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Luke McCown Start Adds Intrigue To Saints Matchup At Carolina

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The younger McCown brother makes his first start as Saints starting QB this Sunday, and it may change the perception and complexity of the game itself, as well as factors beyond it.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Luke McCown will start at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints this Sunday.  That sentence alone causes many emotions to bubble to the surface, and let's just say Joy isn't one of them.  We are all well aware that the Saints were already facing the very real possibility of an 0-3 start with Drew Brees in the lineup.  Now with Brees out, to allow his bruised rotator cuff to heal, hope for victory this Sunday at Carolina seems almost inconceivable.

Still, even though defeat may appear inevitable this Sunday at Carolina, the McCown start actually carries some intrigue to the Saints' perceived walk to the gallows in Week 3.  The intrigue doesn't actually lay in the play of McCown himself, he should be passable at best, and downright atrocious at worst.  No, the intrigue lies firmly in the job Sean Payton will do on the Saints sideline.

There is very little to gain from looking at Luke McCown's previous career starts before his time in New Orleans.  The only semblance of what McCown could offer is best viewed by looking at his stats from this preseason, just a month ago.  McCown played in every game this preseason and his stat line was as follows:

Luke McCown - 24 of 35 for 323 yards, averaging 9.2 yards-per-pass with 3 TDs and 0 Ints

This was pretty good, but will not likely be indicative of his play this Sunday.  Whether a healthy McCown is more reliable than an ailing Brees will remain to be seen.  If McCown can just avoid turnovers and find a way to get the ball to playmakers like Brandin Cooks and C.J. Spiller, I will be satisfied.

The drama will not be provided by a win, a loss, or the play of a journeyman backup quarterback, it will be provided by a head coach in a tough spot.  We had the unfortunate experience of seeing Drew Brees, in a Saints uniform, without Sean Payton on the sideline for the first time in 2012, and unsurprisingly, it didn't go well for the Saints in the win/loss column.  Now, for the first time as Saints head coach, we will see Sean Payton without Drew Brees under center, in a regular season game, not counting the 2009 regular season finale in which seemingly every starter sat out.

How will Sean Payton motivate this team, as they are winless and without the team leader, who happens to be the best player on the team?  How can he get them to believe in their new QB as well as themselves?  How will he gameplan for a fierce division rival on the road, considering the questions just posed before?  I want to see how Payton will answer these questions this Sunday.

This is an important game for Sean Payton.  He stands as the NFL's highest paid head coach at $8 million per-year and his reputation, and future earning potential, simply can't afford to take the hit of being the head coach of a team that took a freefall to have one of the worst seasons in the NFL.  Sean Payton, as a 10-year head coach in New Orleans with a Super Bowl championship on his resume, can't find himself as the coach of a team in the midst of a "dumpster fire" season.

At $8 million a season, and with his reputation and pedigree, we need to see something this Sunday.  Some ingenuity, some spark, some flashes of a coach that has earned every milestone he has achieved.  Simply put, the best in their fields find ways to make things happen, no matter the obstacles or circumstances they face.  If the Saints are going to get obliterated repeatedly, they might as well do it with the likes of Aaron Kromer, or someone in that echelon, not a coach that many have considered to be among the best of the last decade.

Despite all that stands against the Saints this Sunday, there will still be quite a bit of intrigue.  Sean Payton may have more to accomplish in this game than most realize.  It is in a spot like this where we will all be able to see just what we have in Coach Payton since his exile of 2012.  For the first time in a while for the Saints, the outcome of the game may share the spotlight with how the team responded to their coach and how they executed the plan set before them.

Lets hope for the team's sake as well as our own, that we see the inspired, innovative, and gutsy Sean Payton that earned his contract and reputation.  Luke McCown will definitely be depending on it.