Today there are two notable absences at the first offseason workout for the New Orleans Saints today: Sean Payton and Drew Brees. It had been announced last week that Saints assistant head coach and linebackers coach Joe Vitt would step into the offseason head coaching role in Payton’s absence. There was more unfortunate news that came to light recently that Brees and the Saints management had been unable to come to terms with Brees new contract, translating into no offseason training for Brees until the contract has been finalized.
The decision to name Vitt the interim head coach for the duration of Payton’s season long suspension (due to the recent bounty scandal) did not strike anyone as a surprise. The Saints management is trying to make this unfamiliar territory of a season as familiar as possible as Vitt had already filled Payton’s shoes best he could during the 2011 season. Payton suffered a broken knee, a broken tibia and a torn MCL, benching him for a good three weeks, much less time, however, than a lesser man might have stood to not stand on the sidelines. During this time Vitt stepped up and acted as the interim head coach until Payton could once again join him on the sideline. This previous “tryout”, as well as the past six years Vitt has spent with the program, led general manager Mickey Loomis to speak up about the Saints decision and he did so with great confidence: “We [the Saints] are fortunate to have a great veteran coaching staff well equipped to handle this challenge. Joe [Vitt] and Sean [Payton] have worked closely together to build our program, one of the most successful in the NFL in the past six years, and I have the fullest confidence that Joe will continue that success that Sean has brought us.”
Also emphasizing the confidence and support of the Saints’ decision to move Vitt up in the ranks during Payton’s absence, Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, said, “This is about our program, and the continued success of our program,” but there is another name that comes to mind when talking about the success of the Saints. Drew Brees. Brees, however, even in the midst of all the inner turmoil currently endured by the Saints franchise, has been unable to come to terms with a new contract with the team, during a time when his team needs its leadership most. It is unclear why the Saints management is prolonging this process and holding out on one of their franchise players. Do they feel that his presence on the field is not worth the increased pay or longer terms?
Strictly speaking, on the level of their own franchise, Brees holds 23 New Orleans Saints Franchise records, one of those records also managing to be listed as #2 in the NFL all-time records: most consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass. His number? Make that 43 games with at least one touchdown pass since 2009. But maybe being an all-star in the franchise isn’t enough… maybe they need more.
Hard to believe since in this past season alone Brees has tied or surpassed nearly 45 NFL records ranging from being the single season passing leader of 2011 with 5, 476 yards to most 300+ yard passing games in a season with 13. These records also include stats throughout his career including notables such as the most games with 5+ touchdown passes and no interception – tallying five there – and the most passing yards per game over the course of his career, averaging out to 263.7 yards/game. Yes, to reiterate, those are NFL records, not just franchise records.
Looking at the cold hard facts alone, it is easy to see why New Orleans hit Brees with the franchise tag, but it is not as clear as to why a long-term contract has not yet been decided on. While the practice field remains empty as the team focuses on its overall strength and conditioning for the offseason, there is still the question hanging in the air, causing even more unnecessary tension in the Super Dome, as to when their quarterback, their franchise player, their leader, will join them both on and off the field.
About the Author
Written by Heather Ireland
Having worked in Div. I operations for both football and men's basketball, my love of sports is not isolated to that of NCAA competition. An avid sports fan and competitor, I follow the NFL and NCAA basketball closely, and embrace the opportunity to combine my loves of sports and writing into one.