A Case for Aaron Brooks

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Before we get down to the brass and tacks of this topic, let's first revisit the way our good friend, BewareofDog, attempted to debunk the so-called "myth" that Aaron Brooks is the 2nd best QB in New Orleans Saints history.

First, it's probably safe to say that this isn't a very popular "myth". I mean, at least compared to other Saints "myths" out there. Remember the one about the legendary college QB who would have easily had a HOF career with any other team, but wallowed here in sub-mediocrity instead? Don't get me wrong, he was still a great pro QB. He just wasn't given a fair shake in New Orleans. I mean, they only gave him 11 years to turn the team around. Do you know who inherited an even worse franchise? Jim Plunkett, the QB drafted one slot ahead of him. In five years time, Plunkett had a mere 22 wins to his name. Now, Boston was never considered Ground Zero for Stanford alum apologists, so they didn't really bother cutting that poor little Injun any more slack than he deserved. No, by the time 1976 rolled around, they had seen quite enough. He was written off as a bust and sent packing to San Francisco, a team that didn't mind rolling the dice on a "local" legend. Hell, even after he fizzled out there, the team across the bay took a flyer and it finally worked out for him, amid an excellent supporting cast.

Meanwhile, back in the Big Easy, the freckle-faced kid with the "better" team somehow managed to do even worse. He collected 7 fewer wins those same five seasons. Ok, 5 1/2 less, if you're big on ties. And then, a curious thing happened. He developed a severe case of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, and missed the entire 1976 season because of it. That was also Hank Stram's first season as a head coach. No better time to admit you screwed up, reach an injury settlement and move on, right? Naw. Richard Todd was the only QB worthy of a Top 5 pick that year and bringing in an Alabama guy to replace a Mississippi guy wouldn't do anything but alienate the closer fan base of the two. So, they decided to bide their time with veteran journeyman Bobby Douglass and untested backup Bobby Scott that season. Each QB managed to win two games. Combined, that's more than their fearless starter managed to win either the season prior, or the season after. But even "no discernible drop off without" wasn't enough to convince Mr. Mecom to part ways with his "very special" player . Nor was losing to an 0-26 expansion team in 1977. He even went to the extent of firing a Super Bowl winning coach, before allowing anyone to show #8 the door. In his 8th season, it finally started coming together for Mr. Woe is Me, but never better than .500. Never a playoff berth. Never anything but a two season statistical hiccup.

Yet, it's Brooks backers who seem to focus on four give-or-take seasons in particular? Hey, at least Brooks HAD four give-or-take seasons on which to focus. Aaron Brooks, the much maligned 21st century dud who wore out his welcome in New Orleans by playing .500ish ball for four straight seasons AFTER winning a playoff game. Aaron Brooks, the only QB in NFL history forced to play 16 games away from his team's home stadium. And I do use the term "home" very loosely, since he was obviously never, NEVER going to be afforded the same benefit of the doubt as a good ol' Southern boy from a neighboring state might. To the contrary, Aaron was the kind of boy THOSE kinds of boys strung up in their front yards back in the day. Remember that missed season due to a sore throwing shoulder? Aaron played three games with a partially torn rotator cuff in his. Probably wasn't smiling too much in those games, was he?

Talk about an overblown topic on the part of Brooks haters. And oh, how many there are! Homey threw interceptions, then he LAUGHED about it. OMFG, how COULD he? I mean, he should be sulking in that situation, right? Because that would somehow nullify the error and give the team a fresh set of downs. You see, we don't want a carefree leader who refuses to allow unfortunate circumstances to gnaw at his psyche. We'd much rather a runaway basket case, like Jeff George. Or is it someone who's all take charge and fiery? One who gets all up in the face of his receiver when he runs the wrong route. Funny, but I seem to remember Bobby Hebert getting lambasted by fans for doing just that to Brett Perriman. The truth is, Saints fans didn't know what the hell they wanted in a QB back then. Well, besides less pigmentation and ties to the Deep South. I mean, how else can you possibly explain them chanting for a largely unproven Jake Delhomme, when the playoffs were still at least within the realm of possibility? Do you think anyone was chanting for Bobby Scott while Ken Stabler was spanking that second half ass during 1979's infamous 21 point MNF comeback? That being in his prime Raider Snake. We'll get to Washed Up Saint Snake in a few. Let's also overlook the fact that Brett Favre grinned after INTs all the time, as well. His teeth were almost the same color as his face though, so I guess no one noticed. What about Lance Moore? He's a pleasant shade of mocha and giggles his butt off after drops, even as recently as this season. That's ok, though. He's not a black QUARTERBACK. See where I'm going with this?

