Was Drew Brees Just a System Product of Sean Payton's Offensive Genius?

Will OsgoodAnalyst ISeptember 16, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 26:   Quarterback Drew Brees #9 and Head Coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints talk on the sidelines during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 26, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Falcons 45-16.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

I know you've been thinking it. Just admit it.

Even if you don't naturally think like this, the media has impacted you to the point that you really can't help yourself. Of course Sean Payton is the entire reason Drew Brees was ever good.

Never mind the fact that Brees set just about every passing record the Big 10 has ever known in his four years at Purdue. Never mind the fact that Brees led the San Diego Chargers to their first playoff appearance in a decade in 2004 while playing incredibly efficient and productive football. 

Never mind that he followed that season up with another better-than-average season. And in case you somehow did not know, none of those seasons took place under Sean Payton.

Cam Cameron, of all people, was the offensive coordinator in San Diego for those two seasons where Brees starred at quarterback. 

If you're looking at Drew Brees' QB Rating (which many will do) you see that through two games, the highest paid player in NFL history is coming in right around 70. That is approximately 20 points lower than his lowest seasonal QB Rating since 2003 (in 2004 he jumped roughly 37 points from 67 to 104). 

In that realm it is true that Brees is playing the least efficient football he's played since 2003. But two games is a very small sample size. The fact he did not have the opportunity to work with his teammates in the offseason program has most definitely played a factor in his struggles thus far in 2012. 

But don't think Sean Payton's absence is the reason Brees suddenly looks human. You must remember that Pete Carmichael called the Saints offense for the final nine-plus games of 2011, plus the team's two playoff games. 

And Drew Brees is essentially calling much of the game along with Carmichael. The common denominator in all of that is familiarity with the offense and with each other. Heck, if anything, Brees should be more comfortable since Carmichael and Brees spent time together in San Diego, when Carmichael was on the Chargers' offensive staff. 

Though Payton and Brees clearly have a special bond, it's not as if the bond between Carmichael and Brees is undeveloped or not meaningful. The relationship they have is integral to the long-term success of the New Orleans Saints, since Carmichael is going to continue to coordinate the Saints' offense past this season, or so we expect. 

So the point is simple really. Drew Brees is a great quarterback, Sean Payton or not. Is he better with Payton? Maybe. Clearly six of his seven best professional seasons came with Payton as his head coach. 

Are the Saints a better team with Sean Payton running things? Of course. Aaron Kromer has done a great job so far, but Sean Payton is the best head coach in the NFC and probably the second best head coach in the NFL. 

None of that is a critique on Kromer. Or Joe Vitt. Or Pete Carmichael. Or Drew Brees. 

It is simply an acknowledgment that Brees has struggled to start the season. And having Payton around could help. But Brees is still throwing for over 300 yards as he always has. 

Even with Payton, the interceptions would abound from time to time. He's not the perfect quarterback; never has been. He takes chances. He tries too hard. He gets sacked at inopportune times and turns the ball over. 

But all of those things happened when Sean Payton was running the show. 

It is quite clear that the Saints must run the football more. Their defense must play better, much better in fact. If they did, Brees' QB Rating would go up simply because he wouldn't have to force things as often. 

And that's the thing: As great a coach as Sean Payton is, he often allowed himself to get away from the game plan to run the ball. Even in the Saints' Super Bowl season, it's not as if the Saints' defense was dominant; just opportunistic. 

That's the big idea. Drew Brees has been great for six seasons in black and gold and this season really hasn't been any different. He's been the same player, but everyone else around him has been less productive. 

As soon as the other 44 men on the team step their games up, this team will be just fine. 

Brees is fine without Sean Payton. Don't believe all the hype about Payton's absence. Now it's time for the Saints to prove me right.