What if Tom Brady was the heir apparent to Drew Brees in New Orleans?
That sounds certifiably insane, but there was a possibility Brady could have come to The Big Easy to replace Brees had he retired after the 2019 NFL season. While many of us wish Brees had retired given his incredible tone-deaf nature of the George Floyd murder and the political protests that followed, CBS Sports’ Jason La Confora gives us the inside scoop on what could have been.
“Strange little quirk to this Drew Brees saga … Had Brees retired, as he long opined about and strongly considered, I’m told Tom Brady had very serious interest in the Saints and vice versa. Brady was waiting and watching that closely. Would have been a very real possibility.”
Brees signed a two-year deal this offseason to re-up with the Saints. The plan for him after he retired was to join NBC Sports as a football analyst, likely helping the television network cover their Notre Dame package on Saturdays before parlaying it into being a possible Cris Collinsworth successor in the Sunday Night Football booth. Do you really think that’s going to happening now?
With Brees coming back for another year or so in the league, Brady pivoted into looking at other suitable destinations in his free agency. Ultimately, it came down to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Chargers. Brady picked the Florida Gulf Coast for a handful of reasons, but being in the same Eastern Time Zone as his family was major factor in his decision.
Could Tom Brady have replaced Drew Brees on the New Orleans Saints?
While it’s not happening, it is interesting to dissect what La Confora reported. The impact of Brady going to the Saints as Brees’ successor would have been wild. We could go on for days about the fallout it would have caused and the implications it would have had throughout the rest of the league. But what we really want to know is would it have worked for Brady in The Crescent City?
With the Saints’ roster as currently constructed, New Orleans would be one of the handful of teams with a realistic shot at winning a Super Bowl. The upward trajectory of the Saints would have been about the same, although Brady would have made the Saints an undisputed top-two team in the NFC in 2020 whereas we thought Brees would probably have been able to do that.
This would also mean the Buccaneers would have Brady or Rob Gronkowski on their football team. They may have entertained bringing back Jameis Winston on a new deal. Perhaps they would have looked more seriously at other quarterbacks in free agency like Philip Rivers or Ryan Tannehill. Frankly, the Buccaneers probably would have traded up to draft a quarterback this past spring.
While the Buccaneers may have still been seen as a playoff contender, especially in the expanded field, nobody outside of Tampa would have thought they’d be good enough to win the division. They’d still be duking it out for second place in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons. Then again with Brady on the team, that still might be the case, although the Saints could crater this fall.
As for team fit, Brady would have fit right in with the Saints. Surely, he would have loved to play for an offensive genius like Saints head coach Sean Payton. Frankly, he’s more accomplished than the head coach he’s playing for now in Tampa Bay in Bruce Arians. The Saints have been a high-octane offense since the beginning of the Brees/Payton partnership formed back in 2006.
From a culture standpoint, Brady would have enjoyed himself playing in New Orleans. It’s not a major media market like Boston, arguably comparable to the one he’s joining in Tampa. Football is very important in Louisiana, much as it is in Florida. He’d play in the same division he does now, only with a slightly harder 2020 season schedule do to the Buccaneers being a third-place team.
However, there are two reasons Brady may not have done more than entertain the idea of joining New Orleans in free agency. Those factors are it’s Brees’ franchise and not being the Eastern Time Zone. Though it’s not joining the Indianapolis Colts and trodding on Peyton Manning territory, Brees will be a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Central Time Zone isn’t everything, but it’s something.
Ultimately, it would have a massive story if Brady replaced Brees in New Orleans. We’d be talking about the greatest quarterback of all time joining a top-10 NFL brand in the Saints, poised to win championships. Though it’s probably better for the sport he’s inserted a long-suffering franchise into the national conversation in the Buccaneers, this would have been utterly fascinating.
The Buccaneers and Saints’ rivalry is on the upswing, and La Confora’s nugget only intensifies it.