The recurring theme in these early stages being "long leash for Southern whitey", "short leash (dba a noose) for Northern darky". And yes, I do admit it wasn't ENTIRELY about (a lack of) local ties and it wasn't ENTIRELY about race, but to think that NEITHER of those EVER factored into the way MANY Saints fans treated Brooks is flat out hogwash. I used to listen to WWL's the Point After with Buddy Diliberto after games, and AT LEAST one caller after every game, be it a win or a loss, was cut off for using the N-word. How can I be so sure of that? Because Buddy would rant about it on occasion. He wasn't an outright Brooks apologist by any means, but he would often say that he wasn't going to tolerate bigotry on his show. I was a season ticket holder throughout those years and heard racially charged remarks all the time in the stands. Drunk idiots running their mouths out of frustration no doubt, but isn't that when that sort's true colors usually start to slip out? Anyone who gets their hair cut at an actual barber shop in New Orleans should be able to vouch for what gets said when there's no "moonies" present. A lot of those old timers "don't cut wool" even to this day. Do you think I'm making this up? Who here actually thinks that I'm making this up? Ugly is everywhere, Bubba. So, don't come at me with this little "stooped so low to play the race card" song and dance, when you know as well as I do that it DOES still lie below the surface, and most "grinning jackasses" won't hesitate to speak their mind, especially when a specific player's performance – in particular, one who may play a historically Caucasian position – begins to rub him/her the wrong way.

Let's get away from first world problems for a minute and turn our attention back to the self-proclaimed mythbusters in the group. As you probably noticed, I like to randomly pluralize my adversaries, as well. I'm truly only talking about ONE (1) person, but to stick an S on the end ... well, heck. That makes it seem like more of a "me against THEM" 300 type of battle at hand and the underdog theme has always been cool beans. But yeah, BoD. What a big silly. Dog likes to touch upon all the "stark" differences between eras, then turns around and champions all-time franchise record holders, as if many of those records weren't attained BECAUSE of those very differences! Whether the magnitude of those differences is being overstated or not, the hypocrisy there should NOT be swept under the rug. I also noticed that Dog is one of these fellows (gender assumed) who likes to conveniently chalk up statistical differences between eras to "changes in the passing rules". Uhh, that's not the ONLY factor coming into play there, champ. In truth, it's probably the least significant, at least as it applies to Brooks being more prolific than any earlier era QB. For you see, the 5-yard chuck rule came into play in 1996, but wasn't strictly enforced until 2004. If anything, this might be better applied as a reason for Brooks's falling off statistically down the stretch, rather than as an clear cut advantage he held over others throughout. Along with a certain tropical storm, I mean.

A few prior changes spelled out an uptick in the passing game well before that. And far more profoundly than any chuck rule ever did, I might add. The advent of the 25 second play clock sped the game along, as well as a restart of the clock following out of bounds plays, thereby necessitating more run offensive plays over the course of games in general. This was preceded by a play clock increase, from 30 to 40 seconds, though the newer 40 second clock was set on the whistle marking the end of the play prior, rather than a "ready for play" signal, as it has since reverted back to. As such, the players' return to the huddle became a part of that "between play" time limit, actually decreasing the 30 seconds (on average) that they would have had. Of course, none of this mattered if the game clock was stopped, but that has become less and less the case. Also, calling plays was gradually phased out of a QB's realm of responsibility, which in turn resulted in expanded playbooks and clear-headed game management. THIS is what ultimately manifested itself in the form of greater completion percentages, NOT the more recent ambiguously cited "changes to the passing game". /jerk off motion

