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Aaron Brooks: Saint or sinner?
On Sunday, January 22, 2011, Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler(notes) left the NFC Championship game with a sprained MCL. Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, the entire sports world was instantly in an uproar. Not only did uninformed sources believe that Cutler was not seriously injured, but Bears fans in particular complained about his sideline demeanor. As a lifelong New Orleans Saints fan, I was whisked back to the early 2000's when Who Dat fans were equally angry at QB Aaron Brooks for similar behavior. But Brooks also led New Orleans to a division title and the team's first playoff victory. So in retrospect, was Aaron Brooks a saint or a sinner?
In 2000, QB Jeff Blake led New Orleans to a 7-4 record after 11 games. But Blake suffered a season-ending injury against the Oakland Raiders and backup QB Aaron Brooks finished the season at 3-2. More importantly, he led the Saints to a stunning 31-28 playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. Most Saints fans remember that game very well. But Brooks' first start was also a victory over those same Rams in St. Louis. Aaron Brooks' exploits in 2000 will forever be etched in the Who Dat history books.
Aaron Brooks was definitely not a one hit wonder. Over the next four years, Brooks never missed a game and continued to put up amazing numbers. Unfortunately, much like the Saints of 2007 and 2008, the defense left a lot to be desired in the early 2000's. In his career in New Orleans, Aaron Brooks threw 36 more TDs than INTs. Archie Manning threw 41 more INTs than TDs! In fact, Aaron Brooks currently ranks 3rd in completions (1,563) and passing yards (19,156) and 2nd in TD passes (120) in New Orleans Saints franchise history.
Despite his productivity, most New Orleans fans remember Aaron Brooks' INTs more than his TDs. But more than anything, fans in New Orleans hated what Brooks did after many of his 84 INTs. He laughed. He smiled. He acted like he didn't care. New Orleans Saints fans are the most passionate fans in the NFL. We invest our money and (more importantly) our dreams and emotions in the Black and Gold. The least we expect from our players is to care as much as we do. And Aaron Brooks acted like he did not care.
However, many people in New Orleans were actually big-time Aaron Brooks' fans. Unfortunately, this debate raged for five years and was split mainly down racial lines. I distinctly remember listening to Buddy D on the "Point After" show on WWL radio after each game and hearing white caller after white caller complain about Brooks, while black caller after black caller heaped praise on Brooks. Thankfully, since Katrina and the Super Bowl victory, New Orleans has come together like never before. But that was not the case while Aaron Brooks was the Saints starting QB.
And the verdict is …
Personally, it drove me crazy to watch Aaron Brooks laugh after throwing INTs. But I never forgot what he did in defeating the Rams in the playoffs. Also, you cannot imagine how great it made me feel to see that fans in another city raked their QB over the coals for acting "too cool" on the sidelines. I also hated how Bobby Hebert used to yell at his wide receivers after an incomplete pass. In fact, people around the country may find this hard to believe, but Deuce McAllister(notes) (not Drew Brees(notes)) is probably the most popular Saint in history.
After weighing the evidence, I have come to the conclusion that Aaron Brooks was a saint. His career numbers and playoff victory outweigh his sense of humor. As for his INTs, when Drew Brees throws his 6th INT in 2011, he will have thrown more career INTs as a Saint than Brooks did in New Orleans. Despite the constant criticism, Brooks was always calm, polite and professional during interviews and post game press conferences. He never threw a Ryan Leaf-like temper tantrum. Hopefully, Aaron Brooks will someday be enshrined in the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame.
"Aaron Brooks," pro-football-reference.com
"New Orleans Saints Passing Career Register," pro-football-reference.com
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