Saints: Number 64 is no longer reporting as eligible – Strief retires


On Monday, Saints right tackle Zach Strief officially announced his retirement from football. He’s been with the team for 12 seasons.

There was a time a few years back when many New Orleans Saints fans – myself included – were looking to move right tackle Zach Strief off this team. His game seemed to have slipped. One particular game against the Houston Texans, he had a very tough outing, leading Texans defensive end J.J. Watt to look at Drew Brees (after one of many sacks and hurries) and tell him the Saints needed to look for some help there.

The true test of character was that Zach Strief followed up that game with better games. Moreover, he improved and became one of the best right tackles in the game over the last few years. This is the makeup of Zach Strief; a guy who, in theory, might have been the last person anyone expected to be the last of the class of 2006 remaining in the league.

Coming into the league

Zach Strief came into the league as something of an unknown. He played his high school football in Cincinnati. A solid student as well, he went on to play college ball at Northwestern, a top academic institution, not known for great football programs. He was a two-year team captain and two-time second team All-Big10.

Strief was drafted by the Saints in the hallowed 2006 draft class. He came in the seventh round, the Saints second to last pick in the draft, before Marques Colston. During his retirement speech, he told a great story about sitting in the Saints war room as they prepared for a draft. As he looked over the boards, he saw the Saints’ methodology for putting together their picks. As he looked through the categories, he didn’t see where he might fall in line with their categories.

About that time Saints general manager Mickey Loomis walked in and Strief questioned where his category might be on these five boards they had up. Loomis closed the door to the room, and there on the back of the door was a sixth category, ostensibly the leftovers. Loomis quipped that this is where Strief was.

Strief also told a funny story about his first training camp, one of the Saints’ now infamous training camps at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. This was before the current CBA went into effect, and the teams were still running 2-a-day practices. It was brutally hot in camp that year and many Saints were falling out and having a tough time. Strief was doubtful of his chance to even make the team, as he felt he was getting beaten often.

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Almost quitting

He thought seriously about quitting. Even after a conversation with his father, who told him not to give up, Strief felt he was not cut out for the NFL. He’d decided to tell the coaches after a practice that he was packing it in. On his way to the field for the second practice of the day, the Saints TE coach, Terry Malone, saw Strief and complimented him on his work, and that the coaches had noticed how hard he was working. That was the pick me up he needed. The rest is history.

During his first 5 seasons here, Strief was a backup to Jon Stinchcomb. Many Who Dats will fondly remember during those seasons the many times the Saints went with a heavy offensive line. We’d hear “Number 64 is reporting as eligible”, meaning they were running a tackle eligible play.

That was Strief’s claim to fame, until Stinchcomb retired and Strief took over the starting role in 2011. Strief praised Stinchcomb as a great mentor in football and life. In 2013 Strief was named to Pro Football Focus’ second team All-Pro. He has consistently been ranked one of the top 10 right tackles in the game, helping to keep Drew Brees upright for the past 12 years. Pro Football Focus has also had him graded at 80.2 or higher 5 of the 6 seasons from 2011-2016. Strong.


Strief’s season ended far too early last year. In the Saints’ first game of the season, he went down with a knee injury. He came back a few weeks later but re-injured the knee and was placed on season ending IR. Fortunately, the Saints were pro-active in the draft. Though many Saints fans clamored for the Saints to grab a pass rusher or linebacker with one of their two first round picks, the Saints chose to go with tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

That move proved to be prophetic, as Ramczyk not only filled in admirably for Strief, but was also a top-rated player on a good offensive line that was decimated by injuries. He and center Max Unger were the Saints’ rocks on that line. Depending on your point of view, Ramczyk’s emergence either allowed Strief to retire, or forced him out of a job. Either way is good.

12 years

Strief is one of very few Saints to play for more than 10 years, only in Black and Gold. Ironically, one of his draft classmates, Marques Colston, would be another. It brings to mind the significance not only of that draft class, but also of the free agent signings of that year.

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Not only was it Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Rob Ninkovich (oops!), Strief, and Colston, but the team added Scott Shanle, Scott Fujita, Darren Sharper, and Jeff Faine among the notable free agents. As well, the Saints got a new coach and a quarterback who is now headed to the hall of fame.

Zach Strief announced his retirement Monday, March 12, 2018. He thanked so many people who’ve meant so much to him, including Drew Brees, Coach Payton, and Mickey Loomis. He will live in New Orleans, and continue to run his brewery, Port Orleans. Saints fans are truly grateful for the 12 seasons Strief wore the Black and Gold. Best of luck in the future.