The Saints have gotten a glimpse of an eventual future without Drew Brees. And it looks better than expected.
It looks better than expected because Teddy Bridgewater is becoming the guy he was supposed to be in 2016 (he told PFT on Sunday that his knee is better than it was before that devastating fluke of a non-contact injury), and because the Saints’ success since 2006 has had something to do with coach Sean Payton.
Payton already has entered the coach of the year conversation for his ability to take the Saints to wins over the Seahawks in Seattle and the Cowboys and Buccaneers at home, one after another after another. In that post-game conversation with PFT, Bridgewater praised Payton for understanding the positioning of all 22 players on the field and how to exploit the openings that necessarily exist in any defense. Against the Seahawks, who take away the deep ball, shorter passes were more effective, so that’s what they did. Against the Bucs, Bridgewater explained that Payton understood that the defense would be more aggressive, allowing the Saints to take some shots. Payton dialed up the right plays at the right time, and with the ability of Bridgewater and his teammates to execute the plays, it worked.
It needs to keep working, but maybe not for much longer. As PFT reported on Sunday, the current target for Brees’ return is Week Eight against the Cardinals. If Bridgewater and Payton can keep racking up wins, the Saints will be in great position to make another run deep into the playoffs.
And whenever the 2019 season ends, things could get very interesting. With both Brees and Bridgewater due to become free agents in 2020, the Saints may have to choose between them. Keep Brees, and someone else may offer Bridgewater a starting job. Keep Bridgewater, and risk seeing Brees finish his career elsewhere.
However it plays out, this problem falls squarely into the “good problem to have” category, especially since the architect of the offense and ultimate leader of the team recently signed a five-year extension.