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John DeShazier: Drew Brees feels Saints poised to make jump forward

Even though team missed the playoffs tone set for future success

How much or little of an impact Drew Brees has in how the New Orleans Saints plot the course beyond the 2015 season as a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, face-of-the-franchise quarterback is debatable.

But the balloting from the Brees precinct has been tallied, the vote is in and the preference is clear.

"I've voiced this for the last few weeks," Brees said, specifically addressing speculation about the job status of Coach Sean Payton on Monday, the day after the Saints completed their season with a 20-17 victory over Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. "I'm very hopeful that we're all going to be here and we're going to prepare ourselves to make a run at it over the next few years."

Brees said he had no inside knowledge of the situation, but the optimist in him leads him to lean in one direction.

"Just knowing what the mind-set was a year ago, in regards to building – not rebuilding – but building the foundation for what would allow us the opportunity to make a run at it in the future," he said. "And that's getting guys here that have great character, toughness, love to compete, love football and love being around each other and I feel like we have that.

"I know that didn't result in a playoff season this year, but I feel like it's kind of setting the tone for what could be success in the future."

The Saints (7-9) won their final two games of the season and three of their last four. Two of the victories were road wins against divisional opponents (Tampa Bay and Atlanta) and in the game before New Orleans played its final four games of the season, it dropped a 41-38 decision to Carolina, which finished with the league's best record (15-1).

Brees, who led the league in passing yards (4,870) despite missing a game, and completed 428 of 627 passes with 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions, said that leads him to believe the team is on an upward trajectory.

"I just feel like it's been 10 years, and there have been I guess ebbs and flows," he said. "It was this (upward) trajectory for a long time and then I think last year, and we have talked about this, I feel like last year was the first time it just dipped.

"But now we are back on this trajectory again and you could argue, well, where is the starting place of that trajectory? Is it a little bit lower than it has been or are we really about to make a jump, and I feel like we are about to make a jump and I feel like Sean is a big part of that and I hope that I am a big part of that.

"I know there are guys in this locker room that want to be a big part of that, but there are always those question marks every offseason, especially the day after."

The Saints locker room personnel will change, regardless of whether the team won the Super Bowl or qualified for the No. 1 overall pick by virtue of having the worst record in the league.

Draft picks will be worked in, free agents will be signed, undrafted rookies will make the roster and players will be released due to performance or salary cap ramifications.

"Coming to the reality that some of these guys, you probably won't see again," left tackle Terron Armstead said, sadly. "It's not a fun day in the business."

Despite the coming changes, Brees said he believes the Saints now have the right core of players again to become contenders.

"A lot of that has been resolved from last year to this year," he said. "I mean, I think it's obvious we need to make some improvements in areas that are going to help us consistently win more games. When you come off a 7-9 season, obviously, where were we lacking or where do we need to get better or what more do we need to do, and I think that is the evaluation process that takes place here over the next few weeks, two months.

"And then you think about obviously the draft and free agency and all those things. There are always guys you might lose and there are always guys you can gain, but I think the core is part of that foundation that is your success moving forward.

"I think we know this – we've got great decision-makers in this organization, from Sean all of the way up to (General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) to (Saints owner) Mr. (Tom) Benson. There are no knee-jerk reactions. There are well-thought out decisions.

"There is a plan that is put in place, and typically that is everybody getting together, coming up with that plan and executing that plan together. There are not decisions being made behind closed doors, excluding certain others. It's a team deal. Whatever decisions that are made, we all know that it is in the best interest of the team, and once that decision is made, we are full steam ahead with that. We'll see what happens here over the next however long, and then once the plan is put in place, here we go, full steam ahead."

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