Quarterback Drew Brees had a perfect 158.3 passer rating and had 5 touchdown passes last night as the Saints smothered the Patriots. He was 18 of 23 and threw for 371 yards, which works out to 20 yards per completion. He’s not only a great quarterback, but also a great guy (and has been since his college days). However, all of his achievements are in spite the fact that he’s not the ideal quarterback prototype.
Well that’s fine, because New Orleans doesn’t meet many people’s notion of a ‘prototype city’ either. Which is why we’ve been misunderstood by folks around the country. The Saints sudden rise, and stellar success, has surprised many, but now it’s clear that it’s no fluke. I love how the Saints are playing, but I love even more the way that their success has come about.
We have a bunch of players who other teams overlooked, rejected or just gave up on. Brees was cast off by San Diego. Marques Colston was drafted in the 7th round because no one else saw anything special. Pierre Thomas wasn’t sought after by other teams, and Mike Bell got cut by Denver. But all of these guys, and others, are getting a new chance with the Saints.
We’re even giving our own cast-offs a second chance.
Last night Mike McKenzie made an improbable return after being reactivated by the Saints, who let him go last year. McKenzie has apparently been hanging out in New Orleans the past months, going to Saints games and rooting for his old team. So when our starting cornerbacks got injured it wasn’t hard to find and reactivate him. He was apparently in good enough shape to start playing football, because he had an interception and three tackles, one of them a real bone-crusher (and hard-hitting is now a well-known trademark of our defense).
But the best story of redemption might be the story of Anthony Hargrove, who has had a string problems, culminating in his being suspended by the league for violating their substance abuse policy. Getting signed by the Saints was an opportunity, but not one with a red carpet:
“When Hargrove first arrived in New Orleans, he didn’t have enough money to buy a car so he hopped a ride to and from the Saints facility with teammates or called a cab. He’s found a community of supporters near his apartment. The workers at the corner convenience store and the gas station across the street have all embraced the gregarious Saints lineman.”
Hargrove has become so popular with teammates they’ve allowed him to serve as the opening act for team captain Drew Brees during their breakdown chant in the end zone before games. And he’s popular with the fans too, which he appreciates:
“The fans here love you,” Hargrove says. “I don’t mean like, oh, you guys are winning, you’re great. I mean they genuinely care about you. … For people to love me and accept me they way they do, I’m overwhelmed.”
And the coaches, like Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams? Well, obviously they think he’s great because it’s all working out. But at the time they hired him it must have seemed a lot different. As the Times Picayune article points out, it wasn’t all about hiring him to be a football player:
“The first words out of my mouth when we signed him were, I could care less if you ever play another snap of football again,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. “It doesn’t make any difference to me. I wanted him to get his life in order.”