Brian Allee-Walsh

Saints fans are introduced to what a future looks like without Drew Brees

We’re about to get a glimpse into the future and see what the New Orleans Saints might look like without future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center.

News surfaced Monday that Brees will need surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament in his right throwing hand suffered midway through the first quarter of Sunday’s 27-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Memorial Coliseum.

Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finished the game in Brees’ absence and likely will remain the starter for the foreseeable future, beginning Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field (3:25 p.m., CBS) and most likely against the Dallas Cowboys in a nationally-televised game Sept. 29 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (7:20 p.m., NBC).

Versatile No. 3 quarterback Taysom Hill is a viable option should the offense misfire under Bridgewater, but Hill’s immediate value might be at wide receiver where Tre’Quan Smith (ankle) and Keith Kirkland (hamstring) are dealing with injuries.

Depending on the doctor and the type of surgical procedure, Brees is expected to be sidelined a minimum of six weeks and possibly beyond their bye in Week 9 (Nov. 3). Based on that timetable, his earliest return would come at home against Atlanta (Nov. 10) or the following week at Tampa Bay (Nov. 17).

Brees remained in Los Angeles on Monday to meet with a hand specialist and help him determine the best course of action while the team flew on to Seattle where Coach Sean Payton will conduct practice this week at the University of Washington.

Look for Brees to act quickly and begin the recovery process ASAP.

Until Brees’ return in early-to-mid November, the Saints (1-1) must find a way to remain relevant in the NFC and keep Atlanta (1-1), Tampa Bay (1-1) and Carolina (0-2) at bay in the NFC South.

Winning the division still seems doable. Winning home-field advantage in the NFC is an altogether different story.

It won’t be a case of next man up, though all eyes will be on Bridgewater, who spurned advances from the Miami Dolphins in free agency to remain with the Saints this season. Payton reportedly convinced Bridgewater to re-up in New Orleans where he signed a one-year, $7.25 million contract making him the highest paid backup in the NFL.

Rather it will take a total team effort for the Saints to remain a viable force in the NFC and ultimately contend for Super Bowl LIV.

Suffice to say Who Dat Nation is in mourning, knowing they will be without their beloved hero and fearless leader for a couple of months, perhaps longer.

Brees’ injury also has thrown the NFC playoff picture into a state of flux. According to BetOnLine.ag, the Saints went from NFC odds-on-favorites at 8-to-1 to win Super Bowl LIV to 20-1, behind the Rams (7-1), Dallas (12-1), Green Bay (12-1), Chicago (16-1) and Philadelphia (16-1) and tied with Seattle, San Francisco and Minnesota.

Despite the potential season-altering events of Sunday afternoon in LA, I still wouldn’t bet against the Saints.

But I liked their chances a whole lot better with a healthy No. 9 under center.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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