Carpe Diem… and get off Drew Brees’ back

Any column that begins with, “I was listening to a post game show last Sunday…” isn’t going to go well, but that’s where I’m headed.

First, I love Saints fans. The passion of the Who Dat Nation is tough to beat.

Two people in two weeks — a Packers fan and a 49ers fan — have written the Times-Picayune to express their gratitude for a wonderful game day experience inside the Superdome.

That’s part of what makes New Orleans great.

We welcome visitors. We make friends with fans of other teams and are buying them beers by halftime. Win or lose, we’re hugging them by the end of the game. No doubt, Saints fans are a unique bunch.

However, within that persona of great fandom there are the people you seriously wonder about. They sit in front of you or behind you during a game. They know more than the coaches on the field. They second guess everything. They are the true Monday Morning Quarterback in real time during the game.

And that brings me to my point — get off Drew Brees’ back.

A caller to that postgame show last Sunday had seen enough. He said it was time to bench Drew Brees. He’s declining, the caller said.

The host asked who he’d like to see at quarterback. The caller said, “the backup quarterback.” He didn’t know Luke McCown’s name, but thought he should have his chance to get in the game and show what he could do. He was serious.

First problem — you don’t know the backup’s name!

I’m sure Sean Payton is anxious to bench a future Hall of Fame quarterback and hand the keys to his offense to Luke McCown, a guy who has thrown for 2,035 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 seasons. Nothing against McCown. By all accounts he’s a very capable backup quarterback and a good teammate.

But he’s not Drew Brees. He’s not an NFL starting quarterback.

If the Saints released Brees tomorrow, three quarters of the league would fight to sign him. Even 49ers fans, on that same postgame show, said they’d swap Colin Kaepernick for Brees.

I do not believe Brees is in any sort of major decline or in some free fall before our eyes. I do believe there are a lot of new parts on this year’s Saints team that are slowly coming together.

Has Brees pressed at times and made poor decisions? Absolutely. Has he contributed to a few losses this season? Absolutely.

He has the weight of the team on his shoulders. But where would the Saints be without Brees? They wouldn’t be 4-5. He is the glue that holds the franchise together. He IS the franchise.

Brees has thrown for 2,816 yards, good for fourth in the NFL. Only Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck are ahead of him. The Saints’ offense is third in the league overall and sixth in scoring offense at 27.9 points per game.

Brees is on pace for his fourth consecutive 5,000 yard season and is at the third-highest completion percentage of his career (68.4 percent).

The quarterback gets too much credit when things are going great and too much of the blame when things are going poorly. Turnovers come in bunches. Sometimes they come at awful times. Brees admits he has to play better, but he’s not the only one.

I’m 39 and Brees is obviously the best quarterback the Saints have employed in my lifetime. There will be rough times ahead in the post-Brees era.

Remember now. Enjoy now. Treasure now. Win or lose, a Hall-of-Famer is quarterbacking the franchise with which the Who Dat Nation lives and dies.

There is no one better to lead the Saints’ offense. There is no one better to lead the Saints. Drew Brees gives the Saints their best chance to win.

Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t thinking clearly.

Oh yeah, and the Saints will beat the Bengals because Drew Brees will bounce back. That’s what leaders and future Hall of Famers do.

Saints win, 30-24.

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