It seems like every quarterback that becomes available for one reason or another could fit the New Orleans Saints and be the Drew Brees successor, unless you’re Garrett Grayson.
Most recently, fans took to the notion that the recently released Zach Mettenberger should get a look from the black and gold. Going 0-10 as a starter in his first two seasons, the ex-LSU quarterback was quickly replaced when the Tennessee Titans selected Marcus Mariota with their first overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Mettenberger isn’t the only quarterback that Saints fans pictured being ‘passed the torch’ once Drew Brees either retires or is no longer with the team. Countless media draft analysts and fans were becoming more receptive to the idea that the Saints could have used their No. 12 pick for a quarterback like Paxton Lynch. After all, how could you not think this way when the team was openly working out quarterbacks leading up to the draft?
This begs the question, why is Garrett Grayson being snubbed so bad? Let’s rewind.
The New Orleans Saints used their 75th overall pick in the 2015 draft to take the Colorado State quarterback. While there was a bit of hesitation on how to react at first, the pick made sense. Sean Payton revealed to the media in May that Grayson was the only quarterback on their radar. “This was the one. If he wasn’t available, we probably would have gone without drafting a quarterback,” Payton said.
The Saints would eventually have a battle of the backups with Luke McCown, Ryan Griffin, and Grayson going at it, and McCown would win. Was that a sign of Grayson’s inability to perform or more realistically a Sean Payton trusting his veteran backup from the past couple of years?
Was Grayson effective? Compared to Ryan Griffin, who the Saints would release, no. In the preseason, Grayson went 30-for-60 (50 percent completion), 334 yards, and 2 interceptions. Griffin went 24-for-41 (58.5 percent completion), 264 yards, and a touchdown-interception. Griffin’s quarterback rating was better than Grayson, but wasn’t good enough to beat out Luke McCown.
Grayson would be the designated clipboard holder for 2015, only being active for one total game. Even when Grayson had a ‘chance of a lifetime’ with the Saints struggling in the playoff race and an ailing Drew Brees, the team would turn to veteran Matt Flynn. That didn’t seem to please the masses, but what about throwing a rookie into the fire with an already unstable offensive line was worth risking the potential future? As we saw, Brees would tough it out and play, which made things irrelevant.
All of this builds up to suddenly we’re to believe that barely one season later that all hope should be abandoned. Why is that a player who just got cut (and players get cut for reasons) is more qualified to handle successor duties and be groomed as an heir apparent solution versus the quarterback who just spent an entire season learning and growing from a clear first-ballot Hall of Famer?
NFL History has shown us that quarterbacks thrown in the fire rarely succeed. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the history. For the sake of comparison, I’ve isolated quarterbacks drafted from 2011-2015 between the third to sixth rounds. Why omit the seventh round? Because no one single player has made any type of impact in the league.
With the exception of Russell Wilson, it’s pretty dismal to be a quarterback. Sure, Kirk Cousins is hopefully turning the corner and Tyrod Taylor is on the incline, but that’s about where it stops for today’s quarterback discussion.
It’s not like Grayson is some simp that comes around to collect a paycheck. The Advocate’s Nick Underhill summed it up perfectly in December, when he talked about how Grayson prepares.
"He’ll watch and mimic how Brees goes through the reads, leads the huddle and calls plays. Grayson joked that the veteran quarterback probably isn’t aware of how closely he’s being studied, but watching Brees and putting himself through mental reps is how the rookie quarterback is growing this season."
There’s a growing narrative that a 37-year-old Drew Brees will play for the Saints forever. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen. The future, whether you are willing to accept it or not, is looking cloudy for Brees and the Saints. There’s no chance that the team will use a franchise tag on him again and risk paying some $42 million. From a business standpoint, that makes little to no sense.
Yes, the Saints were able to squeeze and massage their way around the league’s salary cap this season, and seem to be content with Brees playing for the $30 million cap hit. However, there’s no guarantee that Brees will be playing for the New Orleans Saints in 2017. Sure, the thought of it sounds terrifying. I mean, what’s a Saints squad being led by Sean Payton without Drew Brees? However, that’s something that’s clearly on the back-burner as they prepare for this season, which is all that matters.
As Jon Gruden pointed out in April in a teleconference with the media, only Sean Payton knows whether Grayson is growing or not.
"“Sean and I have worked together in the past and I know that he never has enough of those guys,” Gruden said. “They have so much of the quarterback in that system of football they’re always going to be on the lookout. And only he can answer that. He’s the one that knows how well Grayson has performed over the last year.”"
Perhaps something that many fail to realize is that quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi returns to the fold this season after a short stint as the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator. Lombardi was the Saints quarterbacks coach from 2009-2013, and really helped Chase Daniel grow while here.
Big Easy Believer Managing Editor Barry Hirstius eloquently put it back in December that the Saints are essentially going to face a crossroad. They’ll either stick it out with Grayson and let him take over when the team does decide to move on from Brees or he retires, find their future quarterback through free agency like they did originally with Brees, or have the same conversation this time next year whether Brees is in the picture or not.
The reality of it all is that we haven’t even seen what type of maturation and growth Garrett Grayson has undergone year over year. Until we see that, then don’t forget the Saints still have him on the roster, and that he’s not just some quarterback that is easily replaced.