Nobody but Drew Brees knows when he’s retiring. But the Saints getting Marcus Davenport will make the latter days of his career much more enjoyable.
Endings are funny things. Even happy ones can leave you sad especially if it’s the end of a great book, the last episode of a show you loved or the end of a series of movies. These emotions are compounded when it’s a real-life ending. Make no mistake, Drew Brees is nearing the end of his brilliant hall-of-fame career. The Saints first round trade for an edge rusher shows Brees and the rest of Who Dat Nation they are all-in on making this ending a happy one.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock could hardly contain his excitement as he speculated on live television that the Saints first round plan was to move up for Lamar Jackson. Truth be told, it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of Saints fans were hoping for this. The NFL can be a ruthless business and it’s often in the best interest of franchises to move on too early from players. New England and the conniving Bill Belichick have won multiple titles with this philosophy.
But when the Grim Reaper came for Brady, Robert Kraft reportedly stepped in and stayed the scythe. Undoubtedly, many view this as a grave error especially when we consider Garoppolo’s promising start in San Francisco. I view it as something else: a reminder. Even in the most ruthless organization in the NFL, some people deserve better. Tom Brady is such a player. Surely, Drew Brees is one in New Orleans.
Saints first round pick is gridiron atonement
Drew Brees changed the NFL forever when he came to New Orleans in free agency. Nobody knows better than Saints fans what he meant to that organization and to the city itself. Colin Cowherd even went so far as to attribute Nick Saban’s dynasty at Alabama to Brees. (If Miami had signed Brees in free agency, Saban might never have left.) Without Brees, Tom Benson would have died without ever holding the Lombardi trophy. Apart from everything else, the organization and city is indebted to Brees forever for that.
How did the Saints repay Brees on the gridiron? A few years later, the Bountygate scandal erupted. Head Coach Sean Payton was forced to serve a yearlong suspension, and the Saints proceeded to field some of the worst defenses in NFL history. From 2014-2017, the Saints ranked bottom five in the NFL in points allowed per game. This included finishing dead last in the category in 2015. Brees never faltered as the Saints ranked inside the top ten in points scored per game throughout this span.
The team also whiffed horrendously on draft picks and big free agent signings during this period. Do I need to bring up C.J. Spiller and Jairus Byrd? What about Brandon Browner or Stanley Jean-Baptiste? The result was not only a lack of talent but an untenable salary cap situation with a lot of dead money. For the Saints fans who criticize Brees over his contract size, he didn’t cause these calamities. Brees remained elite even after getting his money.
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Through Thick and Thin
Here’s an ugly truth. By staying with the Saints, Brees has hurt his legacy as an all-time quarterback. Despite his elevated play, he only has one championship on his resume. Think of the heartbreaking disasters Brees has endured at the hands of his own defense in the playoffs: Marshawn Lynch’s ridiculous “beast quake” run and the national arrival of Beast Mode, Vernon Davis and the last second touchdown pass from Alex Smith, and finally Stephon Diggs and the “Minnesota Miracle”. The rest of the NFL views these as all-time playoff moments, to Saints fans they are painful scars. Hell, two of these playoff losses resulted in plays with names! Can we even imagine how it felt for Brees to watch all of them from the sideline? It was bad enough as a fan.
Till the day I die, I will associate Drew Brees with Saints football. The story of New Orleans cannot be told without pain, heartbreak and loss. Neither can the story of Brees’ own career from being told he was too short, to being overlooked in the first round, to the horrific shoulder injury that left him wondering if he’d ever play again.
Despite tragedy, misfortune and bad luck aren’t the attributes associated with the city of New Orleans or with Drew Brees. People think of jazz music, Cajun food, Mari Gras, the French Quarter and a vibrant joyful culture when they envision the city. When pundits bring up Brees, they talk about a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and maybe the most accurate quarterback in NFL history. When I think of New Orleans and Drew Brees, I think of resilience.
This offseason, Brees took a hometown discount to stay in New Orleans to try and bring home another Super Bowl. There’s no doubt Brees could have gotten more money to play elsewhere. By agreeing to take less money, Loomis and Payton agreed to an implied condition: get Brees more help. The Saints first round trade up for Marcus Davenport made good on that promise.
Personally, I loved the move. It signals that the Saints front office is striking while the iron is hot and they are all-in on bringing the Lombardi back to the Big Easy this year. Sure, they gave up a lot to get Davenport, but if he hits he could push the Saints over the edge. It’s a risk to be sure, but then again Sean Payton did call an onside kick in the Super Bowl. We all know how that turned out.
Even if Davenport is a bust, and the Saints miss out on a high pick with their first rounder next year, I will stand by this decision. Sometimes, people deserve a little bit better. It’s worth the price to pay off a debt to someone that has never let you down. Sometimes, it’s worth it to do the right thing, even if it doesn’t result in a happy ending.