Is Drew Brees In Decline?
If I ever have to read or hear this phrase again, it'll be too soon. I'm pretty much convinced that Drew Brees' tombstone will read:
DREW BREES - Loving Husband, Devoted Father, Beloved Athlete, In Decline Since 2010.
Let's definitively answer this question. Is Drew Brees in decline? Unequivocally, YES. Have you seen his hairline? That alone has been in decline for years. Look, by the time we graduate high school, we're all physically in decline. Drew Brees, just like every player in the NFL, is just a man waging a long arduous battle with age, time, and his own body. This is a battle in which he's performed admirably, but it's one no man can win. Despite this, it seems we've reached our annual "Brees Decline Week" early this season, but at the risk of sounding like a "pearl-clutching apologist" let's not take Drew Brees out to the shed just yet.
Here's a short list of things Drew Brees does:
-Wins championships (of both the "Division" and "World" variety)
-Shatters records (of both the "Franchise" and "League" variety)
-Eats Beefy Mac™
-Throws rage inducing, soul crushing, interceptions
We all knew this right? This isn't news by now, is it? This man has always, and will always, throw interceptions. It's in his DNA and despite how much anyone, including Drew himself protests, it will never change. Sean Payton can tell him to take sacks instead of forcing an errant pass, but when the chips are down and the game is in motion, Brees is gonna Brees. At 35 years old and 14 years in the league, Drew Brees is what he is, and that really isn't going to change. The man is a record breaking, baby making, Jimmy John promoting, pick six throwing, son of a gun.
To 3/4ths of the NFL's fan bases, Who Dat Nation bemoaning Drew Brees is akin to someone complaining about having too much money, and how it takes up too much space in their wallet, home, Scrooge McDuck-esque vault, etc. We need to objectively look at what most everyone else gets to endure every week to see what we could have. Ryan Tannehill anyone? Andy Dalton anyone? Geno Smith anyone? Yeah, I didn't think so. You never screw something up at work? Do your screw ups pale in comparison to your accomplishments at a laughably alarming scale? Yeah, well, that's Drew Brees. Let's all calm down here. From my perspective, it's not the fact that Brees is throwing these interceptions regularly, it's the immediate aftermath that's so worrisome.
Now that we've established that Drew Brees has a fundamental problem that cannot be corrected, no, not his height, or his hairline, smart alec, I'm referring to the interception dilemma. We need to look at the residual issue that stems from these interceptions, the fact that many of them are being returned for touchdowns. Over the last decade, has there been an offense less prepared to defend an interception return than the Payton/Brees Saints? I am neither stunned or outraged when Brees throws a terrible pick, but what does drive me into a blind rage is when every single player on offense is caught completely flat-footed while any defender regardless of speed or size effortlessly makes their way into the end zone.
According to data compiled at footballperspective.com, Drew Brees ranks second among currently active quarterbacks in career pick sixes thrown (behind Peyton Manning, and followed closely by Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning). Of his 6 interceptions thrown in 5 games this season, 2 of them have been returned for touchdowns. Considering the alarming regression of the defense this season, the Saints can ill afford to give away points and possessions like this. It would be foolish though to think that the interceptions will just stop.
It's not the interceptions that are the most alarming thing, it's the fact that they are being returned for touchdowns so frequently, so effortlessly, that is so unnerving. That is not just a Drew Brees problem, that is an entire offense problem, that is a coaching problem, that is an effort problem. Far too often that Saints appear to be unprepared to adjust to the new circumstance once the turnover is committed. This needs to be addressed by the coaching staff and implemented in practice and game planning. It's Brees, it's going to happen, be prepared.
I am certain this is why, as Saints fans, we have such a false sense of hope in the Saints defense creating turnovers in training camp. They are returning these picks for touchdowns against their own offense because the Saints offense is clearly incapable of transitioning from initiator to defender in the moment of play. Should they be expert at this? Of course not, but this team needs to be much better at making adjustments on the fly. In case of emergency, there needs to be a contingency plan, and on offense during a football game, there is no greater emergency than committing a turnover.
Whether you live on the fault line or in the path of the storm, you have to be ready for the worst. For Brees and the Saints, his untimely interceptions are the worst, and much like a disaster they are often inevitable. Drew Brees will give you 35 TD's and 5,000 yards but with that you also have to take 15 INT's, it's how the Saints offense adjusts and reacts to the moment of those interceptions that can make or break a game or possibly a season for the Saints.