Monday, September 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How Drew Brees represents the Bucs’ biggest obstacle

TAMPA — Can we get rid of this Brees guy already?

Is there another Supreme Court slot open? The Bucs should nominate him.

In the meantime, Brees, 39, a truly ageless wonder, is playing out a lifetime appointment, trying to out-Brady Brady, and now he has a Super Bowl contender in New Orleans.

The Bucs? It's lunch pail Ryan Fitzpatrick for openers, with Jameis Winston in the wings. The Bucs are always in the wings. All wings, no flight.

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They play in unquestionably the best quarterback division in the NFL. In Atlanta, there is 33-year-old Matt Ryan. In Carolina, there is 29-year-old Cam Newton. Both of those men have been voted league MVP. The other guy? First-ballot Hall of Famer.

Yes, it takes a lot more than a QB to win it all. In New Orleans, it took a once-in-a-generation draft, picking up running back Alvin Kamara and defensive back Marshon Lattimore, and it took better defense, to turn the Brees and the Saints back into contenders.

But, make no mistake: In the NFL, and especially in the South, it's about the QB.

And the Bucs have yet to prove they truly have one.

And here comes Brees, 488 career touchdowns of him, including 48 against the Bucs in 25 games, more than he has tossed than against any other team. It's why the Bucs long for that elusive pass rush even today —– to get Brees. Maybe this time.

Understand, the Bucs have beaten Brees before. Two years ago, they picked him off three times in a win. They beat New Orleans to end last season. It can happen. But the Bucs are 9-16 against Brees, 7-13 against Ryan and 3-8 against Newton. The three men have combined for 94 TDs against the Bucs in 56 games. Any way out of this current Bucs mess starts with beating these quarterbacks.

Isn't it time a guy like Brees just went away? Couldn't he just be named mayor of New Orleans or governor of Louisiana? He is an unindicted co-conspirator to Bucs badness since he arrived in the South in 2006. It has been 12 long years. Problem: Brees signed a two-year, $50 million extension last March.

That is fine by Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who has spent several offseason workouts in San Diego with fitness fiend Brees.

"I love Drew when we're not preparing for him," McCoy said. "Right now I hate him. I don't care if he knows he knows that I don't like him. When we're preparing for him, I don't like him. Overall, I never want to see him retire. I love to watch him play. I love to watch him compete. He's one of the fiercest competitors I've ever seen, ever been around, period. As many opportunities as I have to compete against him, I'll take them."

There is no way around Brees, or Ryan or even Newton, though Newton might be slipping. The Bucs have to beat these quarterbacks, until Brees retires or Ryan gets bored or Newton moves on. The Bucs are playing for 2020, in case they did not know it, unless Winston is found to be a bust, in which case they're playing for 2022. Tough words to hear, but the truth.

By the way, the other guys aren't waiting. New Orleans recently picked up Teddy Bridgewater from the Sam Darnold Jets. Bridgewater is New Orleans' bridge to life after Brees. I wish the Bucs had thought of that. They have no bridge if Winston can't cut it.

That's been going through my mind a lot as the season looms. Why didn't the Bucs think of using their strength on their roster to make some moves. Like trading DeSean Jackson for picks. The Bucs have receivers. Like trading one of their bevvy of tight ends. It's all about the future. Sorry.

First things first. The Bucs need to beat the South and that's hard as long as those three quarterbacks are around.

McCoy said that's the job, the league, especially in the QB-rich South.

"That's what we want," McCoy said. "That's how you get respect. You want to be the best, you got to beat the best. You want to snatch your respect. You don't want people to give it to you, you want to snatch it, you want to take it."

Back to the ageless one. Brees threw for fewer touchdown and yards last season than he ever has with New Orleans. But he set an NFL record with a 72-percent completion rate. And the Saints came within a Minneapolis Miracle of the NFC title game. The other day, New Orleans asked Brees, who has 70,445 yards, behind only Payton Manning and Brett Favre, is he feels pressure to put up better numbers this year, beginning Sunday.

"I mean, I feel like I'm 25 anyway, so it doesn't matter," Brees said.

Feels like he's 25.

Great. Just great.

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029

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