New Orleans Saints: in defense of QB Garrett Grayson

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Garrett Grayson, the Saints’ third-year, third-string quarterback is getting torched by Who Dat Nation, especially on Twitter. But, why?

When teams lose, fans point fingers. This happens no matter the game, level of competition, or how bad the losses are. Yes, that even means preseason games, which people love to claim mean “nothing.”

That sports stereotype wasn’t absent Thursday night and Friday evening for (most) Saints fans. The Saints lost to the Browns in Cleveland, 20-14. It was a “disappointing” first week of the 2017 preseason for New Orleans. However, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram, Cam Jordan, Delvin Breaux, Ryan Ramczyk, Marshon Lattimore and Kenny Vaccaro all sat out the game.

In other words, the majority of snaps went to second and third-team players. One of them was Garrett Grayson, who sits behind Drew Brees and Chase Daniel on the depth chart. Drafted out of Colorado State in 2015, Grayson’s selection in the third round hinted at him becoming Drew Brees’ potential replacement.

It’s safe to say Grayson hasn’t developed into that role, whether it was New Orleans’ intentions or not. But, he also hasn’t thrown an actual pass in a regular season game yet. When Thursday’s game ended, Grayson was public enemy number one to most Saints fans.

The question I’m asking is: why? Why is Grayson catching so much heat for how he played against Cleveland? Fans have had reactions ranging from “he’s still young and developing” to “I don’t want this player on my team.” Let’s pump those brakes and take a look at why a lot of Who Dats are going much too far.

He was a third team player surrounded by other third team players

Grayson is a 3-type player for the Saints: third round selection entering his third year in the league as the third guy at his position. He also hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Grayson is still rusty and learning, just as every backup or second backup player is.

Grayson was sacked 4 times for a total loss of 18 yards on Thursday, due to a few things. His pocket presence was shaky, and he’s not the most mobile quarterback around. The coverage was also decent, but that wasn’t the main reason, as Grayson only had 5 incompletions. The bulk of the sacks were due to poor protection, which, again, is understandable. You have 3rd string guards and tackles going up against a mix of 2nd and 3rd string front sevens.

Grayson was also throwing to receivers and running backs who are trying to make the team, not starters in Michael Thomas or Willie Snead. Granted, these aren’t excuses, but they’re facts. Had Grayson performed a la 2016 Ryan Fitzpatrick, then these points wouldn’t have been brought up.

His performance wasn’t terrible

Grayson’s final stat line was 11 for 16, 126 yards, 92.2 quarterback rating, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions, 1 lost fumble. Those 11 completions included a beautiful bomb to rookie receiver, Tommylee Lewis. That pass may have not been a touchdown, but it led to 8 points. With all the talk, you would have though Grayson had a <50% completion percentage with multiple interceptions.

Many non-analysts nit picked Grayson’s performance, pointing out his lack of correct footwork and route-reading progression. That’s valid, sure. But for a player of Grayson’s current caliber? It’s unfair and berating, especially to accuse him of being the reason former LSU wide receiver and rookie Travin Dural got a concussion. Quite frankly, that’s a ridiculous accusation for a play that results in no injury whatsoever 9 times out of 10.

Grayson had 5 incompletions, led the team to a score, lost the same number of fumbles as Ryan Nassib (who entered the game after Grayson), and finished with 0 interceptions. Does that sound like the reason New Orleans lost the game, or even a performance worth getting angry over? Absolutely not.

It was the first preseason game of 2017, and we need to keep that in mind. This game should have been the worst performance of the season for all players in a perfect world. They will all continue to progress, Grayson included. Give the young man some time, and give him a break for Thursday’s game.

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