This is shaping up as one of the most intriguing seasons — and off-seasons — in recent memory for the New Orleans Saints.
Largely because of what’s currently happening under center for the Black and Gold (4-1) as they prepare for Sunday’s road game at noon against the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) at TIAA Bank Field.
I say that after soaking in the sights and sounds Sunday afternoon at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as a sellout crowd of 73,000 paid homage to Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who threw for a season-high 314 passing yards and a career-tying four touchdown passes en route to a 34-27 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Chants of “TED-DY, TED-DY, TED-DY’‘ filled the stadium on multiple occasions, suggesting the beginning of a new, exciting love affair between Who Dat Nation and a quarterback not named Drew Brees.
Brees witnessed the love fest for himself, standing on the Saints sideline, out of uniform, with his surgically-repaired right thumb in a splint. A day earlier, he released a video of himself throwing a smaller-sized football with the caption, “Shhhhhhhhh ...,’‘ accompanied with a thumbs-up emoji and a wink emoji.
Wednesday will mark four weeks since a Los Angeles-based hand specialist repaired a ruptured ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb of Brees’ throwing hand. Brees is projected to miss between six-to-eight weeks, giving him an outside chance of playing Oct. 27 at home against Arizona but more likely Nov. 10 at home against Atlanta.
The Saints are now 3-0 with Bridgewater under center, 4-1 overall and leading the NFC South, and are squarely in the mix for NFC homefield advantage.
Saints coach Sean Payton couldn’t ask for a better situation. Bridgewater is doing his job, the defense has stepped up its game, and it appears there is no need to rush Brees back until he’s fully recovered and ready for the stretch run.
After all, this season is and always has been about winning Super Bowl LIV.
Make no mistake, there is no quarterback controversy. No matter how well Bridgewater plays or doesn’t play, the 2019 season still belongs to Brees provided he’s healthy.
The offseason, however, could be a different story altogether since both Brees and Bridgewater will become free agents in March.
How the situation plays out will depend largely on whether Brees wants to play a 20th season. He turns 41 on Jan. 15. Winning a second Lombardi Trophy might give him cause to retire.
It will get tricky if Brees wants to extend his career. Brees and Bridgewater each sees himself as a starter. Each wants starter’s money. Bridgewater, 26, is piecing together a good audition tape for teams that will be looking for a veteran starting quarterback in 2020, so one would expect him to test free agency.
The bottom line is both players can’t be paid upwards of $30 million annually, unless, of course, Brees takes a hometown discount and plays for relative peanuts.
And I don’t see that happening.
So something would have to give.
The good news is no decision has to be made by team officials or players until after the season. So my advice to Who Dat Nation is sit back, enjoy the ride and be prepared for whatever comes your way.
“TED-DY ... TED-DY ... TED-DY!’‘
Or, “DREW BREEEES!’‘
Looks like a winning hand either way.