Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees over the phone, and here it is for you now, in its entirety.
In the days leading up to the interview, I created and then reviewed my question list over and over again, changing the sequence of them to get it just right, so I felt pretty confident and ready to go, but then when I answered the phone and heard Drew Brees ask, "Hans, is that you? This is Drew Brees." My heart jumped into my throat, started beating faster than I'd ever felt it before, and I thought "Holy Crap!! I'm talking to Drew Breeeeeeees!!!! Breathe, Hans, breathe." (So, what Mike Tyson said is very true, in a sense, "everyone has a plan until I punch them in the mouth.") But I pulled myself together and rolled through the list of questions nonetheless.
So without further ado...
Canal Street Chronicles: How does the media coverage of your performance and the team impact you? Do you consume any of it or just avoid it?
Drew Brees: It's inevitable that you will hear or see or read some media coverage of the team and the season and that kind of thing, just because it's such a popular topic. And I would say that for the most part, everyone in New Orleans is pretty positive, even when you're struggling, everyone seems supportive and wants the team to do well. You don't ever get the feeling that they're rooting against you, so that's always a good thing. When times are good it seems there's extra pep in everyone's step and that's great. It's so wonderful to play for the fans in New Orleans because the Who Dat Nation is the best.
CSC: I write for Canal Street Chronicles, Have you heard of it?
DB: Uh, no I haven't.
CSC: What goes through your mind and how do you handle it mentally and physically when you're having a rough game and things aren't going quite right, like against Tampa Bay?
DB: You just keep plugging away. You just have to know that things aren't always going to go your way and you might catch some bad breaks. As a quarterback you have to have short-term memory. You have to block out some of the bad things or mishaps from previous plays and get ready for that next opportunity, because it might be the opportunity that allows you to win the game and overcome all the bad stuff that happened previously. Don't dwell on the past and let it impact the future, and just be ready to make that next game-winning play.
CSC: Speaking of Tampa Bay, what did Sean have you guys do in the locker room during that rain delay?
DB: We were in there for an hour, so we just tried to stay loose and hydrated. They let us chill for the most part so guys were just stretching on their own, or thinking about and studying the game plan. Everyone was just trying to keep his mind right. We were all just chomping at the bit to get out there, and the defense hadn't even had a chance to get on the field yet, while the offense had already had a drive. So a lot of it was just waiting. It's so unusual, and that was the first time I had ever experienced a lightning delay like that, really. It was uncharted territory for some of us, but the other team had to deal with the same thing, so it wasn't that bad.
CSC: The pass rush from Arizona was pretty fierce, how do you deal with something like that?
DB: Every team is going to have a different game plan for you and their game plan Sunday was to put a lot of pressure on me by bringing a lot of five and six-man rush combinations, and there's risk/reward with that. They're trying to get me to get the ball out quicker than I want to. But the risk with that is they're in one-on-one coverage with everyone outside, so if you're able to utilize the matchup and get the ball into one of your playmakers hands and he's able to break a tackle or make a big play, then you make them pay.
CSC: What's your sideline leadership style? What kinds of things do you do with your teammates to stay focused and try to get better during the course of a game? Do you ever get in someone's face and scream?
DB: I'm pretty calm, honestly. I just come to the sideline, look at the game pictures and try to get ideas to come to mind. Then I walk over to the receivers, the running backs, the offensive line and say, "Hey, this is what I saw. If we get this again, be ready to for me to check to this, or you could run the route this way or use the technique this way, and we can hit it." It's just about communication, and not so much "rah rah" and certainly not negative. I'm going to make a bad pass just like a guy's going to miss a block, or drop a pass. That stuff happens in the course of a game, and you just have to stay calm and know that we're going to be looking for our next opportunity. And with a lot of those guys, we've been together for so long that there's a lot of trust and a lot of confidence in each other. There's going to be an ebb and flow during the game, and changes of momentum, and we're always trying to be ready for those opportunities when we get them.
CSC: New Orleans has Mardi Gras and epic Halloween costuming/masking traditions, so it's not surprising that some Saints fans use the team's black and gold colors in creative and passionate ways to boldly support the Saints in costume. Can you tell me more about this Tide Color Captains Program you're involved with and how Saints fans can join in?
DB: Yeah. So I'm one of the 32 Tide Color Captains, and really the whole point of the campaign is for fans to be able to show their passion for their NFL team colors. On gameday one of the most exciting things for me is cruising down Poydras Street on the way to the stadium and seeing everybody wearing the Black and Gold, or their white jerseys with the black and gold numbers in the different variations that are out there. And if you really want those colors to remain as true as possible you should wash them in Tide. As people are doing social media and posting pictures of their passion for the Black and Gold on Instagram and Twitter and all that stuff, we have a hashtag, which is #ourcolors, to allow people to really show their colors.
CSC: Some of those Tide commercials are pretty funny - did you have any creative input on them?
DB: They do allow us some input, just to make them really authentic. They asked, "Hey is this stuff you'd really do?" and we'd say, "Yes," or "No, this is how we'd talk about that." And then we'd incorporate that into the commercial, so they're always very conscious of that, as are we. When we do those types of things as a family, we want it to be real and authentic.
CSC: How interested in football are your sons? Will you and Brittany let them play organized football, and if so, at what age?
DB: Yeah, absolutely let them play, but at the appropriate age, of course, for tackle football. And there are lots of ways you can engage in other sports or organized football at a younger age, too, like with flag football, soccer, baseball, whatever they're interested in. We won't make them play football or anything. Yesterday, about an hour or so after the game, we took them all down on the field after everyone cleared out and we ran around and played. They do seem to like it, especially our middle child, Bowen. He seems to be the most interested in football, but they both LOVE going to the games. Brittany tells me that when they pull up on Sundays the boys get so excited saying, "Oh, there's the Superdome! We're going to the game!"
We'll probably let them get into tackle around middle school, maybe. And you know, I didn't play tackle football until freshman year of high school. Before that, I played flag football in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, because at my school we didn't have enough guys for tackle football, which I thought was great because it helped me develop skills in the passing game since that's all you do is throw the football. I did a lot of different sports as a kid. I played soccer, tennis, baseball, and ran track, so I'm just going to see what they're interested in, and not push them to play football. I just want them to commit to something and have fun doing it. Football's a great challenge and a lot of fun and I think it's one of the greatest team sports you can play and you can learn a lot of life lessons from it. But we've got plenty of time to figure that out with them.
CSC: What are your thoughts on how the NFL is handling the issue of player safety through revised rules, penalties, and fines? Do you believe this will actually make the game safer?
DB: Yeah, it will. The rules are getting added in to protect defenseless players. So you look at how you can protect defenseless players. That's the quarterback in the pocket, and the receivers down the field, going up for the ball. And they're doing it with defensive players, too, removing the chop block and lineman getting pushed back against the grain. I think they're trying to do it within the rules and obviously, with the punishment that comes along with those rules, trying to protect guys and make the game safe in that regard.
CSC: When did you first realize that you had a legitimate shot at being an NFL quarterback, and how did you come to realize this?
DB: Probably at the start of my junior year of college. I remember I was fielding questions at a press conference, and someone asked, "Are you going to leave early from school?" I replied, "Well, leave early for what?" and he said, "Leave early for the NFL." I had never thought of that before, and asked, "So you think I really could play in the NFL?" And that's when it hit me that I could actually make a career out of it, much less even dream that I'd be here in my 13th season.
CSC: Alright, Drew. I really appreciated the chance to talk with you and good luck this week!
DB: Thank you, man. Bye.