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Barry Hirstius

For Saints’ Brees and Benson, Priority #1 is Winning Another Championship

"The Window of Opportunity is closing". If you're a fan of the New Orleans Saints, then you've more than likely heard that phrase repeated an infinite number of times already over the course of the past few years.

Unfortunately, despite how much tired that you may have gotten of hearing it constantly said over again and again, it still doesn't make the phrase incorrect.

There are some things in life that cannot and will not ever be changed, and the inevitable passage of time is one of them.

For the Saints, and two very key figures that have been a vital part of the franchise in particular, it could be said that "time is running out".

They are current starting QB Drew Brees, and the team's long-time owner, Tom Benson.

Both are running out of time.

There reasons are somewhat different, but yet both men share a common objective:

To win ONE MORE Super Bowl title.

For Benson, perhaps the urgency to win another title is felt a bit stronger from his own perspective, given that he will turn age 90 in less than a month from now, on July 12th.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

There have been many who have openly wondered in recent years about just how much attention Benson still gives towards the operations and the goings-on of his favorite possession: his beloved NFL football team New Orleans Saints, when considering the team's recent string of unsuccessful results that have kept them away for the NFL Playoffs for the past 3 seasons.

Based on this past off-season, it's pretty safe to say that Benson remains quite competent and in full control of the franchise; in spite of his advancing age.

And he has made getting back to another Super Bowl before he ultimately departs this world, a top priority on his "bucket list".

He clearly gave both GM Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton a "vote of confidence" following the team's third consecutive 7-9 finish in the 2016 season; and instructed the team brass to be as aggressive in their approach as they feel they needed to be, in order to return this Saints franchise back into the NFL's "upper tier".

Photo courtesy of Michael DeMocker, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

New Orleans was by far and away one of the most proactive teams in their approach to 2017 NFL Free Agency this past Spring, by addressing team needs at several key positions including: middle linebacker (A.J. Klein), offensive guard (Larry Warford), kick returner (Ted Ginn, Jr.), edge pass rusher (Alex Okafor) and defensive tackle (re-signing last year's starter Nick Fairley to a new 4-year contract -- although he might not be able to honor the contract based on his current uncertain medical status surrounding a heart condition).

Just as importantly: the Saints had what many consider the team's best Draft in recent memory, with no less than 4 of their current rookies chosen in the 2017 NFL Draft looking at possibly becoming full-time starters by the time that they open the 2017 regular season at Minnesota on Monday Night Football (September 11th).

But yet while all of those efforts to strengthen the team's standing within the League is very nice, the biggest question now going forward is: was it enough???

Are the Saints any BETTER than they have been for the past 3 seasons?

For Benson, he has to be hoping that is the case, given that he's about to enter Decade #9 of his life in only 2 and a ½ weeks from now.

While no one is looking forward to Mr. Benson's ultimate passing, the rather blunt and perfectly honest truth is that he isn't going to live forever.

We all know it, and you certainly can believe that he knows it. It's inevitable.

Just as inevitable is the time remaining for Brees and his playing career.

At age 38, the future Hall of Famer is still playing at an incredibly high level, and remains one of the top players at his position as well as one of the top players overall in the entire League.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

There quite honestly isn't anything of major significance left for Brees to do in his remarkable 15-year career, except perhaps become the all-time NFL passing yards leader, which he can do within the next 2 years.

Brees is currently the NFL's all-time leader in completion percentage, and he's also currently ranked 3rd in passing yards behind only Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.

Brees as of this moment is also ranked 3rd all-time in touchdowns, 7th in passer rating and 1st in yards per game.

Only nine times in NFL history has a player thrown for 5,000 or more yards in a season. Brees accounts for five of those times.

The only other QB's to ever throw for 5,000 yards in a season? Dan Marino (1984), Matthew Stafford (2011), Tom Brady (2011), and Peyton Manning (2013).

No one else besides Drew Brees, has ever done it twice.

However, all of the numbers and various accolades aside; ask Drew Brees what he would like to accomplish above all else before the day arrives when he's finally forced to hang the helmet up for that last final time, and he will quickly tell you: 

Winning another World Championship.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Brees' current contract is up at the end of the season, and there has been some speculation out there especially within some circles of the National Media, that Brees might explore his options elsewhere other than New Orleans if he feels that the team isn't any closer to winning another title.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

However, my source close to the Saints organization tells me privately that Brees is expected to remain in New Orleans, where he will likely sign one final contract ranging from anywhere to 2 to 4 years --- which would most likely take him to the end of his playing career (he turns 39 in January).

Brees reiterated that very fact himself, when he appeared on talk show host / comedienne and NOLA native Ellen DeGeneres' daily TV show, back in February:

"I’m playing year to year, and creating a sense of urgency each year because I want to come here with the Vince Lombardi trophy again. I want to make that commitment to you. I want to come back here with that Vince Lombardi trophy just like we did almost nine years ago.”

Brees collected his thoughts as DeGeneres made a joke, and then got serious before saying this to her and the audience:

“No, I don’t plan on going anywhere for a while, but I do also want to value each and every year, and it doesn’t really matter what my contract looks like to me, whether it’s long term or short term, because to me, I have to prove myself each and every year, prove that I’m the guy to quarterback that team and to lead that team and to help us win a championship.

“Eventually, I just want to go out on my terms, and when I do, it’s just gonna be to step into the next chapter of my life, which is gonna be all about my family and coaching my kids. I get to have a full-time job.”

While Brees seems to have his priorities in order, make no mistake about it: for him, Priority #1 is winning another title, just as it is with Tom Benson.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Which of course, brings us right back to the original question:

Are the Saints any BETTER than they have been for the past 3 seasons?

One can only hope that they are --- before the "Window of Opportunity", SLAMS SHUT.........

Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 50-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports editor and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of Sports Talk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, attended games at the old Tulane Stadium and grew up as a long-time Saints fan; following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......

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