I am putting Brees last because if he’s first you are gonna read that first and then leave, so he’s last (but first in our hearts). The Quarterbacks are all being graded based on my expectations for them as well as their role on the team. As I will try to do with each position group going forward I will also include my opinion on whether they should be brought back and how I think they will perform next year. Let’s get started.
Luke McCown: B+
The one and only reason that McCown isn’t getting an A here is that one of the duties of a backup is to stay healthy and be ready. He got hurt, and put on IR while only playing in 1 game. For that reason alone he isn’t getting an A from me, but his 1 game of play was certainly an A performance. McCown has been a valuable backup to Drew Brees in his time in New Orleans and is clearly someone that both Brees and Payton trust. He put on an almost perfect performance against the Panthers (2 plays I would take back), and nearly beat them in Carolina. The backup QB is really one of those positions nobody cares about…until they are needed (just ask Dallas) and so while McCown has NEVER been a B+ ‘player’ he is a more than solid back up for the Saints. I however am not sure I would bring him back next year. The combination of his age as well as the next two guys on this list should certainly put Luke on the ‘hot seat’ in regards to his job.
Matt Flynn: C
A C for a player who never played a snap? yup. Remember that these grades are based not only on expectation, but also performance. A C is an average grade. you did enough to pass, but were neither horrible nor particularly good. I wouldn’t be against the Saints bring Flynn back as the backup next year if Grayson is totally unable to develop either. His grade is influenced by that as well. Flynn has proven himself to be a quality backup QB throughout his NFL career and the fact that he is younger than McCown definitely puts points in his favor. I think it will likely be between him and Grayson for who is the backup, and that means his job is really in the hands of the 2nd year player out of Colorado.
Grayson’s grade is left blank intentionally this was basically the Saints typical ‘red shirt’ season except they wanted him practicing to help him develop. Grayson’s grade will almost entirely be determined by his performance next off-season and into the preseason. He MUST become the backup to Brees, and I think he has the ability. I did see some flashes from Grayson that I liked, but the bottom line is he must be able to process information faster and make both the right reads and the right plays. Time will tell with the Saints young (potential) signal caller.
Drew Brees: A
There is no other grade possible for Drew Brees. He led the league in passing (again), was near the top in completion % (as usual) had over 30 TD’s (again), did ALL of that playing only 15 games. Brees went through the early parts of the season where his best weapon was both neutralized and not in sync with him (that part is on both of them), yet still found ways to be successful. He turned Willie Snead into a near 1k yard receiver in his FIRST season as a roster player in the NFL. But perhaps the accomplishment most indicative of how incredible Brees is was the way he showed his toughness, mental and otherwise. Some (including him) have called him ‘obnoxiously optimistic’, but for someone as psychotically competitive as he is to weather back to back losing seasons and stay positive is impressive. What’s even more impressive is that Brees had all of his usual statistical dominance while having suffered a torn rotator cuff (not really, but sometimes people without sources try to make a splash), and torn plantar facia. Either of these injuries would derail and debilitate the majority of QB’s in the league, but Brees not only weathered them but seemed to excel through them.
When Brees was pressured, which was way too often, he showed his usual athleticism and pocket awareness to manipulate the pocket and pull out miracle play after miracle, but this year he avoided the back breaking ‘doing too much’ picks that were so common last year. It is incredibly difficult to decide whether his mental or physical toughness was more impressive, but regardless BOTH were on full display all season. By practically any reasonable measure he had one of his best years as a Saint while breaking in a new group of wide outs, a 22-year old kid who is suddenly THE GUY, and a TE who was playing during the the time of the dinosaurs. Impressive? YES! period.
Brees will likely have at least one, and maybe 2 more REALLY good years in him. What the Saints must do is improve the guard position and ensure that Brees is kept upright FAR more next year than he was in the past two seasons. As he ages his drive and preparation may allow him to stay elite, but his body will breakdown faster than it used to. That is the reality of an aging QB. I firmly believe that Brees will remain among the very best the game has to offer for at least one more year, and that means the Saints are SET at QB for the 2016 season. However, being honest I have no idea what to expect beyond that. Brees has an incredibly rare combination of talent, heart, will, and dedication to perfecting his craft so I will never bet against him….but father time is unbeaten and the question sadly is when, not if.
Cherish him while you have him Saints fans, because there will NEVER be another like him.