Saints quarterback Drew Brees realizes it feels like the sky is falling in on fans who are anxious about their team’s 1-3 start this season.
But that isn’t enough for Brees to alter the way he approaches his job daily, to second-guess whether his ability is declining, or to question whether the Saints’ decision to hold part of their preseason training camp at a posh golf resort in cool mountain temperatures made him and his teammates soft, he said Wednesday during a news conference in which he disputed some of the public’s favorite theories about why New Orleans was struggling as it began preparing to host the 1-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at noon Sunday.
“I understand I have a lot of responsibility to lead the offense, to put us in the best positions to succeed ... and move the football and score points and take care of it (and) be a great game manager (and) be as efficient as I possibly can,” Brees said. “But ... it’s not like I come in and say I’m going to work extra hard today — no, because that is always my mindset. I have a routine. ... I know it works. I’m going to keep doing it (and) not change anything.”
Brees’ numbers support his attitude to an extent. After four games, the eight-time Pro Bowler has completed 71.4 percent of his passes — his completion percentage of 71.2 in 2011 was the best ever in the NFL.
The MVP of the Saints’ victory in Super Bowl XLIV is on pace to throw for 4,812 yards this year, which would be the fifth-most of his 10 seasons. He is the only player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in more than one season — he has done that four times. He also is on pace to throw 28 touchdowns, which would have been tied for the seventh-most in the NFL last season.
Yet there’s no doubt Brees has delivered better performances than the ones he’s had in defeats of 37-34 at Atlanta (2-2), 26-24 at Cleveland (1-2) and 38-17 at Dallas (3-1) — as well as a 20-9 victory at home against Minnesota (2-2) — in Weeks 1 through 4.
Three of the team’s seven giveaways have been interceptions he’s thrown. One was tossed from Atlanta’s 14 and picked off in the end zone when the Saints were attacking, and it led to a Falcons touchdown.
A second was returned 62 yards for a touchdown in Cleveland.
The other was tipped up and snatched away by the Cowboys at the Saints’ 40 and set up a touchdown that gave Dallas a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.
Brees’ costly interceptions were as much of a reason why the Saints lost close games in Atlanta and Cleveland and fell into an insurmountable hole in Dallas as a defense that’s created a single takeaway while allowing the fourth-most yards (396) and the fifth-most points (27.5) per game. But that’s not evidence that Brees’ throwing arm is deficient, which has been a common notion floated among fans on various platforms.
“Nobody’s perfect in this world; nobody’s perfect in this league; so of course everybody’s going to make a mistake,” veteran Saints running back Pierre Thomas said. “(But) I don’t see any flaws in his game at all — I see him as improving each and every day ... (and) responding the right way.”
On his own behalf, Brees said he wasn’t “sure what would lead anybody to believe that” his arm was somehow shot.
“At some point ... the thing that diminishes is your ability to recover (physically),” he remarked. “But ... I don’t feel like there’s anything I can’t do now that I could when I was 25 years old.”
Lastly, before wrapping up his briefing with the media Wednesday, Brees fielded a question about whether the masses were onto something suspecting that the Saints emerged from the portion of training camp they had at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, less hardened than they would have if they had instead spent that period of time at their facility in sweltering Metairie or in Jackson, Mississippi, where the team had oppressively hot summer practices from 2006-08.
He dismissed that, reiterating that the cooler weather in White Sulphur Springs permitted the Saints to have fewer, shorter water breaks and more repetitions in drills.
“Because of how important this is to all of us as players, as a community, as a fan base, as much as the media is a part of our game now, everybody always wants a reason, someone or something to blame, to talk about, to write articles about,” Brees said. “And I think some times you waste your time searching for that stuff as opposed to just knowing that if you continue to do things the right way, good things are going to happen.”
Brees didn’t stand alone on that issue either.
“Everybody is a critic; and at the end of the day the offense is gonna get it rolling, defense is gonna get it rolling, and the special teams are gonna get it going,” linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “So we tune all that out. And we know that at the end of the day, all we’ve got is the guys that are next to you in the locker room and the coaches upstairs.”