The Saints are facing a make-or-break game against the Dolphins in Week 16, but they are going to have to rely on their fourth different starting quarterback, rookie Ian Book, to carry them to victory.
New Orleans found itself in dire straits after Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian both landed on the COVID list. Normal starter Jameis Winston was already out for the season with a torn ACL, so that meant that the Saints were down their top three quarterbacks and had no backup to Book.
Because of this, the Saints tied to pull out a last-minute Hail Mary and bring in a more experienced option to start ahead of Book. According to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com, the Saints reached out to two long-time NFL starters, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, to see if they would have any interest in providing the team with quarterback depth.
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Ultimately, both players declined and the Saints signed another veteran, Blake Bortles, to backup Book.
It’s not a huge surprise that Rivers, who has never played for the Saints, opted not to unretire, but what about Brees? Here’s why he decided not to come out of retirement.
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Why Drew Brees turned down the offer to return to the Saints
There were a couple of reasons that Brees didn’t want to return to the Saints. But above all else, Brees wasn’t confident that he would be able to make the throws needed to lead the Saints to victory, as Duncan noted in his report.
There was a caveat. Brees, like Rivers, was not interested in returning as a backup, which makes sense given his long, storied career. If he was going to come out of retirement and make a triumphant return, it would have to be as the starter. And Brees would have been the only player who could have pulled it off because of his experience and intimate knowledge of the offense.
Ultimately, Brees nixed the idea, in part, because on such short notice, he wasn’t 100% confident he would be able to make the throws necessary to successfully lead the offense. He didn’t want to short-change the Saints in such a critical game at such a critical time in their playoff run.
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Brees showed signs of decline in 2020 and averaged 7.5 yards per attempt. That’s a respectable number for an NFL quarterback, but it marked Brees’ lowest YPA since 2014.
Still, Brees led the Saints to a 9-3 record in his 12 regular-season starts last season, so he would have given the Saints a chance to win even if he’s lacking a bit of confidence. At the very least, he would provide the team with an experienced starting option. Brees has started 286 NFL games. Book has started none.
But Brees’ decision is made and he will remain in the NBC booth for another week. And as a result, Book, who is the all-time leader in wins at Notre Dame with 30, will get a chance to prove himself as an NFL starter.