'Being in that quarterback room with two vets (Brees and Luke McCown) like he is, he's definitely learning a lot from those guys and really applying it to the field.'

Through a series of conscious and carefully crafted on- and off-field decisions, Griffin has grown as a quarterback. He has now achieved a newfound confidence and presence in the huddle more closely resembling Brees'.

'Coming in as a rookie you don't really know what to expect, and so you kind of come in wide-eyed and you have no idea,' Griffin said. 'This year I kind of had a general idea of how practice was going and what the tempo was like and how players practice.

'Just receiving that experience and having a year under my belt really helped.'

As have the extra reps Griffin has received since Brees' oblique injury forced him to trade his helmet for a ball cap.In Brees' stead, Griffin and McCown have split the lion share of the reps with the first unit.

But it's been Griffin who's seized upon the opportunity, and it's Griffin who looks to be the more reliable option should Brees not play in St. Louis on Friday.

Still, ever unassuming, Griffin has extolled the veteran McCown.

'Luke's just a great professional. Every day I'm learning from him how he carried himself in the weight room, out here on the field, and in the film room,' Griffin said. 'He's been awesome. He has helped me as much as he can. Before I even have questions, he'll come talk to me and he knows what's on my mind.He's just been great...just a total professional.'

By showing due deference to McCown, Griffin again has demonstrated his knack for making good decisions.

Griffin has everything going for him right now: he's young, confident, athletic, accurate, focused and most importantly modest.

Sure, Griffin's been better than all the Saints quarterbacks not named Brees. But there's no reason to tell the world. Why should he?

He can do that on the field by making more good decisions.

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