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Brees: "My No. 1 Priority is Keeping Our Team Together"

Posted Jan 20, 2012

Saints QB talks about the 2011 season and his offseason plans



New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Friday, January 20, 2012

Listen to the call

Can you talk about the disappointment of a season being over that had so much potential?

“It definitely is as you get older, because you don’t know how many more opportunities you have. You would like to believe this would last forever, especially when you put together the type of team we had, especially in all phases was right there and ready to make a run. I just think it goes to show you how difficult this game is and how once you get into the playoffs, everybody probably has as good as shot as everybody with one play here and one play there that typically determine the outcome of a football game and still here we are only less than a week removed and it still hurts.”

You talked all season about the high quality of the locker room. Is one of the things that stings is that you might have liked this team as much as the 2009 team? Where would you rank this team as far as the guys you respected and liked?

“Just as much or more than the ’09 team. Each team is unique. Each season is unique. No matter how many of the same guys you have from one year to the next, you still have to establish an identity going into the season or re-establish an identity. That takes time and you pick up where you left off. You’re really starting over every season. I’d say, we have a lot of the same guys on this ’11 team as the ’09 team and yet I feel like we just have so many guys that are kind of right in the prime of their career or entering the prime of their career, so it just felt like we were in prime position to make another run at it.”

How do you handle this offseason with the potential discussion being your contract?

“Just handle it the way we’ve handled it so far. We’ve had open lines of communication the entire time between my agent Tom Condon and Mickey Loomis. There was a lot of discussions right when the lockout ended, in camp and into the season. I just didn’t want it to become a distraction. Obviously I was heavily involved in that. It was hard to separate yourself from that when you know what’s happening. I just decided I wanted to put it off to the side and focus on the season and make a run at a title. Now here we are at the end of the season and it’s time to pick up discussions again, obviously once we all get a chance to step back and decompress, but I’ve had conversations with Mickey Loomis and with my agent. At some point in time soon, we will continue to talk and hopefully we will get a deal done very soon.”

Is it important for it to be done before the first OTA or even when the team comes back to start lifting and conditioning? Are any of those deadlines important to you?

“They all are. Really, the sooner the better. I would even say that between now and free agency, I would like to have something done. Obviously there’s a lot that goes into it. It’s not as easy as maybe some people think it is, I just think there are a lot of factors and variables, but the fact is we are all very confident that a deal will get done sooner than later.”

Can you talk about the balance of letting your agent do his work and driving a hard bargain that Tom Condon is known for and your concerns about the team’s ability to maintain other people on the roster that are maybe important to you such as Carl Nicks and Marques Colston?

“My No. 1 priority and it always has been is is keeping our team together and making sure we have the right guys in the right positions to make a run at this for a long time. Obviously my job is not head coach and my job is not general manager and I feel like we have two very capable people in those positions, but I think we all work well together and put it this way; I’m not worried one bit about my contract or our ability to keep key guys at key positions. Is it realistic to think we can keep absolutely everybody? I don’t know how realistic that is because every year on a team there’s turnover and I think that’s just the business we’re in. That’s the biggest reason why it’s so sad when the season ends. It’s not because the season’s over and you don’t get to play many games or that you’re not going to win a championship this year. The biggest sadness comes in because you’re looking around the room and there are guys you’ve become very close to that you might not be playing with anymore and that’s the most hurtful thing about it all, the thing we all have to deal with, especially as we get older, I appreciate all those relationships. That’s life. I think we all accept and are thankful for the time we do have together.”

Along those lines, Pete Carmichael Jr.’s name has come up in coaching vacancies with the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders. Have you talked to Pete and what do you think of his future?

“I have talked with Pete. I’m happy for Pete getting all these opportunities or getting all these looks because he certainly deserves it. Everything he did this year from calling plays to just kind of the increase in responsibilities that he took on when coach Payton got hurt, was tremendous. I’ve known Pete a long time back to his days as an offensive quality control coach in San Diego and so to watch how far he’s come and to watch him develop as a coach, his leadership ability and just his knowledge of the game and confidence level, it’s been awesome. I’m so happy for him. He deserves everything that comes his way. Obviously, selfishly, I want to keep him around as long as possible, him and our entire staff, but obviously with success as a team, come opportunities for guys on the staff to interview for higher positions elsewhere. Some of those guys are going to take those jobs like Curtis Johnson taking the head job at Tulane. I’m happy for those guys because it’s the next stage in their careers, next stage in their life, another opportunity, another challenge. That’s what you hope for for everyone, is their happiness and the opportunity to advance. I think we’d all sit here and say we want to keep this group together as long as we can.”

Coach Payton told us that he would be beyond stunned if you weren’t a member of the Saints next year. Would you be beyond stunned as well?

“I would be beyond stunned. I would agree with my coach.”

One of the things both you and Sean have talked about is continuity within the organization and both of you have seen it as one of the keys to success. What do you think now with Gregg Williams being gone, Pete Carmichael Jr. being under consideration for head coaching jobs, Curtis Johnson at Tulane and other coaches being mentioned about opportunities, how do you balance the continuity as well as the realization that it doesn’t last forever?

