METAIRIE - Drew Brees isn't one for bravado.
But the New Orleans Saints quarterback fired a salvo across the bow of the other 31 teams in the NFL.
"At the beginning of the year, when people see the New Orleans Saints on the calendar, they need to get their mind right. We are team that believes we should win every time we step on the field."
I didn't take his comment at Tuesday's press conference marking the opening of training camp for the Saints as bragging. It was more like fact.
Here's another fact. If you have an elite player at the quarterback position in the NFL, you have a chance to contend for many years.
In 2011, the numbers were startling. If you take the combined record of the teams quarterbacked by Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger, the total is 62 wins and 18 losses.
Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan knows that number well. That is why in March he traded three first round picks and a second round selection to the St. Louis Rams for the second overall pick in the draft. Washington then selected Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin III out of the Baylor.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows that lack of playmaking under center in 2011 doomed his team to a 7-9 finish. So, the Seahawks signed former LSU national championship winning quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency, and drafted Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson.
If Carroll can find the answer at quarterback, his Seahawks defense is good enough to make a quick leap in the NFC standings.
Meanwhile in 2012, the Saints will likely find out they can win without Sean Payton. And that is no knock on Payton. It is a compliment.
Payton understood that if you hire the right people, your chances of success increase tenfold. His ability to make decisions in February thru April is the reason why the Saints have had so much success September thru January.
Payton loved Jimmy Graham's athleticism, so he spent a third round pick on a raw University of Miami Hurricane talent who could soon be the highest paid tight end in the history of the NFL.
On draft day in 2006, many "experts" had Alabama safety Roman Harper as a fourth round selection. The Saints took Harper in round two, and he has rewarded the organization with outstanding play.
In April of 2011, Payton and the Saints were bold, trading back into the first round to draft running back Mark Ingram. Payton joked last season that Ingram would make it to the Pro Bowl if only the head coach would give him enough carries. The success of that deal is still up for debate, but Payton's willingness to make aggressive moves have been a strength overall.
Yet, Payton's biggest move was convincing Drew Brees to lead his rebuilding job in New Orleans back in 2006. Again, the Super Bowl winning coach understood the value of greatness at the quarterback position.
At Tuesday's press conference, interim head coach Joe Vitt said he was only a "spoke, in a big wheel." The biggest spoke in New Orleans is Drew Brees. If he is healthy, the Saints will be a winning club. Once the playoffs start, one team I wouldn't want to play is a team with Drew Brees at quarterback.
New Orleans can (and likely) will win without Sean Payton. The years of smart Saints decisions by Payton will soften the blow of his forced hiatus.
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