The work only has begun.
Luke McCown wasn't in a celebratory mood or even willing to breathe a sigh of relief at the news Monday that the Saints had released Seneca Wallace, his chief competition for the backup quarterback position on New Orleans' roster.
Wallace's release was among several roster moves the Saints made but in terms of name recognition, his likely was the most significant. The 10-year veteran, who was released three days after his only preseason game with the Saints, had 21 starts in 62 previous NFL games for Seattle and Cleveland.
But apparently he was unable to beat out McCown for the role of Drew Brees' backup after McCown completed 18 of 28 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, in the preseason opener against Kansas City. Wallace countered by completing 3 of 6 passes for 32 yards, with an interception against Oakland. He was sacked and lost a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown.
"I honestly look at it as, now I need to be more sharp," McCown said. "I need to continue to prove their decision right. It's about showing why they made the decision they made to keep me, and continue to get better.
"My focus is just getting better. For me it's just about proving that I'm worth what they think I'm worth."
It's hard to argue that McCown isn't held in high regard, considering Wallace was released eight days before the
Saints were obligated to trim their roster to 75 players. Other veterans released were receivers Patrick Crayton and Steve Breaston.
"Right now, (Luke) is doing well, (rookie quarterback) Ryan (Griffin) is doing well," Coach Sean Payton said in explaining the Wallace move. "We decided to make that move today."
It obviously didn't hurt that McCown played much better in his appearance than did Wallace.
Wallace's two turnovers occurred on consecutive possessions in the third quarter of New Orleans' 28-20 win. He played five series against Oakland – three resulted in turnovers – and led the offense to three first downs before he was replaced on the second offensive series of the fourth quarter, by Griffin.
Wallace previously had been slowed by a groin injury, and missed the Black and Gold Scrimmage as well as the preseason opener against Kansas City, while recovering from it.
But solid play from McCown, who spent training camp with the Saints last year, made Wallace expendable.
McCown, also a 10-year veteran, backed up Matt Ryan in Atlanta last season before re-signing with the Saints on April 1.
Wallace had more game experience (452 for 764 for 4,808 career passing yards, with 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions) than McCown (184 for 316 for 2,035 yards, with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 22 games, with nine starts), but McCown had the edge in knowledge of the Saints' offense.
"I think it helped a lot," he said. "This system is quite wordy and to be able to spit the plays out … to be able to retain the amount of install that you get in a day and then spit it out on the field, that helped a lot."
Ultimately, his effectiveness was the deciding factor, though his tightened grip on a roster spot didn't yet seem to produce a sense of jubilation.
"It's a tough part of this business," McCown said of Wallace's release. "It's a reality of this business. You hate to see a veteran like that go. It's not fun for anybody but that's part of it.
"As for me, just continue to work hard and be prepared and be ready to play and help my team."