“Continuity is very important at all positions within the coaching staff and with everybody, but I think we’ve come to realize that this league, there is a lot of turnover and there are opportunities that come up for guys and with places. Sometimes guys take those. If it’s to advance their career with the opportunities, the more power to them. But I think what has made our organization so great over the last six years especially ever since coach Payton arrived is our ability to bring in the right type of people. Even when you lose somebody, whether it’s retirement or another opportunity elsewhere, you go out and find a capable replacement who you think can help make you better and the right type of person that can assimilate into the type of culture that we’ve created, that winning, championship feel. I think coach Payton has done a phenomenal job of identifying those people as well as Mickey Loomis, as well as our entire scouting department, Ryan Pace, you name it. We go out and find the right type of people whether its players or coaches and I think that’s been the reason for our success is having the right type of people.”      

What are your thoughts on the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator?

“I think it’s awesome. I couldn’t’ be happier. Obviously we had three great years with Gregg Williams. I think he did a tremendous job with our defense helping create an attitude and just kind of this mentality. Obviously our defense has been very successful, one of the tops in the league the last three years. I think we owe him a lot of credit. Just like in anything, there’s the time maybe when it’s kind of run its course. We’re better for having Coach Williams here for three years. I’d like to think he’s a better coach for having been here for three years and then we part ways and he goes on to another opportunity in St. Louis. It gives us an opportunity to go out and get a guy like Steve Spagnuolo. I think we’re both better for having been with each other. I’d like to think the future is bright for both of us, our organization and him and the Rams organization now that that transition’s been made.”

Does it impress you about Spagnuolo about how the Rams played you guys in October?

“Yes, I’d say that back when we hired Gregg Williams (as well), I remembered a conversation I had with coach Payton when Coach Williams became available. Coach Payton had to make the tough decision to replace Gary Gibbs who was a very good friend of all of us with Gregg Williams and I remember him telling me how he faced this guy when he (Williams) was in Washington and he (Payton) was in Dallas for three years and this guy always gave fits. If you can’t beat them, join them or have him join you. Maybe in a way that’s kind of what we’re going here with Steve Spagnuolo is we’re recognizing his talent and what a great coach he is and that his players play for him. I think he’s a very talented, very sharp defensive coach. I always have had a respect for him and I think he is going to make us better instantly (with) his presence, his coaching ability, his scheme, our players, not only defensively, but offensively having to fact that every day. I think that was what has helps us as an offense the last three years is facing our defense at practice. That’s what makes us all better and in the end that’s what gives us the chance at a championship.”

You were able to appreciate the NFL and team offensive records that both you and the team set while playing. Can you still appreciate it or is it still too soon to really do so, as some more awards are probably coming and a trip the Pro Bowl? Can you soak that in and enjoy it all?

“Yes, I haven’t been able to enjoy it yet to be honest with you. It’s been tough this week. I really haven’t tried to turn on the TV. I’ve honestly been (in) full-time daddy duty for the last four days which has been awesome, just being with my family. That’s the greatest escape? But it’s hard not to think about what could have been. I take solace in the fact that we fought, we fought our heart out and gave it our best and it just wasn’t’ meant to be. Sometimes that’s hard to swallow but in the end there’s nothing we can do about that and you have to believe there are better things to come because of the experience that you gained now. Sometimes you don’t always get what you want. You position yourself for greater things in the future. There’s definitely a time. It’s a long season, mentally and physically draining. If you’re not playing for a championship, I guess there’s nowhere I’d rather be than going to Hawaii with the family for a week, being able to enjoy the Pro Bowl and being around other guys who have been on that trip. Maybe that’s going to be the time to decompress.”

Are you going to the Super Bowl for anything this year?

“I’ll probably go there for a few days. I have no plans yet. Honestly I don’t want to make any plans. I just want to sit and be with the family and allow my body and my mind to rest up.”

Are you in San Diego right now with your family?

“Yes (laughter) in an unidentified location in the continental United States.”

If you would be more than stunned about not coming back next year to the New Orleans Saints, can you talk about that in the context of your off-the-field work and your relationship with New Orleans over the last six years? Would you have a quantified number of what’s gone into this community since you’ve been here?

“I think that’s been one of the things Brittany and I have put the most pride in. It’s been an unbelievable journey for us thus far these six years to watch how far not only the team and the organization, but the City of New Orleans and the mental psyche of the city in no matter what knocks us down, no matter what happens, we’re always going to come back stronger. I think in so many ways, the city has come back stronger. Everybody has stepped up to do their part. That’s all Brittany and I have tried to do, to do our part and understand the platform that we’ve been given and the opportunity that we’ve been given to give back to the community and leave a legacy and have a positive impact on so many people, especially young people. You talk about creating a long-term plan for the city and giving people hope, whether it be, obviously we feel strongly about helping kids and young people and helping kids and education, provide opportunities for young people to succeed in life. In the end all young people want to know is that there is somebody that cares about them and is willing to sacrifice for them and provide them with the opportunities to succeed. I think what that is makes the lasting impression on them to want to give back and do things for others. That’s what it’s all about. Especially as you get older, that’s what I think life is all about, making a positive impact, leaving a legacy and leaving your mark better than you found it. That’s what you try to do. You know what, who knows what the future holds? We’re always going to to have a strong connection with New Orleans. We’re always going to give back to New Orleans. I’m talking like 20, 30, 40 years from now. This is a place that is very special in our lives. We’ve had two of our kids raised there. Hopefully we’ll have more in the future. This has been on of the things that we take the most pride in. I obviously take a lot of pride in what I do on the football field, because that has the ability to influence a lot of people. That puts smiles on people’s faces. That gives people a pep in their step on Monday morning when they go back to work. That does so much for the city. We have the greatest fans in the world. There’s no doubt about that. I think each and every day I think about what can I do to make my team better, make my city better, that’s my mentality.

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