And let's face it, even these marked changes didn't affect EVERY quarterback (or offensive coordinator) in quite the same manner or even to the same degree. The skills set of their supporting cast on offense, the strengths and weaknesses of their team's defense and the general (inherent) philosophies of the OC also play a part in how often they're going to pass, how far up the field they're inevitably going to target, etc. Without digging deep for actual OC names, did Leeman Bennett and Bill Walsh use Steve Young the same way in Tampa and SF respectively? Of course not. And that's the same QB.

What I'm getting at here is, even if Bobby Hebert was playing in today's "pass happy" NFL, there's no guarantee his passing attempts would dramatically increase. If the defense was as stout as it was back then, it would be fool-hearty at best to give him even MORE of a leash, when he couldn't even handle Carl Smith level conservatism back in the late 1990s! That's not to say he was "simply not a pass heavy type QB". If you watched Hebert at all in the USFL, you'd know that he was a mad bomber with the Michigan Panthers and Oakland Invaders. Unfortunately, the NFL is a different breed of cat. The same goes for Archie. No, he never played in another professional league, but he was also never a 45 pass attempt per game guy at the NFL level, either. At least, not by design. He may have passed that often in 1980, when they trailed in every game they played.

The bottom line being, he too didn't show any signs of being able to handle a Brees level per game workload in the NFL and still come out on top in the W column. If they didn't do it then, what makes you think they could do it now? You seem to be pointing out these differences in eras, as if to say these older guys were at a disadvantage statistically. And while that may be true, what I'm saying is, "didn't" may very well be an indication of "can't", regardless of era. Obviously, I can't say it is for certain, but I am definitely not giving anyone the benefit of the doubt to the point of holding it against someone who DID (actually) exhibit the ability to handle that level of utilization. And Brooks is most certainly one who DID. He wasn't a world beater by any means, but he was highly competitive within his own era and at least lived up to what was expected of a run of the mill starter in that particular epoch. That's as much as can be said of any of them. He didn't ever top a 60% completion percentage. Ha! Really? Is that all you've got, cherry picker? From 2001-05, Trent Green never threw less than 10 INTs in a season. Brooks threw 8 in 2003 and I would think just about every other regular starter from those five seasons had at least one sub 10 INT campaign in there, as well. I suppose that makes Green pretty damn lousy, as compared to his early 2000s peers there, eh? Child, please. Also, you mentioned how modern era QBs are supposed to have the higher completion percentages, while the older era QBs are supposed to have the higher yards per attempt, which is quite true, generally speaking. Among the top ten career passers in YPA are Otto Graham (the all-time leader), Sid Luckman, Norm Van Brocklin, Ed Brown, Bart Starr, Bob Berry and Johnny Unitas. There's only one problem with that assertion as it applies to the Saints. Aaron Brooks has a higher YPA (6.9) than either Billy Kilmer (6.7) OR Archie Manning (6.5)! Brooks also has a higher completion percentage than either, meaning he met HIS end of that trade off. In falling short of a modern day "dumpster dweller", neither of the old timers took advantage of what was in essence THEIR statistic to be had!

Let's get back to the man of the hour. Remember the backwards pass against San Diego? Holy shiitake, I never thought I'd hear the end of that one! Never mind the fact that he was hit on the shoulder as he was pivoting to throw the screen. Also, never mind the fact that it was recovered by the Saints and didn't even directly cost the Saints a possession, as it occurred on 2nd down. It was the most dumbfounding play in the history of the franchise, according to many. Yes, far more so than Archie lining up for a snap under the GUARD! He's currently tied with Adrian McPherson for that team record btw, at one apiece. And you're right, Brooks was never in the running for that one, either. Confidentially, I'm shocked that people aren't still carrying on about Marques Colston's illegal forward pass to END a PLAYOFF game. Can you spot the contrasting nature of these public outcries, by chance? But yeah, Colston's in Moore's boat. Black, but not a QB. In hindsight, Jeff Blake is probably lucky he got injured when he did. He would have inevitably been crucified for something or other, just as soon as he was .500 material. You know, since New Orleans has a rich tradition of not accepting C+ or worse as an acceptable point of continuation.

