The New Orleans Saints are a grotesque 0-4. I've heard all of the excuses. Let's list 'em:
» Blame the defense. Steve Spagnuolo hasn't made a difference as defensive coordinator.
» Blame the coaching. The Saints are guided by the interim to the interim head coach. The club desperately misses suspended Sean Payton, who is an excellent disciplinarian with a great feel for what's needed in-game and during practice. Payton is fantastic at recognizing the pulse of his club and shaping confidence with play calling, game management and structure.
» Blame the bounty scandal. It has been a major distraction. The natives place fault on everyone involved, from Gregg Williams to Jon Vilma to Roger Goodell.
As we get set for the Saints' first appearance of the year in prime time, against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday Night Football, let's also make sure we place blame on the true culprit: the quarterback.
That's right. Blame the defense, the coaching and the scandal. But be sure to blame the golden child, Drew Brees. His selfishness in not signing the contract offered to him before free agency sent the Saints spiraling down.
Let me take you back to a report I had on March 7 on SiriusXM NFL Radio. Here are my exact words:
"The Saints offered Brees more than the $18.5 million per season Tom Brady and Peyton Manning make. They offered him a $30 million signing bonus. New Orleans offered Brees the second-highest amount of guaranteed money in NFL history in the first three years of his deal. Brees didn't ask for $20 million per season as a response to the New Orleans offer. He countered by demanding $23 million per season."
Because Brees didn't sign the deal, the Saints couldn't franchise all-pro guard Carl Nicks, who left to go to Tampa. Cornerback Tracy Porter also left. Marques Colston came back, but Robert Meachem, excellent at stretching the field, fled to San Diego.
I commented at the time that Brees' selfish ways would cost the Saints wins. It has.
Brees cashed in for five years and $100 million in the middle of July. He won. The Saints, and their fans, lost. Or as one NFL team source joked, "He isn't going on 'Ellen' if they don't win. Ellen never put Carson Palmer on her show."
Don't get me wrong: Brees deserves a lot of credit for being not only a star quarterback, but also the pied piper. He saved the Saints after Hurricane Katrina. He was the antithesis of former quarterback Aaron Brooks with his leadership and play. Players followed him to New Orleans. He helped rebuild the city's esteem with the Saints' incredible play, culminating in the Super Bowl XLIV title. He spent thousands of his own money and countless hours of his own time to help rebuild the community.
Brees also could have been the guy to focus and aid the Saints during the bounty scandal this offseason. But he didn't. It would've been nice, in a time of unrest and turmoil, if Brees would've been part of the offseason program. Instead, his spin doctors in the media told his tale of woe.
In a widely talked about interview this May on WWL radio, Brees said, "What's been a little frustrating on my end, or disappointing, is the lack of communication. We've reached out on quite a few occasions and at times I know I've been frustrated with the lack of response."
That was never true. The offer was there. He knew it. Brees was playing the waiting game to give the appearance that he would be victorious.
He also added, "This is a big time for our team, especially when you look at what has happened this offseason. There should be a sense of urgency and it just seems like there's not."
There's the money quote that drove fans into a frenzy. That's Drew Brees using the bounty scandal to swing the court of public opinion in his corner. And it worked. The fans called for general manager Mickey Loomis' head. They ripped owner Tom Benson. The analysts and the media elite had a field day screaming, "Just give Brees what he wants with all of the negativity of Bountygate."
On the field, Brees missed minicamps and organized team activities. And with the Payton suspension, it was doubly problematic. The Saints practiced all offseason without Payton and Brees, the two most important people to the team's success and the two people with the most knowledge of the offensive playbook. Brees could have added stability. He opted to make it worse.
I believe in offseason work. But don't take my word for it. Just ask Brees. During the 2011 lockout, Brees smartly organized player-only sessions. He told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the Saints' workouts featured a "plan" and a "purpose." The Saints were ahead of the curve. Brees went out and had a season for the ages. It would've been nice if he thought of that this spring.
So now the 0-4 Saints get ready to face the Chargers on Sunday night. Brees will pass the legendary Johnny Unitas for the all-time record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown if he throws one against his former club. Of course, Brees wished aloud for the suspended Payton and Loomis to be there. Brees always knows how to take the temperature of the people and say the right thing. He's Drew Brees. You have to love him.
Ellen says so, right?
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein