Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees' right arm and shoulder and latissimus dorsi and hips and glutes and legs and feet have worked in concert beautifully for over two decades, propelling him to a reserved place in Canton and permanent discussion of the NFL's quarterback glitterati. But something funny has happened on the way to his form this year. The 41-year-old's body has looked 41 years-old and sluggish.
After outdueling the ancient Tom Brady in a Week 1 win, Brees and the Saints were nothing if not pedestrian in a disappointing loss to the Las Vegas Raiders last night in a stadium that looks suspiciously like native advertising for Big Roomba.
Do you want stats and/or information? Well, belly on up to the bar, chief, because what follows is a bit of both.
"...the numbers show a noteworthy trend. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Brees' average of 4.82 air yards on passes this season is the lowest of any quarterback through two games since Brett Favre in 2009. As ESPN analysts Louis Riddick and Brian Griese pointed out after Monday's loss, Brees has looked less comfortable in the pocket and hasn't been as "surgical" as usual on short and intermediate throws. Brees, 41, has completed just 44 of 68 passes this season (64.7%) after topping 74% each of the past two seasons (the two most accurate seasons in NFL history)."- ESPN
Those certainly are numbers that mean something. Many people haven't sat down and grappled with this country's complicated history with air yards and it shows. Brees himself was quizzed on the topic last night and ended up pointing to the metaphorical flow chart that shows amassing big, round numbers in this department aren't his responsibility.
And he's right. If people in Louisiana could congregate around water coolers right now, they'd be talking about the Saints' win-loss record, not Brees' dwindling air-yardage statistics. But that's not really the whole picture. New Orleans, though missing Michael Thomas last night, doesn't look as fearsome offensively as they'd like to. A major part of that is the lack of deep-play production — an endeavor that starts and can end, really, with Brees' arm strength.
So it's not nothing. And it's not everything. Knowing precisely how much to react to any given development 1/8th through an NFL season takes a lot of practice. You think everyone you see on television just innately knows the exact rational response and takeaway each and every single time? No way, man. That's years of hard work manifesting in takes like the below from ESPN's marquee jamboree.
This raises the question: what if a person was so relaxed that they weren't even aware of the Brees consternation? Would that person be closer to nirvana and ideal realization that the people who have to remind others to chill out? Is that too deep for 10 a.m. on a Tuesday?
As for Brees: history suggests he's going to be what he's always been — a top-five NFL quarterback albeit one who is one-dimensional. And if that one dimension — reliable and accurate aerial assaulting — is diminished in any way, then there can be reasonable conversation if he's capable of winning his second Super Bowl or if, gasp, Jameis freaking Winston would give New Orleans a better chance.
A wise man named Justin Bobby once said on The Hills that truth and time tell all. Time is undeniably ticking for Brees but it'll take a bit more until we know if it's truly up.