When Drew Brees officially retired from the NFL in March, New Orleans Saints fans had no choice but to fully embrace the idea of trying to win a Super Bowl title without the future Hall of Famer. Of course, at that time, nobody knew whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill would earn the right to replace one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Ultimately, though, the 2015 No. 1 overall pick beat out the 2017 undrafted free agent for the top spot on the depth chart.
While Winston looked sensational in Week 1, it remains to be seen whether he can sustain a high level of play across a 17-game season. Then again, perhaps guidance from a battle-tested expert like Brees will help him enjoy more success moving forward.
After all, even though Winston’s mentor over the last two years no longer throws passes for a living, his shocking admission proves he’s not completely done with the Saints after all.
New Orleans looked thoroughly dominant in the first game of the post-Drew Brees era
Sean Payton’s squad entered Week 1 with a point to prove. And by dismantling the Green Bay Packers in front of a packed crowd in Jacksonville, the Saints certainly showed they can win without Drew Brees under center.
Winston’s first start in a New Orleans uniform simply couldn’t have gone any better. The 6-foot-4, 231-pound signal-caller looked completely comfortable running the offense, and he didn’t make the silly mistakes that plagued him with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Facing a Packers defense that features bonafide Pro Bowlers like Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith, and Kenny Clark, Winston completed 14-of-20 passes for 148 yards and five touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions in what might have been the worst performance of his legendary career. Needless to say, the highly-paid quarterback got thoroughly outplayed by his less-proven counterpart.
Will Winston build off his terrific season-opening effort and lead New Orleans back to the playoffs?
If he and the Saints continue to maintain such close ties with Brees, that may just happen after all.
Brees’ shocking confession proves he’s not done with the Saints after all
By hanging up his helmet and shoulder pads for good, Brees seemingly gave up on having to worry about preparing for upcoming opponents. Working as an analyst for NBC Sunday Night Football allows him to stay close to the NFL, but he certainly has a significantly different set of job duties than he did the last two decades.
However, the 42-year-old made some eye-opening comments on The Dan Patrick Show that prove he hasn’t completely moved on from the Saints just yet.
“I’m in touch with [Winston] and Taysom quite a bit throughout training camp, preseason, and during the season,” Brees said.
Not exactly a complete surprise that he stays in touch with two former teammates, right? The fact he continues to do so during the season suggests he remains invested in helping both players succeed. While that seems noble, Brees also made a shocking admission that could raise a few eyebrows given his new sports media role.
When Patrick asked whether he’s an unofficial assistant coach, the retired quarterback gave a stunning answer.
“I will say this: I did have the game plan for the game in my hand,” Brees admitted.
Does that sound like a normal practice for any player-turned-analyst? Tony Romo has quickly become a shining star thanks to his ability to predict plays, but it’s not like he has direct access to game plans. On the other hand, Brees clearly has such close ties with the Saints that he still gets to view insider information. And you have to imagine he’s given Payton a few pointers or suggestions — away from the cameras, of course — on how to attack defenses on the team’s schedule.
No matter his job title, Brees seems destined to have some level of influence on Winston and the Saints this season. And with the franchise more than a decade removed from its first (and only) Super Bowl championship, there’s no doubt Payton faces a ton of pressure to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to New Orleans.
Can New Orleans win a Super Bowl with Jameis Winston?
How far the Saints go in 2021 depends almost entirely on one person. If Winston takes care of the football, makes smart decisions, and stays focused, the team absolutely has a chance to make a serious run at a title. On the other hand, if he reverts back to being the turnover-prone quarterback who played himself out of a job in Tampa, New Orleans could struggle to post a winning record, let alone earn a postseason berth.
Luckily for Winston, the schedule falls in his favor.
The Saints’ next four opponents (Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, New York Giants, and Washington Football Team) all posted losing records in 2020. After their bye, they do face a tough two-game stretch against Seattle and Tampa Bay, but the back of the schedule includes winnable matchups against the Atlanta Falcons (Weeks 9 and 18), Philadelphia Eagles (Week 11), and the New York Jets (Week 14). Plus, the Saints play the Panthers again in Week 17.
Barring injuries, they have a legitimate shot to win double-digit games and make the playoffs. And if Drew Brees gives Jameis Winston some advice on how to get the job done along the way, New Orleans may surpass everyone’s expectations.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.