Is Drew Brees in Decline?

Drew's phenomenal 2009 year was something for the record books. He had the highest completion percentage of any NFL quarterback with 70.6%. He recorded one of the highest single-season quarterback ratings with a 109.6, threw for over 4,000 yards for a fourth consecutive season, had a touchdown:interception ratio of over 3:1 and posted perfect or near perfect quarterback ratings of 158.3 and 156.8 against the Patriots and Giants.

Drew Brees then went on to have an eerie completion percentage of 70.6% in the playoffs with a quarterback rating of 117.0, eight touchdowns and not a single interception. He also tied the completions record in the Super bowl with 32, eventually becoming the Super Bowl MVP and leading the New Orleans Saints to their first ever Lombardi trophy.

Anyone born before February 7th, 2010 knows pretty much everything I listed above. However, the guy that was mentioned above was completely different than the guy who came out on the field during the Saints 2010 season. Brees finished the year with a completion percentage of 68.1% (2.5 percent lower) with 658 attempts (144 attempts more), throwing for 4,620 yards (232 yards more), 33 touchdowns (one less), and 22 interceptions (twice as many). If you had told me this last year, I would have done a double take.

So, continue on your path and make the jump as we debate the future of Drew Brees and the direction of his career.

Here's how I'm going to present this series of articles to you: I'm going to offer a negative criticism regarding Drew Brees' 2010 season and make a point playing 'Devil's Advocate'. I am going to prove these points using various stats from  2010 - or 2009 when necessary - to make my argument. Then I will play the 'The Optimist' and present a positive counterpoint using the same tactics as the 'Devil's Advocate.' This way there is no definitive answer to each topic. As such, I hope to provide the reader with both sides of each particular argument and let you guys debate the answer. 

   

Devil's Advocate - Drew Brees struggled with the deep ball.

The deep ball nearly died in 2010. The Saints were always utilizing short to medium passes. In fact, Brees is ranked 6th in fewest pass attempts over 15 yards. As well, Brees dropped from 8.5 Yards Per Attempt to 7.0 YPA. Brees only had 47 passes of over 20 yards and 10 passes of over 40 yards in 2010. In 2009, Brees had 58 completed passes of over 20 yards and 11 complete over 40 yards. A difference of 11 between the years in long completions. And, those numbers are with 144 less attempts than in 2010. When Brees did throw down field, he was often inaccurate or under thrown or, sometimes worse, intercepted. This was a major reason the Saints were not explosive in 2010.

Point - The deep balls dropped in 2010. Brees' arm has trouble making those deep throws and he attempted them less.

 

The Optimist - There needs to be context...and balance.

Yes, the Saints offense did not feel explosive in 2010 and the lack of the deep ball was one of the reasons. However, since when have the Saints not used short to medium passes? In the Super Bowl, Drew Brees had an average attempt of 7.2 yards. Did the Saints suffer because of that?

The Saints have a West Coast style offense and benefit greatly with even a little running game. When the Saints had one of the best running games in 2009, play action was effective. With little threat of a running game in 2010, play action was a formality and Brees was forced to nickel and dime defenses.

Brees' long passes did drop in 2010. However, in 2009, Brees was ranked 7th in 20+ yard completions and 10th in 40+ yard completions. In 2010, Brees still ranked 10th in 20+ yard completions and 5th in 40+ yard completions. Nearly the same. Big pass plays were just down across the league. 

Counterpoint - The deep balls did drop in number, but were if not for a poor running game Brees would have been better in this category.

   

Devil's Advocate - What was with the Interceptions?

Drew threw a career-high 22 interceptions in 2010. Some were flat out horrible. Shovel passes to linebackers, red zone interceptions on the goaline and balls thrown into double coverage. Brees threw at least one interception per game from Week Four to Week Seventeen. He had a TD:INT ratio of 33:22 or 3:2. In 2010, for every 30 attempts Brees made, on average, he threw an interception. What's worse is that Brees had an average 41 attempts per game. As well, there were some picks - the shovel passes - that Brees wouldn't have even thought about doing in 2009. Brees was just overwhelmed in 2010 and showed bad timing with his throws.

Point - Brees' interceptions were poorly thrown and horribly thought out. 2009 Brees would have made better decisions and would have either checked down or thrown the ball away.

 

The Optimist - The Offensive line was offensive alright.

Of course Brees made better decisions in 2009, he had time to make those decisions. 2010 Brees would take the snap and have to avoid defenders that got passed LT (Left Turnstile) Jermon Bushrod and RT (Right Turnstile) Jon Stinchcomb.

Brees was under pressure all year long and had little time in the pocket to make a calculated decision or throw the ball perfectly. Thanks to the poor play from the running game and offensive line, Brees was forced to make a lot more throws than in 2009. This led to more interceptions.

How many of Brees' interceptions were his fault? How many interceptions were due to miscommunication on the receiver's part (Ladell Betts), or tipped balls by the receiver (Meachem in the second Panthers game) or even tipped at the line (Baltimore game)?

Counterpoint - Brees had to throw the ball more times which led to more interception attempts. He also had to deal with a lower quality offensive line that had trouble keeping Brees upright and pressure free. With little running game on top of it all, the odds were stacked against Brees and he still was able to perform well regardless.

 

   

So do you find yourself the 'Devil's Advocate' or 'The Optimist?' Do you think Brees has run out of mojo and will soon be a has-been? Or that Brees just had a bad year and will bounce back next year? Or, do you believe that this has been blown out of proportion and Brees had a great year after all? Discuss.

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