NEW ORLEANS – That window may be a peep hole by now.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton have been asked about the shrinking window of opportunity for a Super Bowl return as if it is a Mardi Gras tradition.
“Well, it’s funny you bring that topic up,” Payton said during a season ending press conference of the past. “I just said to our players, ‘You’re going to hear this new buzzword called window.’ And honestly, the window – as long as I’m the head coach here – we’re trying to slam it open always. When’s the window of opportunity? I think I’ve heard that term now the last three years.”
That was said in January of 2014, the week after a 23-15 loss at Seattle in an NFC Divisional playoff game. Brees had just turned 35, and the Saints were eliminated from the playoffs for the third time since their only Super Bowl appearance when they beat Indianapolis 31-17 on Feb. 7, 2010. Brees was the MVP.
“With regards to a specific player like Drew, I get that,” Payton said at the time. “And yet, that window is still all the way open. And I mean that.”
The Saints went 7-9 three straight years after that before losing in the Divisional Round at Minnesota in the 2017 season, in the NFC Championship Game to the Los Angeles Rams at home in the 2018 season, and at home to Minnesota in the Wild Card round last season. They have won the last four NFC South titles with regular seasons of 11-5, 13-3, 13-3 and 12-4.
Brees is 41 now entering the No. 2 seed Saints’ (12-4) NFC Wild Card playoff against visiting No. 7 Chicago (8-8) Sunday in the Superdome (4:40 p.m., ET, CBS).
Could this be it for him?
Brees does have a year remaining on his contract. And there have been no statements he is not returning, but this is being widely considered as the last stand of the battered Brees, who missed four games in 2020 with fractured ribs.
Brees was asked this week if “there is a sense at all at your age that you aren’t going to have many opportunities left, whether it’s this year, next year, or two years from now?”
He was asked that seven years ago, too.
“You know what? Honestly, I’ve played the last four seasons in a row as if it was my last,” he said. “So, as I sit here, right now, my approach is very much the same.”
Brees was then asked if he has “already privately made a decision” on whether this is his last season.
“I’ve made a decision about being the best I can be this week so we can go win this game so we can keep playing,” he said tersely. “All I know is this. I did not come back to play this season for myself. I came back for my team. I came back for the city. I came back for the organization. That’s why I am here.”
And that is not the first time he has said that.
Payton seemed to remember the annual window question when he was asked yet again this week if this could be the last time.
“Well, honestly, I was asked this yesterday by their media. ‘Is it different because it might be his (Brees’) last season?’ I don’t think so,” he said. “His preparation is the same as it always is – very thorough and detailed. So, to answer your question, I think it’s very similar to as it was back in ’06, ’09, ’10, 11, ’13, ’17, ’18, ’19, ’20.”
And laughter broke out.
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