Speaking of which, you mentioned how the Saints qualified for the playoffs in 2000 based on the wins of another QB. That's odd, because I really don't think a 7-9 mark would have qualified that particular post-season. As I remember it, it was Brooks who led them to three additional wins, including an improbable victory against the Rams in St. Louis in his first ever NFL start. He also ran for a 1st down on 4th and 8 to pull out a come-from-behind win over San Francisco. And set a franchise record with 441 yards passing against the Broncos. A record formerly held by your ginger boy from up the road, btw. I'm surprised that one slipped your mind, fickle one. That sure is a lot of eventful happenings for someone who just coasted in on the coattails of Blake's fast start. And let's not forget, he did it all without Ricky Williams in the lineup, something Blake was afforded throughout that early stretch. Not only that, he lost Joe Horn on the first play from scrimmage in the playoff game. Yet, he still managed to throw four touchdowns to help lead the team to victory. Has any other Saints QB ever thrown four TD passes in a playoff game? No, I believe that's another team record Mr. Brooks still holds. I know you'd rather not focus on the good. Trouble is, it was a greater level of good than every other Saints QB prior to him. That's no myth, podnuh. That's the honest to goodness troof.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the River City Relay of 2003. Not only was it Brooks who launched the pass to Stallworth to set that amazing spectacle in motion, it was also he who stormed down the right sideline to throw the block that ultimately sprung Jerome Pathon into the end zone. Watch the replay. It's #2 with a fricken vengeance. When was the last time we saw that level of crunch time, game-on-the-line hustle out of ANY other Saints QB? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Enough reminiscing about the pseudo greatness that was. Let's get down to real world statistics. Stats presented in the fairest way possible to all involved. I will begin by presenting the eight most prominent QBs in team history and their career stats as a New Orleans Saint. These numbers include playoff games. In including EVERY game played and not just regular season ones, we get a better idea of what each brought to the table within their own era.


As you can see, all very basic stats. Do notice that I am not using PER GAME numbers, as that can vary greatly from one era to the next, as I already pointed out. I'm also not going to concern myself with PER SEASON numbers, for that exact same reason. For you see, cumulative statistics are just that. They're a sum of everything a QB did throughout a game, a season, what have you. Unlike BoD, I'm not all caught up in their record defining glory. I can actually ignore the shiny object dancing in front of my face and dig a little deeper to get a truer picture. Now comes the fun part. What I'm going to do is extrapolate each QB's passing statistics over 5412 passing attempts. Why? Because we already have a large enough sample from each to know (roughly) what to expect across the board. Would Billy Kilmer ever throw 500 passes in a season? Of course not. But you can bet you ass that he was fully capable of throwing 5412 passes over some undetermined amount of games. And that's all I'm worried about. I want to magnify everything we've been "given" up to Drew Brees level utilization, if that makes any sense. So, here tis.


