After Drew Brees and Philip Rivers Declined, the Saints Now Need Ian Book to Save Christmas

Article Highlights:

  • The New Orleans Saints reportedly called Drew Brees and Philip Rivers to gauge their interest in playing quarterback
  • Brees, who now works for NBC Sports, and Rivers, a high school football coach, each declined
  • The Saints now need Ian Book, a rookie from Notre Dame, to save Christmas

Underneath his New Orleans Saints helmet, Ian Book might want to wear a Santa hat … or, at the very least, a bandanna depicting Father Christmas munching on gumbo.

Although Xmas will be two days behind Book and the Saints when they take the field on Monday night, the rookie quarterback will need to channel Kris Kringle (and Olive the Other Reindeer) if he’s to save Christmas and the franchise’s playoff hopes.

How confident are the Saints in the Notre Dame product? Well, judging by the phone calls they reportedly made leading up to Dec. 25, it sounds like they’d prefer someone else delivering the gift of a fifth consecutive postseason berth.

The Saints reportedly called Drew Brees and Philip Rivers to gauge their interest in returning to the NFL

Speaking bluntly, the Saints’ quarterback room is a mess. Jameis Winston tore his ACL earlier this year and has been out since November. Trevor Siemian, he of the 57.2 completion percentage and 0-4 record as a starter, is on the COVID-19 list.

Although further conversations should be had about Taysom Hill’s status as a quarterback, the reality is that the gadget player was starting under center in recent weeks. However, the BYU product is also on the COVID-19 list, meaning he won’t suit up against the streaking Miami Dolphins in Week 16.

The Saints are left with Book, who is yet to throw a pass in the regular season, as an active quarterback. If the 23-year-old suffers an injury, New Orleans will turn to perennial Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara as the emergency quarterback.

In times like this, a team understandably gets desperate. According to The Times-Picayune, the Saints recently called three former quarterbacks — Drew Brees, Josh McCown, and Philip Rivers — and gauged their interest in unretiring. All three declined.

Brees, who played for the Saints from 2006-20, reportedly considered leaving his job at NBC Sports and rejoining the Saints. However, the 42-year-old “wasn’t 100% confident he would be able to make the throws necessary to successfully lead the offense” and opted to stay in broadcasting.

Brees and Rivers made the right move declining and staying retired

Retired NFL quarterbacks Philip Rivers (L) and Drew Brees (R), with New Orleans Saints quarterback Ian Book in the middle.
After Drew Brees (R) and Philip Rivers (L) each turned the New Orleans Saints down, rookie quarterback Ian Book is tasked with saving Christmas | Joe Sargent/Getty Images; Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images; Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The idea of Brees returning to the Saints and throwing two touchdowns in a primetime win two days after Christmas sounds like something out of a movie. Too bad we won’t get to see fantasy meet reality at the Superdome on Monday night.

Actually, that might be for the best. Although Brees is intimately familiar with head coach Sean Payton’s offense and the Saints’ personnel, he’s incredibly rusty. He turns 43 on Jan. 15 and has spent the last few months as a full-time employee at NBC Sports, calling Notre Dame football games and working in the studio during Football Night in America.

As for Rivers, he spent this past season coaching at St. Michael Catholic High School in Alabama. The Cardinals went 6-3 and outscored opponents 316-175 under the rookie head coach’s watch. Again, the thought of him leaving that gig for a brief return to the NFL is a storybook tale, especially considering he’d technically fill in for Brees, his former San Diego Chargers teammate, once again.

What sounds great on paper isn’t always the actual result. The Saints are still alive in the playoff race — they entered play on Monday as the NFC’s eighth seed – and would put far too much at risk in starting Brees or Rivers on such short notice. As crazy as it sounds, the safest play is sticking with Book, a young quarterback who has spent the last few months learning the system and soaking in Payton’s knowledge.

As for McCown, he’s thrown five total passes since the start of 2019. No thanks.

What do Saints fans need to know about Ian Book?

Barring anything unexpected in the final hours before kickoff, the Saints now belong to Ian Book. A nationally-televised game with the team desperately clinging to its playoff hopes is certainly an intriguing way for a quarterback to make his NFL debut.

Book completed 63.8% of his passes at Notre Dame and threw for 8,948 yards, 72 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions from 2017-20. The California native also ran for 17 touchdowns in 45 games with the Fighting Irish.

“He’s a capable runner and a plus athlete but doesn’t have the necessary play traits to make a splash in the NFL,” NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein wrote in a pre-draft scouting report.

Book’s 30 victories are the most by any quarterback in Fighting Irish history. If he can secure his first win with the Saints on Monday night, he’ll not only make a splash, but he’ll also save Christmas — er, Dec. 27.

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