Saints suffered enough QB woes waiting for Brees

The call happened on a Monday afternoon after a Saints’ win over the Cleveland Browns.

“Drew Brees almost cost us the game,” said the caller, who professes to be a football expert. “I am not sure he has it anymore.”

Six days later, Brees accounted for all five Saints touchdowns and broke Brett Favre’s record for pass completions in a career.

Only with his greatness were the Saints able to make a loser out of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw five TD passes in a 43-37 overtime loss.

Brees turns 40 in January, and Saints fans can only hope he continues to defy the football version of father time. Those Saints fans who aren’t old enough to remember the mid- to late-’90s probably don’t appreciate No. 9 as much as they should.

After the departure of Bobby Hebert in free agency to the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints went through a quarterback drought that was comical. 

In 1993, the Saints signed Wade Wilson to replace Hebert. Wilson was a great athlete, with a cannon for an arm, but accuracy was not his strong suit. That year he completed 57 percent of his passes, with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. 

Wilson’s most accurate toss of the year may have been at Saints training camp in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Saints were practicing on the field near a road that ran alongside campus. Wilson overthrew his receiver so badly, the ball landed in the back of a moving pickup truck.

One year later, Wilson was injured in a game at the Superdome, and the fans cheered. As I walked into the Saints locker room, a newspaper reporter, who just left Jim Mora’s office, warned me.

“Make sure your cameras are rolling,” said the reporter, “because Mora is about to go off.”

Mora said he was disgusted because some fans were standing and cheering after Wilson suffered a knee injury. “Those are some sick, sick, sick people.”

Jim Everett followed Wilson and was unable to produce winning football.

In 1997, Mike Ditka was hired to coach the New Orleans Saints, and it was then that the quarterback carousel really began to spin. In three seasons, Ditka employed seven different starting quarterbacks.

In 1997, Heath Shuler threw two touchdown passes, with four interceptions. He completed 52.2 percent of his throws.

One year later, Billy Joe Hobert was the starter for the opener at St. Louis. In that game, he tore his Achilles tendon and was lost for the season.

In 1999, Billy Joe Tolliver threw seven TD passes and 16 interceptions. That season, future Carolina Panthers starter Jake Delhomme was the Saints’ third quarterback.

Delhomme started the final two games of that season, including a Superdome win over the Dallas Cowboys.

The Saints’ quarterback situation would improve dramatically. In 2000, the Saints signed Jeff Blake in the first hour of unrestricted free agency. A training camp trade that season brought in quarterback Aaron Brooks, who quarterbacked the Saints to their first-ever playoff victory.

The final three games of a dreadful 2005 season were started by a journeyman quarterback, Todd Bouman.

Then came Brees.

And, New Orleans quickly got spoiled.

Since the start of the 2006 season, Brees has thrown 416 regular-season touchdown passes. This season, he’s completing 81.3 percent of his throws with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.

That Brees, a real slacker if there ever was one.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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