Good for Drew Brees, good for the Sean Payton, good for the Saints ... and good for Dan Marino.
From the day Brees walked into the Saints' lives almost six years ago, he's been a godsend. He steadied the ship post-Katrina, he made sure every player in the organization felt valued, and he became the most civic-minded athlete in a ravaged city that needed so much help. As a quarterback, he was the perfect captain for Payton's ship. He's as accurate as any quarterback ever to play football. He understands Payton's scheme so well, as Payton once told me, "that I don't think anyone could run it as well, and I mean even the other great ones playing today.'' He understands how he has to get everyone involved every week, because then when you need a guy at the end of a big game, every player in the route will be ready.
The best thing I can say about Brees as a player is I'm stunned when he misses an open receiver. On the first series of the game against the Giants a month ago, he had Lance Moore down the middle near the end zone. Moore had beaten two sandwiching Giant defenders and had a yard on each, and Brees let it fly ... and missed him by a foot or two. The throw went off the leaping Moore's left hand. I remember thinking, after a throw that traveled 28 yards in the air and was maybe 18 inches off: That's something you never see -- Brees missing an open receiver. I just don't see him do it, so I notice when he's off by even a smidge.
There are moments in the history of a franchise that can define it for the next 20 years. Bill Walsh drafting Joe Montana in the third round in 1979. Ron Wolf trading for Brett Favre in 1992. Bill Belichick drafting Tom Brady in the sixth round in 2000. Same with the Saints choosing to pay Brees $60 million over six years in 2006, even though he was just weeks into rehab after major shoulder surgery and didn't know for sure that he'd be the same player he was before wrecking the shoulder in San Diego on the last play of his Charger career. He wasn't the same, as it turns out. He's been better. Lots better. The marriage of Payton's scheme and Brees' talent will make the Saints Super Bowl contenders every year they're both still in their prime.
As for Marino: I worked with him for five years doing the HBO's
Finally, this bit about getting the record when your team is up by 22 with three minutes left against a rival you might tick off by doing it: A coach is always going to do what is best for his team. And Sean Payton didn't want this record hanging over his head for another week. As Brees told me last week, the record was the 800-pound gorilla in the locker room, and he was excited about getting it -- but also excited about getting it over with so the team could get on with regular football. Payton had a way, through his playcalling, to get the record over with so the Saints could prepare for their final game and the playoffs without the distraction of the Marino record. I have no problem with it, because I think it was done with the team, and a player the organization loves, in mind.
Now onto your email:
AN MVP TAKE FROM CHEESELAND.
All interesting points. The number of throws is reflected most accurately in yards per attempt, a great and far underutilized stat. Rodgers is almost lapping the field this year, with 9.25 yards per attempt. Brees' is 8.18. That shows, obviously, Rodgers has done more than anyone with efficiency and downfield productivity. As far as domes go, you play where you play. Just as I wouldn't penalize a dome punter if he was far superior to an outdoor one, I won't penalize Brees for playing indoors.
BREES, IN A LANDSLIDE.
I feel for Brees, because he's been the best quarterback by almost any measure since his career with the Saints began in 2006. And he could well win it this year. I still may vote for him, though if I had to vote today it would Rodgers. The problem he's faced is when he's been great, another player or two has been great too. This year, I understand if you think Brees should win, and it certainly wouldn't be wrong if he did. But as
YOU'RE RIGHT. I BLEW IT.
A few things I fell short on in Monday's column, including Lynch's performance against a historically good run defense and more on the Lions making the playoffs for the first time since the Coolidge Administration. (Or so it seems.) Sorry. My mistake. I applaud Lynch for giving Pete Carroll what the Seahawks have needed desperately -- a runner who is equally effective bulling inside, getting around the corner, and breaking tackles in the open field.
BECAUSE THEY DON'T LIKE MIKE BROWN.
My gut feeling is they have Mike Brown fatigue. The fans don't trust Brown is doing everything he can to build a winner (Carson Palmer didn't either), and many are staying away in protest until Brown sells the team. Which, by the way, will happen on the 12th of Never.
WAYNE DOESN'T LIKE MY LOGIC.
We would enjoy the season regardless of how long it is. So should we make the season 24 games, because the NFL would get monster ratings and make far more money? You'd probably say no, as would most thinking people. Point is, we're talking about week after week, losing the marquee players and the contributing players and the marginal players in a great game. Is a Texans fan still going to watch a Houston playoff game even if the team's top three or four players are hurt? Of course. But the reason the league shouldn't go beyond 16 is pretty simple, to me. Too many players get hurt over 16 games, and there's no good or compelling reason, other than greed, to go to 18.
GOTTA DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE, JAKE.
If I had said, "Here's a list of deep threats in the NFL, minimum 59 catches and 15.0 yards per catch,'' what would any thinking person say? Not sure, but I think it'd be something like, "Why'd you gerrymander this list just to get Jordy Nelson in it?''