Notice that all eight QBs now have 5412 career passing attempts. Their completion percentage remains constant. I fully realize that it's more difficult to maintain a percentage the more passes you attempt. That said, there's no set formula for regression to the mean on that type of thing, so the best we can do is assume that everyone maintains their status quo accordingly. Besides, we're only talking 10x the number (in Stabler's case) at most. This isn't exactly a quantum leap, as far as prorating numbers goes. The percentage obviously dictates the completion total. The original yards per attempt and new shared number of attempts dictates the cumulative yardage. TDs per attempt, INTs per attempt ... you get the idea. The passer rating does not change. The rushing attempts have actually been bumped up to Manning's total, as he was the highest among these eight gentlemen. We're not afforded sacks from the Kilmer and Manning eras, so they were excluded. Fumbles were prorated based on overall number of touches (passing attempts + rushing attempts). Most probably occurred on sacks, which is technically neither, but since there's no way to determine for certain, this is as good a way as any. Wins were handled a bit differently than you might imagine, but it's truly just for show, as the winning percentages remain the same. What I did is take their actual number of passes attempted and divided that by their total number of starts. I then took the new 5412 attempt total and divided it by the result, giving me a new "games started" total (not shown). In other words, the number of games each QB would have to play, in order to eventually reach 5412 passing attempts at their actual attempts-per-game rate. I then took this "games started" figure, multiplied it by their actual winning percentage and divvied up the wins, losses (and a few ties in rounding to the nearest 0.5 wins) accordingly. What this accomplishes is it brings all eight into the same light, as far as what could reasonably be expected, if they did in fact each throw the same number of passes. Again, not "threw as often". "How often" has nothing to do with the comparison, Nor should it. When you're comparing raw game stats, season stats, etc., "how often" is automatically included, because of all the aforementioned factors, such as expected snaps per game within the era, expected passes per game, OC tendencies, blah blah blah. We just eliminated all of that. THIS is as true of a comparative table as you're ever going to see (without involving era peers, which would be far too involved for something this trivial).


At this point, I'm merely taking those same extrapolated figures and converting them to a percentage to better illustrate how close these respective QBs are hitting to one another's statistics in the various categories shown. As you can see, I've eliminated attempts and completions, as everyone now shares a common number of attempts, which in turn renders the completion count the same as the completion percentage. In other words, if I still had completions up there, the figures would be identical to those in the % column. Predictably, everything is geared towards Drew Brees's "perfect" (high) figures, with the noted exception of a couple of rushing statistics, which are still owned by Manning. Basically, Brees owns cumulative numbers based on frequency. Manning owns his based on longevity. In this exercise, none of that truly matters anymore, because everyone is being brought up to those same "attempt" pars, be they by air or by land. Make sense? Interestingly, with the playoff loss to Seattle, Bobby Hebert has actually retaken the all-time franchise lead in overall winning percentage. It's a super slight edge, though (.6282 to .6277) which vanishes when you round off to the nearest thousandth place. As such, I designated both Brees and Hebert as 100s under winning percentage and everyone else a percentage based on theirs.


At this point, the quibbling stops and everything comes down to what YOU (as an individual) think is most important in ranking a QB. Not unlike eating a Reese's, there is no "wrong" way to go about it. Immediately above I've offered a few plausible suggestions. "ALL" is merely the nine weighted percentages from the prior table added together. "PASS" is just the passing statistics (first five). "PASS+W%" includes winning percentage, though I would suspect you could figure that much out on your own. "SUPER" is those three added together. So, basically an average composite of the three, in case you can't decide which of the three totals is most telling. I assume that no one is ranking quarterbacks STRICTLY on rushing statistics, so I didn't bother including that as an option.

You'll also notice that for the first time, I've reordered the QBs based on the "SUPER" (composite) ranking. Whether that's the one you personally subscribe to or not, it's fairly obvious (at least to me) who belongs one slot below Drew Brees in those rankings. The only method in which he does NOT rank second is "PASS+W%", presumably because you're completely eliminating one of his biggest advantages over the others (his running ability). Even under that combined category, he ranks an extremely close 3rd (to Hebert) while topping him by more percentage points under any other method covered. And without ever having a Top 5 defense to help his winning % along, I might add.

So, there you have it. I'll echo what Dog Breath said about ranking them. Do it however you damn well please. I honestly couldn't care less. Just don't for one minute think that you're going to convince me, or anyone else that refrains from wearing pillowcase hoodies, that ranking Brooks well above a guy whose raw passing numbers are statistically interchangeable with that of a converted 49ers RB is preposterous. You want to talk about overrated? Glance up at the #8 banner on the Superdome wall. You want to talk about underrated? Look at the WR3 castoff from Kansas City who's only in the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame BECAUSE of Aaron Brooks. And yet, he isn't in there with either of them. That, my Canal Street Comrades, is the epitome of preposterous.

This FanPost was written by a reader and member of Canal Street Chronicles. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CSC and its staff or editors.

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