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Ryan Griffin: The Future at Quarterback for the Saints?

On Tuesday, the New Orleans Saints will trim their roster down to 75 players. However, on August 31 they'll make their final cuts, which will likely include either veteran quarterback Luke McCown or second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin. Should Griffin remain on the team, will he be cementing himself as the quarterback of the future for the Saints?

Could "RG4" be headed for a long Saints career?
Could "RG4" be headed for a long Saints career?
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off their third preseason win against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night, the New Orleans Saints are now on the verge of of cutting down their roster to 75 players. While it will be interesting to see what players get cut tomorrow, I'm already looking ahead at the second and final cuts on August 31, when the Saints will have to decide who they want as their backup quarterback for the 2014 season. The saying in football is: "the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on the team." Well, not in New Orleans. In fact, here the backup might be the guy the coaching staff and the fans least want to see on the field during the regular season, unless he is holding the ball on "point after touchdown" tries.

That said backup quarterback is a position which importance cannot be understated. Although Drew Brees hasn't missed a single regular season game due to an injury in his New Orleans tenure, it should be slightly alarming that he had to miss two preseason games with an oblique strain. Brees is not getting any younger and should he get hurt during the upcoming regular season, the Saints might have to rely on either 10-year veteran Luke McCown out of Louisiana Tech, or former Tulane star, second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin.

For all of you who just spit your coffee or choked on your gumbo, I apologize. I too shuddered at the thought of Brees not being under center for the Saints for any length of time, but a backup quarterback is very much like car insurance: we pay a lot for it, sometimes we wonder why we even need it, since we never really use it. Then out of the blue, some drunken Falcons fan rear-ends our car and of course, he doesn't have any insurance of his own. And that's when we need our good neighbor Ryan, or maybe Luke?

With Brees sidelined for the first two preseason games, McCown and Griffin had the floor all to themselves to stake their claim to the backup quarterback job. Through three games this is what their stats look like:

***

Passing

R.Griffin

Date

Opponent

Att

Cmp

Yds

Cmp%

Yds/Att

TD

TD%

INT

INT%

LG

Sack/Lost

Rating

8/8

@ St. Louis

23

16

179

69.6

7.78

1

4.3

0

0.0

46

0/0

107.0

8/15

Tennessee

19

13

179

68.4

9.42

2

10.5

0

0.0

52

1/3

133.4

8/23

@ Indianapolis

13

8

46

61.5

3.54

0

0.0

1

7.7

15

2/14

36.1

TOTALS

55

37

404

67.3

7.35

3

5.5

1

1.8

52

3/17

99.4

***

Passing

L.McCown

Date

Opponent

Att

Cmp

Yds

Cmp%

Yds/Att

TD

TD%

INT

INT%

LG

Sack/Lost

Rating

8/8

@ St. Louis

10

7

49

70.0

4.90

0

0.0

1

10.0

14

0/0

41.2

8/15

Tennessee

20

12

117

60.0

5.85

2

10.0

0

0.0

19t

0/0

109.8

8/23

@ Indianapolis

10

3

45

30.0

4.50

0

0.0

0

0.0

17

1/9

45.8

TOTALS

40

22

211

55.0

5.28

2

5.0

1

2.5

19t

1/9

76.1

***

If we just look at the cold hard numbers, Griffin has McCown beat by a nose, with both quarterbacks having their best performance against the defensively-challenged Tennessee Titans in week two of the preseason.

Roster spots on an NFL team are at a premium and it is likely that the Saints won't keep three quarterbacks when the final cuts are announced in a little less than a week. What will make the decision between the two backups especially tough for New Orleans is the fact that McCown's experience is always a valuable asset, while Griffin has the potential to become the quarterback of the future for the Saints with his youth and upside.

Which way should the Saints go? I personally struggle with my choice, which I will divulge a little later in this piece. Luke McCown will obviously never be more than a stop-gap if the Saints ever had to give him the ball with Brees sidelined. However, I've found myself feeling strangely confident when he's on the field. Much more confident than when Ryan Griffin has been the signal-caller, but that may be influenced by the fresh memories of Griffin's dreadful outing on Saturday night against the Colts.

Griffin is 24 years old, 6'5" and has a pretty good arm. Conventional wisdom would be that without Brees the Saints aren't going very far anyway, so they might want to give Griffin a chance, if called upon, to gain more experience in games that truly count. The team could then find out whether the Tulane product is truly Drew Brees' heir apparent, the one that would be tasked with keeping the Saints among the elite after Brees retires.

***

My opinion is two-fold:

1) I think the Saints should keep "Ryan McCown" as the backup. Yep, you read it well, Ryan McCown. A mix of experience, height, gunslinging abilities, Louisiana ties and maybe, just maybe a future as the next quarterback for the Saints under Sean Payton.

2) In a more serious and realistic (albeit less fun) scenario, if without Brees the Saints are going nowhere anyway, Ryan Griffin should probably get the nod. However, with Brees likely playing for another four to five years (or until he is 45 years old if you ask him) it is my belief that his true heir simply isn't on this Saints roster yet.

What say you Who Dat Nation?