Who’s got it & Who needs it
It’s troubling. It’s not what we expected. But too many are betraying the cool factor that is the birthright of New Orleanians. Put simply, Saints fans, you’re being very un-Dude.
There’s been a lot of sniping from the Black & Gold Nation this week about our beloved team’s expectations for the season following quarterback Drew Brees’ thumb injury and subsequent surgery that will keep the field general on the sidelines for six to eight weeks.
Many are talking and acting as if the season is over. After the way the past two seasons have ended, it’s easy to understand the frustration. It may be a generational issue, but y’all seem to have forgotten the one thing this franchise and its supporters have held on to for the majority of the history of this club – FAITH.
Yes, the team will be without the services of the greatest Saint to ever wear the uniform, but he’ll be back in enough time to salvage the season. That’s not to say that Brees, or Breesus, as he’s affectionately known, will have to be a messiah figure. He just needs to get healthy and resume his role when he’s healthy.
In the meantime, the team will depend on Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill to guide the team until Brees can return. But neither QB has to move heaven and earth to keep this team in the thick of playoff race.
Head coach Sean Payton has been coy about his plans for the interim. He’s not named a starting quarterback for the team’s Week 3 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
“We’ll approach this game with two quarterbacks, and we’ll see where we’re at with it,” Payton said. “But we’ll have the right plan relative to what those guys are doing.”
That’s right, keep ‘em guessing, coach. Make them expend energy trying to game plan for both. It’s a smart move. There’s not a lot of game film on either of these guys. What is available, for the most part, is preseason footage of them playing with and against second and third string opposition. It’s not a true view of their ability to work with the first team’s talent.
That being said, a lot of noise out of New Orleans this week has centered on Bridgewater’s readiness to lead this team. A lot of the cacophony is pessimistic and, in the opinion of this sports writer, misguided. Detractors will point to Bridgewater’s performance in the last game of the 2018 season and his play after Brees left the game in the first quarter in Sunday’s 27-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
I may be an eternal optimist and even an apologist for this team, but Saints fans need to take a deep breath and look at the big picture. Most self-described football fans knows the backup quarterbacks do not get much time practicing with the first string. They also know the speed of a game is much faster than anything that happens on the practice field. Understanding that, Bridgewater deserves to be cut some slack. Last season, his only significant play came in Week 17. That means his teammates and his opponents had 16 weeks of experience of playing at lightning-quick game speed when he was thrown into the mix. The same can be said this season. Brees took the majority of snaps with the first team in preseason, practices, and the first game.
Bridgewater simply needs time to get up to game speed. Saints executives and coaches obviously believe in him – they made him the highest-paid backup QB in the NFL this offseason for a reason.
That being said, what expectations should fans have? Honestly, with the brutal schedule the Saints have this year, if the team can win half of their games while Brees is out, they will be in the playoff hunt when he returns. Sure it would be nice to think that there would be no drop off, that the Saints can steamroll their opponents like they did last year, but that’s not necessarily needed to qualify for postseason play. Some may say that puts a lot on Brees – to save the season – when he comes back. Well, he is one of the best to ever play the game. He, likely, has those same expectations for himself.
Again, faith. The season isn’t over, Saints fans. Believe in this team. There’s a long way to geaux.
Stand Up & Roar
Speaking of faith, how about those Tigers. After years of putting an anemic offense on the field, all of the talk out of Baton Rouge seems to be about LSU’s offense and the play of quarterback Joe Burrow. He’s thrown for 1,122 yards, with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions, and has a QB rating of 92.0. His play is a major reason for the team’s undefeated season thus far and has gotten him mentioned in Heisman Trophy conversation. The Tiger offense has been fun to watch. The coming battle with Alabama will again be must see. This time, however, it looks like LSU will have a bit more punch in its arsenal.
Tulane has some of the most loyal fans in all of sports, and this morning they’re walking on air. The Green Wave overcame a 21-point deficit at halftime to defeat the rival Houston Cougars Uptown last night. As the game appeared to be headed to over time, Tulane’s offense lined up in the victory formation, apparently content to kneel the ball and play past regulation. Instead, quarterback Justin McMillan faked the kneel, and handed the ball to Amare Jones, who went around the left side of the line for an 18-yard gain to their own 47-yard line. With 12 seconds left and one timeout remaining, the Green Wave ran a play with receivers running routes over the middle. It looked as if they would try to make a gain to put them in field goal range, stop the clock, and attempt a game-winning kick. But when McMillian’s pass landed in receiver Jalen McCleskey’s hands, two Houston defensive backs ran into each other, springing McCleskey loose to run into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Tulane’s improbable 38-31 come-from-behind victory, on national TV via ESPN – is the type of win that can define a season and a program. The win gave the Wave its first 3-1 start since 2003 – the lone defeat came against SEC power No. 9 Auburn on Sept. 7. Highlights of the play will surely be broadcast all season, and likely well after. That should raise the Wave’s profile and, hopefully, continue their rise under head coach Willie Fritz.