As the Saints took over the football with 3:50 to play yesterday at their own 29, they were a touchdown away from victory. But the quarterback who's engineered 25 of those game-winning drives could only watch from the sidelines as his replacement - who's engineered one in his career as a member of the Tampa Bay Bucs back in 2007 against the Saints - bore that burden.
Luke McCown came up inches short of doing so.
For the first time in 10 years, we saw the Saints "AD" - after Drew. How soon before that's all we see?
According to the web site FiveThirtyEight by writer Nate Silver, it could - and maybe should - be on the horizon. Silver's methodology shows that the Saints have suffered the sharpest decline of any NFL franchise since the start of the 2014 regular season. He suggests that a quarterback who's been as good as Brees has been here can obscure and overcome the deterioration of the team around him.
But once age and/or injury drop him from elite-level status, his team is left with a crisis of too little talent and too little salary cap wriggle room to do much about it.
Are the Saints there...or soon to be?
Drew's contract of more than $26 million in 2015 makes him the biggest cap hit in the NFL. The question the Saints must answer will decide the short and quite possibly long-term future of his team and every member of the organization. Do the Saints still think Drew is capable of restoring the team to contending status upon his return to the lineup and worth such a salary cap-handcuffing investment? Or has he slipped enough and the talent around him too much to be contenders again without a significant re-building effort that will take salary-cap freedom and far wiser decisions than we've seen recently in personnel?
How many franchise quarterbacks in the salary cap era have had the opportunity to leave that franchise on their terms as the curtain begins descending on their careers?
Does Drew get a curtain call here in 2016? Or is it "curtains" for the greatest player and the greatest era in Saints history?
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