With all that the New Orleans Saints have endured since a 36-32 playoff loss against the San Francisco 49ers on January 14, it is hard to believe that the 2012 season is finally approaching. Teams are in camp and the Saints are set to begin preseason games on August 5, when they will face the Arizona Cardinals in the league's annual Hall of Fame Game.
Having to play the upcoming schedule without head coach Sean Payton on the sideline will be a lot for the Saints to overcome this year. In fact, most teams might look at this season as a lost cause and attempt to keep things positive for 2013. However, no other team has Drew Brees at quarterback. As a Saints fan, I have seen Brees do amazing things on the field and will his team to wins. I am confident that Brees will keep the New Orleans Saints competitive this year, and the team could vie for the NFC South title and a postseason spot once again.
Brees is not a head coach, and it would be unfair to Payton's sideline replacements to match the success he has had since coming to New Orleans before the 2006 season. Payton has accumulated a 62-34 regular season record with the Saints, including an impressive 37-11 over the last three years. Still, that production is due at least in part to the play of Brees.
Brees has dominated the league recently, with 28,394 passing yards in six seasons as the quarterback for the Saints. Last year's record-setting season included 5,476 yards, 46 touchdowns and a 71.2 completion percentage, all career highs. But can he repeat this without Payton present?
Now that Brees has his new contract, making him the league's highest-paid player, I believe he will come out ready to show he deserves the riches he received this offseason. He has set team and league records, brought a Super Bowl trophy back to New Orleans and has consistently proven to be one of the league's elite quarterbacks. By leading the Saints to a successful season without Payton, Brees, possibly the most beloved player in team history, could further elevate his status among fans.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints' first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.