Saints Analysis: Mark Brunell

The New Orleans Saints set out to protect themselves in case of an injury to starter Drew Brees by signing Mark Brunell to be his backup. But what are the Saints getting in Brunell? Saintsinsider.com examines Brunell's potential impact on the Saints, with analysis from Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan.

While Drew Brees has certainly had injury problems in the past, he's been the epitome of durability in New Orleans since he arrived before the 2006 season.

Brees has started every game the past two season. In fact, he's among the Top 5 in just about every major statistical category among quarterbacks the last two years.

Thinking of New Orleans' offense without Brees is like thinking of Café du Monde without Beignets.

But the Saints must have a plan in the event of an injury to Brees, and on Thursday they settled on Mark Brunell.

The 15-year veteran signed a two-year deal with the Saints, making him the likely backup to Brees the next two seasons. He spent last season as the third string quarterback in Washington, the first time since his second season in Green Bay in 1994 that he hadn't started at least one game.

The backup quarterback position became a priority for the Saints after they chose not to re-sign Jamie Martin, according to Scout.com's Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan.

Brunell comes to New Orleans with solid career numbers — 31,826 yards, 182 touchdowns and 106 interceptions.

His best numbers, however, are clearly behind him, and Brunell's season-by-season numbers were never that prolific to begin with. He's thrown 20 or more touchdown passes just three times in his career, and he set his career high of 23 just three years ago with Washington. He's also taken a beating throughout his career, absorbing nearly 400 sacks.

Brunell spent most of his career in run-based offenses in Jacksonville and Washington. Those offenses are a far cry from the explosive offense the Saints run, and if given the chance, it will be curious to see if Brunell can fit in and keep the offense humming like Brees.

Plus there's Brunell's delivery. He's left-handed, and that could create issues during the season if Brees, a right-hander, is hurt. Coaches who have made the transition from right-handed to left-handed quarterbacks in midseason say it can be difficult. It's more than just a matter of flipping the playbook.

Caplan said that at age 38 Brunell is not the quarterback to lead the Saints long term. But he still has a good arm and can get the ball downfield, a key component of the New Orleans offense.

Other positives? Brunell has played in AFC Championship games, Pro Bowls and understands how to be a backup in the NFL. He knows his job is to act as a caretaker for the offense. Also, he'll be surrounded by some of the best young offensive weapons in the NFL, which should make his job and transition to the starting role a little easier.

All in all, Caplan liked the signing — but only if Brunell's impact on the Saints is kept in line with his talent and age.

"For a short period of time (maybe two to three games), Brunell could probably do an admirable job filling in for Brees, but anything more would be a stretch," Caplan said.


Matthew Postins is the editor of saintsinsider.com. He is an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association.


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