Maybe it’ll end with one of those “It’s not you, it’s me,” heart-to-hearts.
Or instead, there’ll be an “I just can’t quit you,” moment.
Either way, we’re close to knowing whether one of the NFL’s most successful coach-quarterback partnerships is ending after a decade, or if Sean Payton and Drew Brees want to ride off into the sunset together.
The suspense is killing Who Dat Nation. It’s worse than your favorite TV show leaving you with an unforeseen cliffhanger episode, because there are no spoilers.
At least we know that No. 9 wants to stay in New Orleans, and he wants it to be with Payton as his coach.
Brees has said so repeatedly in recent days. On Monday, he added that if the team wants to extend his contract to gain some relief from the most onerous cap number in league history next year, he “Absolutely, yes absolutely,” would agree to it.
No reason not to take him at his word. It would be gut-wrenching to the community Brees has meant so much to, to see him deemed no longer worth the money it would take to keep him.
At the same time, Brees acknowledged the risk of going forward without the coach whose faith in his ability to come back from shoulder surgery changed the course of the franchise and led to the most-glorious event in the city’s sports history — along with his faith that a return to those times is imminent.
“I feel like we are about to make a jump,” Brees said. “I feel like Sean is a big part of that, and I hope that I am a big part of that.”
Certainly Brees owes a lot, you could even say his career, to Payton’s vision for him.
In his autobiography, “Coming Back Stronger,” Brees relates this conversation with Payton, himself newly hired by the Saints: “I’m going to take everything you like and everything you’re good at, and we’re going to install it. We’re going to develop this thing together. I want to put you in the best position to lead this offense by executing what you are comfortable with and confident running. I have the final say, but you’re going to have a lot of input.”
Payton was as good as his word. Over the past 10 seasons (Including 2012 when Payton was suspended for Bountygate), the Saints are No. 1 in passing yards and total yards. They are second in scoring.
That period has seen Brees rise to No. 4 in career passing yards and touchdowns, No. 3 in completions and No. 1 in completion percentage.
No quarterback has ever thrown for more yards-per-game — 280.6 — in his career, and that’s including five seasons in San Diego when his average was only 209.2.
All of that has come without his ever having a Pro Bowl wide receiver, which may be an injustice to Marques Colston but remains a fact.
And although he’ll turn 37 next week, Brees is showing little, if any, signs of decline, even though for his first time with the Saints he did miss a game because of injury this season.
Despite that missed game and playing with a torn plantar fascia in the last two, Brees led the league in passing yards, tied for the fewest interceptions during his time with the Saints, including none over the final 10 quarters, and had a 68.3 completion percentage that improved his record career norm.
Brees is fortunate that his shoulder and foot injuries won’t require surgery. But that’s also a testament to his dedication to conditioning.
Sunday’s victory against Atlanta was the 142nd regular-season start for Brees under Payton, with 10 more coming in the playoffs. The Saints are 91-51 in that span. And while the two most certainly have had disagreements (what 10-year relationship doesn’t?), none have ever gone public or lasted long.
But over the past two seasons, the record is 14-18. And that, plus a number of other factors, is why Payton and the Saints appear to be considering an amicable divorce.
Going forward, would Brees, assuming he remains with the Saints, be the same quarterback without Payton?
Probably not, but over the years he’s developed a Peyton Manning-like savvy of the game that his new coach will be eager to tap into.
Would Brees be as upbeat about the direction of the franchise without Payton?
Maybe not, although the Saints would be derelict in duty not to involve Brees in the selection process for the next coach.
And Monday, Brees declared himself an optimist based on the character and toughness he sees with the team around him, even if the Saints finished 7-9.
“I feel like we were kind of setting the tone for what could be success in the future,” he said.
Over the past 10 years, Brees and Payton have helped each other become rich and famous. No doubt they’d like to continue to do so, but few relationships in sports go much longer than this one already has.
And if the current punditry is correct, a parting of the ways is as hand.
However, as Payton once told his team before an important game, “Don’t look at the scoreboard until the end of the game.”
That game was Super Bowl XLIV, and we know how that came out.
Soon enough, we’ll know how this one comes out, too.