„Green Bay has truly picked a winner,‰ he said via telephone, „and they‚re going to find some things in me that they‚re not going to see in other quarterbacks.‰
Brooks was not telling a lie. Three-plus years after entering the NFL as a fourth-round selection, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound quarterback has adopted a personality unlike many who play his position. He certainly has shown abilities and made plays that many others could only dream about, but occasionally makes a mistake that can alter the outcome of a game. All in all, he is player with great talents who is still a work in progress.
The Packers really never saw the full extent of Brooks‚ abilities, but had a sense of what he could do based on practices and preseason action. A July 31, 2000, trade sent Brooks from the Packers to the Saints along with tight end Lamont Hall in exchange for linebacker K.D. Williams and a 2001 third-round draft pick. Since then, Brooks has emerged as the starter in New Orleans with mixed success. He will get his first shot at his old team when the Saints host the Packers on Sept. 15 at the Superdome.
The Saints committed to Brooks as their starter this off-season, tailoring their offense to take advantage of his unique abilities. They added some more players around him - rookie wide receiver Donte Stallworth, veteran wide receiver Jerome Pathon and tight end David Sloan - to offset the loss of wide receiver Albert Connell and tight end Cam Cleeland. They also have one of the NFC‚s best receivers returning in Joe Horn and have a good passing target out of the backfield in running back Deuce McAllister. A new quarterbacks coach, Mike Sheppard, is working directly with Brooks on a snap-by-snap basis, and the familiarity level of Brooks and offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy dates back to their year in Green Bay together.
Brooks believes he is ready to progress after having nearly a year-and-a-half of experience as a starter in New Orleans.
„I‚ve gotten a year smarter,‰ Brooks told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. „It‚s just a natural maturing process for me.‰
The Saints believe in many ways that Brooks can be a star if he makes improvements in several areas. Many of the local media in New Orleans have differing opinions on how good Brooks can be because he has not shown an all-around polished game yet that would indicate he is capable of leading a team to a Super Bowl. Brooks spent the off-season mastering the offense, especially in the „red zone,‰ where too many errors occurred last year. He also is working on his decision-making skills, which include audibles, avoiding formation and pre-snap penalties, and distributing the ball to different receivers.
„I don‚t think it is a matter of him adjusting to what opponents are doing to him,‰ explained McCarthy in a neworleanssaints.com article, „the most important thing for him is to have more of a clear understanding of what we are trying to accomplish, and I think he has that now. The only thing that can enhance that understanding is playing experience.‰
Brooks held out for two days during the preseason in an effort to renegotiate his contract. By quarterbacks standards, he is underpaid at $400,000 a year, and is seeking a long-term contract that is believed to be in the range of a six years through the 2007 season.
With the Saints‚ ownership and management balking on a new contract so far, they appear as though they are not fully sold on Brooks for the long-term. If he can show improvement in the aforementioned areas over the course of the year, however, that could change. After all, a quarterback with Brooks‚ abilities does not come around too often.