The Super Bowl. For Saints QB Drew Brees, it's the one remaining goal that he wants to achieve before ending his brilliant NFL career for good. The problem however, is that Brees wants to accomplish that goal in New Orleans.
But --- can the Saints accommodate him???
Drew Brees' current contract with the team expires at the end of this year, and speculation is if the Saints fail to make the NFL Playoffs for a 4th straight time or don't at least show any significant improvement this upcoming season; then he will seek to explore all of his options at the end of the season --- before deciding to either return to New Orleans, or seek his goal of winning another Super Bowl with a different team other than the Saints.
In the past, Brees has reiterated time and time again that his desire is to remain in New Orleans and play the remainder of his playing years with the Saints, with the hope of bringing another Super Bowl title to the Crescent City.
However, winning another World Title is a personal goal that for Brees might supersede any wishes that he has of remaining in the town that has adopted him and his family --- and a community where he enjoys such an immense hero worship that with the possible exception of NBA superstar Lebron James in Cleveland, has placed him upon a pedestal normally reserved for royalty.
But would Drew Brees REALLY ever consider leaving NOLA for an opportunity to win another World Championship somewhere else, and go back on his word and his pledge to play inside the Superdome until the day that he no longer can anymore?
In the eyes of some, it's a distinct possibility.
In his article detailing the 5 things to know about the Saints, USA TODAY NFL writer / analyst Stephen Ruiz said this about Brees and his current situation and playing status; as the team inches closer towards the upcoming 2017 NFL season.
"The Saints might not have the luxury of having No.9 behind center for much longer. Brees is entering the final year of his deal, and if New Orleans fails to make the playoffs, the front office might start from scratch.
Those plans will not include a 38-year-old quarterback who takes up a significant chunk of the salary cap. Don’t expect an extension to get done before then. Brees has said he’ll play out his current contract and go from there.
Barring a playoff run, all signs point to this being the final year of the Brees era in New Orleans."
Now for those of you reading this that believe Ruiz's premise is completely far-fetched, I would point out that in recent NFL history, there are two very notable examples of "legendary" Hall of Fame-caliber QB's who both left the teams for whom they achieved the majority of their success with, seeking a chance at winning one last Super Bowl before ending their respective professional careers.
One was successful, while the other was not. Those two players of course, were Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
Saints fans will recall that it was Favre who was the first legendary QB of this current NFL era that made the attempt to win a Super Bowl with another team, after he had spent 15 seasons as the starting QB for the Green Bay Packers; where he was a 3-time League MVP and led them to two Super Bowls -- including their 35-21 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI played in New Orleans.
Favre retired at age 38 following the 2007 season, as the Packers were ready to move on with new young QB Aaron Rodgers. But then in the summer of 2008, Favre revealed that he had felt "pressured" by Packers front-office brass to retire before he had really wanted to, and filed papers with the League in the summer of 2008 to have his playing status reinstated.
But Packers management wanted no part of an Aaron Rodgers vs. Brett Favre "battle" that would be played out in their 2008 Training Camp, and traded Favre to the New York Jets in August of 2008. Favre would only play 1 year for the Jets, leading them to a 9-7 record before he decided to retire a 2nd time.
But Favre decided that he still wasn't done yet, and eventually began looking for an opportunity to get another shot at a Super Bowl title.
Favre then signed with the Minnesota Vikings in August of 2009, where he eventually become the Vikings' starting QB and led them to a 12-4 record, and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game against the top team that year: the eventual Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints, led by Drew Brees.
The Vikings' heart-breaking 31-28 overtime loss to the Saints in that 2010 NFC Championship would be as close as Favre would ever get to winning another World Title.
After he suffered a severe concussion injury during the following 2010 season in December of that year, Favre finally retired for good at age 41.
Then of course there was the other recent Hall of Fame-caliber QB who made an attempt to win another Super Bowl elsewhere after spending the majority of his career with one team, a man whom Saints fans are very familiar with in New Orleans native Peyton Manning.
Manning of course was the starting QB with the Indianapolis Colts, where he spent 13 seasons while leading their team to eight division championships, two AFC championships, and one Super Bowl title (a Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears), the franchise's first World Championship in over three decades, as well as their first since relocating to Indianapolis from Baltimore in 1984.
Manning won 4 NFL League MVP awards during his time with the Colts, including the final time after the 2009 season; where he led the Colts to a 14-2 record and a spot in Super Bowl XLIV --- where of course he was denied from winning another Super Bowl by the Saints.
After undergoing neck surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season, Manning was given his medical clearance by doctors to play again, but the Colts -- worried that the 36-year old was "damaged goods" -- released him in early 2012.
Manning then began an unprecedented Free Agent "tour" of a handful of Playoff-caliber teams that he thought gave him the best chance to win another Super Bowl before he retired. After carefully weighing his options, he signed with the Denver Broncos in 2012 NFL Free Agency.
Serving as the team's starting quarterback from 2012 to 2015, Manning led the Broncos to 4 straight Division championships and 2 Super Bowls; losing one (to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII) following the 2013 season and then finally after the 2015 season, winning the Super Bowl for the final time of his brilliant NFL career --- as he led Denver to a 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Manning formally announced his retirement a few weeks later, at age 39.
Now of course, the current situation with the Saints and Brees differs from those situations listed above with Favre and Manning, in that the Packers willingly traded Favre to the Jets; while the Colts willingly allowed Manning to leave in 2012 NFL Free Agency.
As of now, the Saints have no desire whatsoever to willingly part ways with Drew Brees.
The Saints would love for Brees to return to New Orleans after this upcoming season, and finish the remaining years of his illustrious career in a Saints uniform, while helping Brees achieve his (and the team's) goal of winning another World Title before he retires.
But again: would Brees consider leaving New Orleans in 2018 Free Agency, if he feels the team isn't good enough to win another Super Bowl before his soon-to-be 39 year old body finally catches up with him?
Would Drew Brees then consider making a "Manning Move" -- which is taking a tour of potential Playoff-caliber teams in next year's 2018 NFL Free Agency, who are searching for a QB capable of helping them reach the Super Bowl?
If these next few upcoming months ahead eventually determine that the Saints still aren't good enough to become a Playoff contender once again for a 4th straight season, after the 3 straight losing 7-9 seasons of these past three years; then Brees might be facing a very tough decision in the early part of next year.
"Should I stay here in NOLA with the Saints and give it one last chance?"
"Or do I look around and see what other opportunities are out there, so that I can try to "go out on top" and win another Super Bowl before I retire, like Peyton Manning did?"
One thing is for certain: Saints fans will be holding their collective breaths, that Drew Brees doesn't pull a "Manning Move"........