In crisis, Luke McCown might be best shot

I still have every expectation that Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints will reach agreement on a long-term contract before Monday afternoon’s deadline. But, with each hour that passes without a deal, you have to at least start thinking about hypothetical situations.

What if Brees really is serious about holding out? What if he holds out for all or most of the season?

There’s little question that it would be disastrous if the Saints were without the best player in franchise history and their unquestioned leader. But there’s that old NFL adage coaches and players like to use about “the next man up." There’s a lot of validity to that because the physical nature of the game means that a starter always is one injury away from being replaced by his backup and there are many stories throughout history of reserves doing wonderful things.

But I don’t think that dream scenario applies to the Saints’ nightmare scenario. If Brees isn’t playing, the Saints are in huge trouble.

The other three quarterbacks on the roster are Chase Daniel, Sean Canfield and Luke McCown. Sure, it’s possible the Saints could go out and sign a veteran off the street. We’ll start exploring those possibilities if 4:01 p.m. ET Monday rolls around and Brees doesn’t have a contract or hasn’t signed his franchise tender.

For now, let’s just stick with the quarterbacks the Saints have on their roster. Could they win, over the long haul, with any of them?

There was a lot of talk about how well Daniel was operating the first-team offense through most of the offseason program and how he had taken on a leadership role. All indications are Daniel is a smart guy, hard worker and a good teammate. But the reality is Daniel has attempted all of eight NFL passes. When I was at Saints' minicamp in June, Daniel looked all right. But he was working against a defense that wasn’t allowed to hit. Daniel doesn’t have Brees’ arm or experience and real defenses would be a challenge.

Although Daniel certainly appears to be the No. 1 alternative in a Brees disaster at the moment, I’m not sure he’d actually be the best choice of the three quarterbacks currently on the roster. Just watching practice, it’s clear that Daniel is better than Canfield.

But McCown could be the wild card if Brees really ends up sitting out. McCown’s been floating around the league since 2004. He never has been able to nail down a full-time starting job and that means he clearly has some limitations. But McCown is bigger, has a stronger arm and more NFL experience than Daniel.

It wouldn’t be ideal, but McCown might give the Saints the best shot if Brees really does end up holding out.