NFL

Drew Brees, Philip Rivers declined last-minute recruiting pitches from Saints

As first reported by the Times-Picayune | Advocate’s Jeff Duncan and confirmed by NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill, the New Orleans Saints tried to make a big move at quarterback this week after losing Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian when they entered COVID-19 protocol. Drew Brees was their first choice, but the Saints also called in on recently retired signal-caller Philip Rivers. Unfortunately, both NFL veterans turned them down.

Brees has been busy celebrating the holidays with his family in Hawaii when he’s not busy offering expert commentary on NBC Sports. Rivers finished his first season as a high school football coach in Alabama and also opted to enjoy time at home. The prospect of rushing into the lineup with just a few days of practice, working in an offense short on weapons and missing its bookend All-Pro tackles, wasn’t very enticing.

Duncan adds that the Saints also reached out to Josh McCown — a venerable quarterback who hasn’t taken a snap since 2019, and brother to former New Orleans backup Luke McCown. He also wasn’t interested, prompting the Saints to sign ex-Jacksonville Jaguar Blake Bortles to prop up rookie draft pick Ian Book on Monday night.

It’s far from ideal, but the Saints only have themselves to blame. Rivers’ name was floated back in early November when Jameis Winston first went down with a season-ending knee injury. He voiced interest in coming to New Orleans at the time, but the Saints instead opted to go winless for a month with Trevor Siemian under center before pivoting to an injured Taysom Hill, who managed to get the team back to .500 before COVID sidelined him.

They’ve done too little too late to find an upgrade at quarterback. You can’t blame them for taking a moonshot to try and remain competitive in the thick of the playoff race but it’s really something that should have been explored about two months ago, not four or five days before kickoff.

And it’s tough to interpret this as anything but a no-confidence vote in Ian Book. The rookie was inactive for 12 of 14 games this year including all of Hill’s recent starts. Now erosion to the depth chart is forcing him into his first career start on a roster depleted at nearly every position group. He’s got an uphill battle in front of him, but it’s still telling that the Saints would rather have pushed Brees or Rivers or someone else entirely new through a week of practice rather than someone they spent a fourth-round draft choice on just this year. Whatever the expectations are for Book in New Orleans, let’s hope he exceeds them.

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