The Saints’ ability to keep their starting quarterback a secret all week is only the latest testament to the strength of this locker room.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has become a master of misinformation. On Thursday, Payton addressed the media on Drew Brees’s availability against the Kansas City Chiefs and left everyone, including NFL insider Adam Schefter, assuming Brees was unlikely to start so soon after breaking 11 ribs and puncturing his lung.
Sean Payton said Drew Brees still has “a ways to go” in his recovery from 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung. “He’s someone we’re not gonna just hurry back and just put him in the game,” Payton said.https://t.co/nuAe5Bj7rK
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 17, 2020
Just over 27 hours later, Schefter reported the exact opposite scenario.
Drew Brees will be the Saints’ starting QB Sunday vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, source tells ESPN. Saints believe he is fully healthy and doctors have cleared him to play.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 18, 2020
Of course, after the news broke of Brees’s return, another NFL insider reported the Saints had known Brees would start since he returned to practice on Wednesday.
Since Wednesday when #Saints QB Drew Brees went out there and threw, the team believed he would start. He took the majority of reps, did not feel pain, and Brees told his teammates he planned to start. https://t.co/aipZMkr6Az
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 18, 2020
Another insider reported the Saints knew as early as Monday that Brees would be starting. It’s incredibly impressive for Brees to be cleared to play only a month removed from such serious injuries, but it’s just as impressive a team of 53 active players, 12 practice squad players, and two dozen coaches were able to keep this news mum all week.
The New Orleans Saints went ALL week knowing Drew Brees was starting. I was told they knew Monday/Tuesday and it never leaked. That locker room is incredible.
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) December 18, 2020
In a time when most players are active on social media, being able to keep the starting quarterback a secret for so long is especially difficult. As former Saints right tackle Zach Strief pointed out, this isn’t even the first time the Saints have been able to use this tactic of making their opponent wait to find out who the starting quarterback will be.
Also worth noting… that building is ALL IN. @saints AGAIN keep the starting quarterback quiet until Friday. Amazing in today’s NFL.
— Zach Strief (@ZachStrief) December 18, 2020
After Brees was initially declared out, Payton led most of the media and the rest of the NFL to believe he was going to start Jameis Winston over Taysom Hill as Brees’ replacement. However, it does appear that Payton really did have a hard time determining which backup would get the chance to start in place of Brees.
Before Hill’s first start against the Falcons, Payton told Dianna Russini of ESPN, “It’ll be exciting. It’ll be different. He’s a different type of quarterback, and that had a lot to do with us holding off any announcement. Because they’re two entirely different quarterbacks when you look at Jameis and when you look at Taysom. And I’m glad we’ve got both of ‘em — we’re gonna need both of ‘em this year.”
Payton also shed light on the reason why Winston finished the game after Breess’ exit instead of Hill. The team understood all season that if Brees ever got hurt during the middle of a game, “we weren’t gonna be able to make a switch to Taysom with the roles he’s playing in the kicking game on offense.”
Just as there were probably very legitimate reasons as to why Payton waited so long in both instances to reveal his starting quarterback, perhaps the best reason was the most simple explanation of all: deception in order to cause confusion and mis-dedicated preparation time for the team’s next opponent.
With the 12-1 Chiefs heading to the Superdome on a current NFL best eight game winning streak, the Saints should use any tactic available at their disposal. Deception just happens to be one that Sean Payton might be the very best at.
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