Thinking The Unthinkable In New Orleans
The undefeated New Orleans Saints have a lot to feel good about after improving their record to 4-0 and increasing their NFC South division lead to a commanding three games. The defense has improved drastically from their abysmal and flat out embarrassing levels from last year and the offense is electrifying and near unstoppable. Unfortunately, one monstrous nightmare is in the back of the minds of the entire “Who Dat” nation - what if quarterback and emotional leader of the team, Drew Brees, were to become injured?
Brees has proven to be a stalwart at the quarterback position since joining the Saints in 2006. He has started every game with the exception of the final game of the 2009 season when the Saints had their division well in hand and had clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Currently, Brees holds the third longest streak of consecutive games started by a quarterback with 52. He trails only Tom Brady’s current streak of 67 and Matt Ryan, who has started 54 straight. In addition, Brees had a 79 game streak from 2005 to 2009.
Brees has some impressive superlatives that include leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns the past two seasons, eclipsing the 5,000 yard mark and surpassing the 40 touchdown milestone in back to back years. In addition, he has had the fortune of great protection from his offensive line. As a result, Brees has been sacked less than twice per game, which is a key factor in maintaining his health.
Given all that, Saints fans are used to seeing Brees on the field and the average Saints fan may have difficulty listing the team’s backups since Brees' arrival. So who is this year’s mystery man that stands to fill the shoes of one of the most prolific quarterbacks in football? The answer is 10-year journeyman Luke McCown. He has started nine games and appeared in 22 games during his career, split amongst the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns.
McCown was awarded the role as backup after only two preseason games. Veteran QB Seneca Wallace was brought in to create competition with McCown, but suffered a groin injury early in camp, causing him to miss a large chunk of practice along with the team’s preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. That left the door open for McCown to take most of the reps, and he took advantage of his extra playing time. Wallace, on the other hand, had a dreadful game against the Oakland Raiders in his only start. That sealed his fate and ended his tenure with the Saints, who cut him on August 19.
McCown may have had a leg up on Wallace all along due to the fact that he was in Saints training camp last year and therefore had a familiarity with the offense. He was beaten out last year by Chase Daniel and signed with Atlanta to back up Ryan. After Daniel signed a contract with Kansas City this past offseason, McCown returned to Saints camp and used his experience with the team to shine in the preseason.
Should McCown prove to be unfit for the role if Brees does go down, the ball will be in the hands of undrafted free agent QB Ryan Griffin. Griffin performed nicely in his preseason start against the Miami Dolphins but with rookie quarterbacks, there is always uncertainty.
Saints fans can do nothing but sit back and watch as Brees piles up yardage with his aerial assault on opposing defenses and hope that he stays healthy while the team keeps marching towards a return to glory atop the NFC South.