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When You Watch #9 Tonight, You Better Thank God That Drew Brees is Still a Saint

In life, it's often said that you don't truly appreciate something that's good, until after it's already gone. In the case of the New Orleans Saints and their unbelievably-passionate fan-base, that phrase certainly applies when it comes to the franchise's starting quarterback, team captain, and soon-to-be 40 year old future NFL Hall of Famer all rolled into one, named Drew Brees.

After sitting out the first 2 Pre-Season games, the 18th year veteran will make his one and only expected appearance on the NFL's 2018 Exhibition schedule; as the team's starters on both sides of the ball are expected to play well into the 2nd quarter when the Saints return to game action tonight against the Los Angeles Chargers in a nationally-televised Saturday Night Pre-Season contest on CBS.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The game will be played at the Stub Hub Center in suburban Carson, California just outside Los Angeles. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Central time and will be televised locally in New Orleans on WWL Channel 4.

Saints head coach Sean Payton previously told reporters a few days ago that the team's starters on both sides of the ball are expected to play at least part way into the 2nd quarter and possibly longer for some players, depending on the snap count.

Which means that you can expect to see #9 play tonight for the one and only time this entire Summer; until you finally see him again 2 weeks from tomorrow when the Saints open up their regular season schedule at home against the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 9th.

But here's a thought, which is:

After a week where the organization and its fans were left extremely disappointed by the overwhelmingly less-than-impressive performances by the two men backing him up this season in QB's Taysom Hill and Tom Savage, tonight would be a pretty good time if you consider yourself one of the team's loyal followers; to say a prayer and thank Almighty God that #9 is still wearing the Black and Gold — no matter how damn old that he is.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

While he's still playing at a very high level at age 39 (he turns 40 on January 15th), the assumption is that he likely only has a few "good" seasons left before a physical decline becomes imminent.

In fact, most NFL QB's are already done playing football at his age.

However, Brees just set the all-time NFL record for completion percentage in a season last year at 72%; and he topped 4,000 passing yards for the 12th consecutive year in a row — something no other player in the League's entire 99-year history has done in more than 8 consecutive seasons.

So the long-expected "decline" hasn't happened yet, and there's no indication as of yet that it's about to happen anytime soon.

That happens to be a VERY fortunate state of affairs for the Saints franchise at the moment, given the uncertainty surrounding the situation of who will eventually emerge as the "winner" from the competition to be his primary #2 back-up this coming season.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

However, it can't be stressed enough that it's a rather precarious situation that they find themselves in at the moment as well.

Why is that, you ask?

Here's a simple question that you need to ask yourself tonight while watching the Saints game against the Chargers, which is:

Do you REALLY think the Saints can consistently win games if Drew Brees misses any time with an injury or — God forbid — is lost for the entire season or even for the remainder of his career?

Do you honestly believe in your "heart of hearts"; that Taysom Hill or Tom Savage (or even undrafted rookie JT Barrett, for that matter) can step right in at a moment's notice and be successful?

Photo courtesy of Butch Dill, The Associated Press

The Saints have a team capable of winning it all, but if Brees were to get hurt in the Playoffs, just how confident are you as a Saints fan that Hill or Savage could pull off winning the Super Bowl, as Eagles back-up QB Nick Foles did several months ago?

It's okay to admit that you don't feel as confident about it when Mark BrunellLuke McCown or Chase Daniel were the back-ups.

But both Brunell and McCown are retired, and Daniel is now backing up Mitch Trubisky of the Bears after signing with Chicago this off-season in Free Agency.

And there isn't any other free agent QB out there "on the market" currently with the notable exception of Colin Kaepernick, who you'd honestly believe would be good enough to come in with the necessary talent that's needed as a legitimate starting NFL QB, to miraculously lead the Saints to victory.

As we mentioned in our somewhat 'controversial' Opinion article last week (click HERE to read) after the team's loss to Arizona: it's hard not to think that the Saints would be TOTALLY SCREWED right now if Drew Brees were to miss any length of time or got seriously hurt.

Photo courtesy of Butch Dill, The Associated Press

It's just too hard to envision any scenario at this moment in time, that would lead you to believe otherwise.

Could it be possible that over the passage of time, Taysom Hill will get better and actually become a legitimate starting-caliber quarterback someday?

Certainly, especially since he's learning from Brees and has Payton — a head coach with a very notable history of developing quarterbacks such as Kerry Collins and Tony Romo to name just a few — who he's helped become successful at the NFL level.

But it would be an outright lie on my part if I were to tell you that Hill is "the guy" to lead the team into the future after Brees is gone. 

I've been watching and now covering NFL Football for the better part of 45 years (dating back to my first Saints game as a young 6-year old kid at the old Tulane Stadium during the 1973 NFL season).

Which means that I've seen 45 YEARS WORTH of NFL quarterbacks.

And believe me when I tell you:

The Saints would be taking a HUGE risk by sticking with either Hill or Savage as the starter once Brees does decide to hang up the cleats for the final time.

I could end up being completely wrong about that, but something tells me that I'm much closer to having an accurate assessment of the way things currently stand, at least at this very moment in time.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Whether or not the organization ultimately decides that they're actually better off looking to find the "heir apparent" to Drew Brees via NFL Free Agency or the Draft, is something that will be determined at a much later date.

But nevertheless, if you really do consider yourself a true fan or a loyally-devoted follower of this team?

Then you'd better get on your hands and knees tonight — and thank God that Drew Brees is still a Saint....... 

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally 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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