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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Despite rumors that the Saints will replace Drew Brees, the QB is good as ever

Posted By on Tue, Dec 2, 2014 at 4:50 PM

Saints preparing for Life After Brees? Nah. - TULANE UNIVERSITY PUBLIC RELATIONS
  • Saints preparing for Life After Brees? Nah.

Before Drew Brees threw five touchdowns and no interceptions to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh and, once again, seemingly reverse the 2014 New Orleans Saints' fortunes, the big news was Brees was done, over, about to be replaced.'s Ian Rapoport made the headlines: There's no real reason to lend Rapoport's report any credence. The overwhelming majority of Sunday morning quick-take sources stuff turns out to be nothing, the fringiest conversation with a reporter's player or coach acquaintance made into mainstream news, because how else would the long pregame hours be filled?

The idea the Saints will soon replace Brees is lunacy, but the idea that Brees has struggled in 2014 to a degree he's never struggled before, and that this indicates he's declining, seems to have more traction.

But that idea is stupid too.

Take a look at this terrible interception, thrown by Brees with a game still just barely within reach, resulting in a touchdown and ending any chance the Saints had.

Do you remember when this interception happened? It happened in 2011, during what was arguably the greatest season of Brees' career.

How about this one:

Drew Brees has never done something more stupid, awkward, and embarrassing on the football field than this. This interception is the most boneheadedly stupid thing he's ever done. This play is the apotheosis of bad decision-making.

It happened in 2010, four years ago, months after winning a Super Bowl and just before shattering records in 2011.

These are just two of the 19 pick-sixes Brees has thrown since 2006. In addition, Brees threw fourth quarter interceptions with the score tied in both 2007 and 2008, turning the ball over just as surely as he did when Ahmad Brooks forced him to fumble in overtime during the game against the San Francisco 49ers a few weeks ago.

Here's a different critical situation: When trailing by three in the fourth quarter, Brees has thrown six interceptions. He did it once in 2006, and the Saints lost to Washington. He did it twice in 2008, and the Saints lost to Tampa Bay and Minnesota. He did it twice in 2010. He did it once in 2013. 

It's not new.

None of this is to say Drew Brees has not been a great quarterback. In fact, I mean quite the opposite: Not only has Drew Brees been great, he's also still great. But along with his greatness comes mistakes. Turnovers. Ill-timed giveaways. This is who Drew Brees is in 2014, and it's who Drew Brees was in 2011, in 2008, in 2006. 

Those mistakes might even be part of what makes Brees great. You don't get spectacular moments and incredible comebacks, for example, without taking huge risks. Here's Benjamin Morris of Five Thirty Eight on the strange fact that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has one of the worst records in close games, and in comeback situations, of any quarterback:

It’s when the quarterbacks’ teams are down 9 or more points in the second half that you really see the difference. Peyton Manning throws interceptions on 15.6 percent of his drives, compared to Rodgers’ 8.1 percent. And for that, Manning is punished … by winning 28.6 percent of these games. Rodgers, meanwhile, wins 0 percent. That’s right, Rodgers has zero comebacks of 9 or more points in the second half. Ever.

Judging any QB in relation to Peyton Manning is setting him up for failure. But the starkness of the difference is pretty amazing. Rodgers has zero wins in 21 games while Manning has 14 wins in 49 games, with Manning throwing interceptions nearly twice as often. If you need one stat to demonstrate the gunslinger hypothesis (i.e. that you can throw too few interceptions as well as too many), that would probably be it.
Basically, one reason Aaron Rodgers seems so efficient is how careful he is with the football. (This caution is why Rodgers takes so many more sacks than most of his peers.) But the fact Rodgers is so careful actually works against him in clutch situations. Rodgers may not ever really fail, but as a result in some situations he never succeeds, either.

Next time someone reports that Drew Brees is struggling disproportionately in 2014, or that his mistakes in 2014 are out of character, remember it's just not so. And remember that even Brees' flaws are part of what make him great.

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