Corder: Did Saints pick wrong quarterback?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

Celebrity breakups were chic in 2003. A certain Kentwood, La., bubblegum queen burned a bridge with a certain boy band icon and made him cry a river. Something rather large got in the way of a highly publicized nuptial ceremony between Ben and J. Lo.

Thirty-something Steve Bartman intercepted and then bobbled away the Cubs’ chance at removing the World Series monkey off their back, much to the nausea of Northsiders across the Western Hemisphere.

And the New Orleans Saints parted ways with fan-favorite and career backup Jake Delhomme, making him a free agent, and allowing rival Carolina to snatch him up and make him their No. 1 quarterback.

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The Crescent City citizens finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs for the third straight season, while all Delhomme did was beat the Saints twice, lead his Panthers to a NFC South championship. He now has them poised at a possible Super Bowl appearance if they can knock off Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Sunday.

Not bad for the Breaux Bridge, La., native, who at 6-2 is perhaps the tallest Cajun to walk the planet.

Unquestionably, the Saints have a talent with their current quarterback, Aaron Brooks, who had his best year as a pro in 2003 in rating (at 88.8, he was third best in the NFC), completion percentage (59.1, although Brooks has consistently been accurate as New Orleans’ starter) and his 3-to-1 touchdown-interception ratio (his 24 TDs were in the NFC’s top five and his eight picks were a conference low).

But I’m not convinced Brooks is the leader or &045; better put &045; has the charisma and assuredness to be that guy you want in the huddle on every down as Delhomme appears to have.

Brooks, who stepped in for an injured Jeff Blake in 2000 and led the Saints to their first playoff win, is rattled easily and doesn’t seem to have the same rapport with his teammates he once commanded.

The Virginia alum recorded a NFL high in fumbles (11).

His pair of fumbles and interceptions during Week 4 led to 28 points in the 55-21 debacle against hometown boy Peyton Manning and Indianapolis.

After starting 13 of 15 and jumping New Orleans out to a 7-0 lead over Tampa Bay, Brooks fumbled just before the half when the ball slipped out of his hand as he rared back &045; a familiar sight this season.

The Bucs took three plays to tie the game and blocked a punt on the ensuing possession, which led to a graceful Warren Sapp TD.

Brooks was never the same, finishing 7 of 15 the rest of the way in the 14-7 loss.

Delhomme’s had moments he’d soon forget, namely a crucial fumble during a Week 13 loss to Philly in the teams’ first meeting.

However, he proved himself worthy of a chance with a World Bowl championship in NFL Europe during 1999 and has done nothing to disappoint with 563 passing yards and a 61.8 completion percentage during a blowout of Dallas and a glued-to-your-seats, two-overtime win over St. Louis in these playoffs.

The Saints never gave him that shot in four years. And unfortunately for them, roses and chocolates won’t get him back.

Chuck Corder

is a sports writer for The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at (601) 445-3633 or by e-mail at