2019 was Michael Thomas’ last year on his rookie contract. Slated to make $1.148 Million, Thomas bet on himself and held out for a new contract. Shortly before the season started, the Saints rewarded him with a five year extension worth $100 Million, making him what was then the highest paid wide receiver ever.
Despite Drew Brees missing nearly six games and functioning as the Saints’ main offensive receiving target, Thomas dominated the entire season. He took on the toughest cornerback assignments while opposing teams game planned especially for him, which made sense since he was literally 30.4% of Brees’ pass attempts.
From game 1 to game 17, all Thomas did was earn every cent of his newly minted contract. In 180 targets over the course of this season, Thomas only had six drops. He caught 149 of those targets at a catch rate of 83%, higher than any other wide receiver.
He surpassed 100 yards receiving in 10 games this season, despite averaging slightly less than 12 yards per reception. Oh, and he also lead the league in yards per route run by all wide receivers (2.88 YPRR).
This illustrates just how consistent Thomas had to be and how many passes he had to catch per game in order to break the longtime season catch record that had stood since 2002. Finishing with 149 catches, he broke the record with a game to spare.
Thomas ranked first in targets, catches, and receiving yards (1725) while tying for third in touchdowns with nine. Thomas has now caught nine touchdown passes in three of his first four seasons, catching only five in 2017.
Overall, he has improved every year in nearly every statistical category. Each year since being drafted in 2016, Thomas has caught more receptions, for more yards, and for more first downs.
After breaking the previous record for most receptions (321) over his first three seasons, Thomas followed that up with perhaps the greatest season by any wide receiver ever. 149 catches. 1725 yards. 91 first downs. 83% catch rate. 90.4 PFF rating. It’s hard to find any blemish on Thomas’ stellar season.
Ok. Maybe there’s one, but there’s no way to even prove it.
After the Saints’ playoff loss to the Vikings, Brees told reporters, “The fumble was really frustrating because there was a miscommunication as to what we were doing and the ball should’ve been out of my hands and all of a sudden that wasn’t the route that was run and so now I’m just trying to throw the ball into the dirt to avoid a sack, right?”
“And right as my hand’s going back, he just kind of gets a piece of my arm and that ball comes out. So, I’m really disappointed in that. That never should have happened.”
Personally, I thought it was a very uncharacteristic lapse in leadership from an NFL quarterback who’s supposed to take 100% of the blame and deflect 100% of the praise. Defensive end Danielle Hunter barely touched his arm, yet his hand momentarily lost its grip and the Saints lost possession.
No matter who ran a wrong route, the quarterback needs to protect the ball and not ran around with the ball outstretched from their body with defenders in pursuit; especially a quarterback with a compromised ulnar collateral ligament, which controls grip and pinching force of the thumb.
Thomas was on the side of the field Brees’ eyes were reading before he stumbled backwards and fumbled. But Ted Ginn Jr. was is the vicinity as well, and could as easily, and more likely, have been the culprit.
Unless another teammate wants to throw someone under the bus by name, we’ll probably never know who ran the wrong route in the playoff loss, but it doesn’t really matter because the Saints shouldn’t have taken so long to get back into the game in the first place.
Even if this mistake was Thomas’ to own, it’s a simple fact the Saints wouldn’t have even made the playoffs without him. He produced an all time great season despite his starting quarterback missing a large chunk of the season.
At home and on the road, Thomas played with poise and consistency while making a $100 million contract look like a good deal. He was so good, he made the strongest case for a wide receiver as league MVP in almost two decades. Thomas owned 2019 and no matter how hard opposing teams tried, they still #Cantguardmike.