There will be a day when Drew Brees is no longer the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints.
It’s a fact that seems unfathomable. Brees can keep pushing back time. That’s what he’s doing now. The signs of age and wear and tear are not yet showing on his body or on the field.
But those things eventually will appear.
It happens to everyone.
The Saints can’t know and won’t know if Garrett Grayson is the heir apparent until they see him on the field and he has time to develop, but there’s a chance, if everything works out, that he could one day stand under center in the same spot Brees used to turn this team into one worthy of playing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
You don’t draft a quarterback in the third round of the draft if that isn’t at least a possibility, which is what New Orleans did by pulling Grayson out of Colorado State with the 75th pick, without that thought somewhere in the back of your mind as a possibility.
For Saints coach Sean Payton, Grayson was the only quarterback he wanted in this class. He worked out several and, after putting a second-round grade on Grayson, Payton felt this was the player he wanted.
He also acknowledged that Brees is at a late point in his career when discussing the pick but felt Grayson was too good to pass up.
“I understand the story, certainly with where Drew is in his career,” Payton said. “But you truly try to pay attention to how these grades fit. I said it (Thursday) night, if there’s a need or you want to bring in a young player, it fits with the grade.”
The thought of him one day replacing Brees was also brought up to Grayson, but he wasn’t yet able to process it or think that far ahead immediately after being selected.
“I’m just extremely excited to get behind him and learn as much as I can,” Grayson said. “I’m going to come down there and compete like I’m the starter, like any position should, but I’m just extremely excited to learn from him and hopefully I’ll learn as much as I can to prepare me through the next couple years.”
Does the 6-foot-2, 213-pound Grayson have the goods to assume that role?
He put up the kind of numbers one wants to see in that role. He completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 4,006 yards with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. As a junior, he completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,696 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
If a team is going to bet on a quarterback in the third round of the draft, that’s the kind of production you want to bet on. But Grayson played in the Mountain West, against talent that isn’t exactly the same caliber that he’ll face in the NFL. That’s a distant horizon.
Grayson isn’t thinking about those kind of things yet. His focus is on quickening up his release, learning a new playbook and figuring out how to be a professional.
A few hours before he was picked, he was sitting at home, worried that he blew his chance with the Saints. He worked out for the team in Colorado on Monday, just days before the draft, and left the session feeling disappointed in his performance.
Grayson said he sent out some text messages and was crestfallen for a few days. Entering the draft, he felt his ideal situation was being in New Orleans, learning behind Brees. He believed that possibility was blown during the workout.
“I said it all along through this whole process that New Orleans was one of my dream teams to go to for that exact reason,” Grayson said. “I want to go to a situation — as a competitor you want to come in and compete right away, but I wanted to go to place where I was in a good spot behind an NFL Hall of Famer, potentially.”
Payton had a different take on the workout and left impressed. When he heard the quarterback had a different take on things, Payton joked, “That’s good news.”
Even though quarterback isn’t an immediate need, there’s merit to selecting a quarterback and seeing what happens. Brees is 36 and he only has two years left on his contract. Though he’s likely to stay productive for a number of years, in two years, he’ll be looking for another contract that will carry him into his 40s.
A long-term commitment at that point could mean paying him considerable amounts of money once his decline appears with no way out.
Getting Grayson now gives New Orleans the opportunity to groom him for a few years and to see if he will, in fact, develop into a starting quarterback worthy of taking over for Brees.
If he doesn’t, they can look somewhere else and explore their options. If he does, there could come a time when he takes over for Brees. If the Saints were to wait until Brees reaches the end of his career, it would put them in a situation where they are constantly searching for a quarterback, like the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets or Buffalo Bills.
The day comes for every quarterback eventually. It’s almost always better to be prepared than to ignore the inevitable. But that’s still a ways off. And if that day doesn’t come and Brees earns another contract, the Saints can develop Grayson and try to trade him for a higher pick in a few years.
For now, Grayson will stand on the sideline, learning and serving as a constant reminder of a coming future many are trying to push away for as long as possible.