Jameis Winston is the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints and fair or not, he's going to draw comparisons to the legendary quarterback that donned the black and gold under center for 15 years before him.
And while the results have been mixed in Winston's first five games of that tenure, there's been a lot more good than bad. Brees himself even offered a bit of analysis, pointing to where the offense was at the start of his career in New Orleans compared to today. It's completely different, he said.
"We were very simplistic back in 2006 compared to where we are now, and what is put on the quarterback position now as opposed to then," Brees said. "I’d even say from that perspective, it’s harder. It’s harder to play the quarterback position now for the Saints than it was 15 years ago."
And while the Saints' 3-2 start with Winston at the helm has been less-than-perfect, it's a stable start to the post-Brees era heading into a Week 6 bye. Winston set an NFL record for the fewest passing yards to throw five TD passes in a blowout of the Packers in the season-opener, and didn't throw for more than 150 yards in any game over the first three weeks.
His yardage impact kicked up in Weeks 4 and 5, though that uptick was marred by a stunning, OT loss to the previously winless Giants in Week 4. Still, the interception-prone Winston from his days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hasn't emerged in damaging ways, outside of a pair of ill-advised balls that went for interceptions in a demoralizing loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 2.
And if you go by the stats, Winston's first five games -- playing without several key playmakers the team expects to get back in the coming weeks -- he stacks up favorably against Brees' first five games in a Saints jersey. What stands out is the drastic difference in passing volume, a product of a team leaning on its dominant defense early in the year.
THROUGH FIVE WEEKS:
- Jameis Winston (2021): 70-116 (60%), 892 yards, 12 TDs, 3 INTs, 3-2 record
- Drew Brees (2006): 111-170 (65%), 1,234 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs; 4-1 record
"I’m sure that there’s still a part of Sean Payton that’s getting used to how Jameis plays and kind of how he processes," Brees said, "and the same for Jameis with how Sean Payton calls the game. … That just takes time.”
Brees was speaking from the ribbon-cutting of the Stretch Zone in New Orleans, a practitioner-led treatment center the retired QB is partnering on with former Purdue teammate Jason Loerzel.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Brees was sitting in his Sunday Night Football analyst chair, where he's often asked to break down the action from Saints games. He knows a thing or two about the offense, after all, and he hasn't pulled any punches. During his breakdown of the Saints' win over the Washington Football Team in Week 5 that saw Winston throw four touchdowns passes, he observed that the offense has often lacked rhythm despite its efficiency in the red zone.
Brees said that while he knows the subject matter about as well as humanly possible, analyzing his former team does present a bit of a conundrum. It's difficult to remain impartial when you're rooting for a specific team to win each week.
"You all exactly where my heart is. My heart is here in New Orleans with the Saints. I’m rooting for them. I’m wanting them to win, I’m wanting them to be successful.