On Tuesday afternoon, the New Orleans Saints announced that kicker Jon Carney and quarterback Aaron Brooks would be inducted into the Saints’ Hall of Fame. Carney’s induction was met with little interest, outweighed by mostly outrage from Saints Twitter about the induction of Brooks.
@BryanTNR tweeted this in response to WWL’s Steve Geller:
@SteveGellerWWL no way should Aaron Brooks be a HOFer on any level.
— BryanInNOLAEast (@BryanTNR) May 20, 2014
@skooks The Aaron Brooks highlight reel is going to be fantastic! The fumbles alone are tremendously exciting!
— Karl’s in Charge (@karlschott) May 20, 2014
From @Who_Is_JayMaple: “Aaron Brooks? Saints HOF? Man April Fools Day passed already.”
But wait there’s more. From @RosewoodOrDie:
We get one more chance to boo Aaron Brooks.
— Michael Flowers (@RosewoodOrDie) May 20, 2014
Perhaps the most reasonable was from a New Orleans favorite tweeter, @skooks:
Look. Aaron Brooks wasn’t terrible. It’s just that he got only so good and no better. Then regressed.
— skooks (@skooks) May 20, 2014
If you use the search function on Twitter and type “Aaron Brooks” you’ll find a multitude of such tweets, mostly in line with one of those presented here. Approximately 75 percent of the tweets fall in line with these.
While it’s hardly a statistically accurate way to determine if a player deserves to be in a teams’ Hall of Fame, the fan reaction should play some kind of role in determining the deservedness of a player. Loyal fans of a team should not immediately jump to Twitter demeaning a player who was just announced into that teams’ Hall of Fame.
That might tell us something is wrong with this selection.
Let’s take a little more advanced method to determine validity of Brooks’ selection.
Using pro-football-reference.com’s statistical page, we see that Drew Brees has the top eight seasons in New Orleans Saints history.
Guess who is number 9? Aaron Brooks.
18, 19 and 22 also belong to Brooks. In between, are appearances from the beloved Archie Manning (numbers 16 and 17), Jim Everett (numbers 10 and 11), and Bobby Hebert (numbers 12, 13, 15, 20, and 21). Jeff Blake even secured a spot at number 14. Nowhere to be found in the top-22 is Billy Kilmer, a quarterback who was in the Saints’ third-ever Hall of Fame class in 1990 (his first appearance on this list is at number 24).
Only three quarterbacks before Brooks had been awarded the honor as a Saints Hall of Famer (Manning, Kilmer and Hebert).
As has been well documented, the Saints were mostly a laughingstock in the NFL prior to the arrival of Drew Brees and Sean Payton in 2006.
Brooks’ 2000 team was the first in franchise history to win a playoff game. Though quarterback wins is an atrocious statistic – just as starting pitchers’ wins has proven to be in baseball – in terms of franchise lore it counts for something.
Let’s look at Brooks’ individual pedigree for a minute. Using Pro Football Reference’s criteria of eight-plus games started, Brooks actually doesn’t qualify in the 2000 season. And that is part of what makes Brooks’ performance at the end of that 2000 season more remarkable.
One could argue, as @skooks essentially did, that Brooks came in as unknown and road the coattails of surprise to brief success. The numbers tell a different story.
Brooks’ best season (number 9 overall in franchise history) came in 2003 – three full seasons after his inaugural run as the Saints quarterback. In that season he completed 59 percent of his passes – which admittedly is awful. But his 24/8 TD/Int ratio was outstanding.
A metric I’ve begun using to evaluate college quarterbacks – Interception/Attempt is another statistic which is favorable for Brooks. In 2003, he threw one interception for every 64.75 passing attempts.
For Jim Haslett’s Saints that equals out to approximately one interception thrown every two games. That’s pretty good, no matter who you are.
Comparatively, Drew Brees’ best season in this metric came last season, 2013, when he threw one interception for every 54.17 passing attempts. Say what you want, but Brooks’ 2003 season was outstanding if for no other reason than he did a wonderful job of taking care of the football.
In that season, he did take 34 sacks which equals one sack for every 16.24 times he dropped back to pass. That is not very good. Brees clearly bests him in that category.
It’s also true that Brooks’ 2003 season is the only one in which he had such a remarkable Int/Att ratio. Every other season, that number was rather ugly.
The true story seems to be that Brooks had a wonderful 2000 season in taking the reins of the offense and helping to guide the Saints to their first ever playoff victory. And then he had a once-in-a-career 2003 season.
But another statistic which helps is the Adjusted Net Yards/Attempt statistic (for a wonderful explanation of how this statistic is calculated, and why it is relevant, click here). His 2003 season mark, 6.29 is better than two of Brees’ seasonal marks. And among non-Brees Saints quarterbacks, it is the second best seasonal mark ever.
Again, though, among non-Brees Saints quarterbacks, Brooks’ 2002 and 2004 seasons rank fifth and sixth in that category (5.68 and 5.64 respectively).
It must be remembered that for a rather sad franchise prior to Brees’ arrival, Brooks represented a new sensation—a quarterback who could make plays by pushing the ball down the field (a big part of the ANY/A stat represents) or with his feet.
In fact, that is probably Brooks’ greatest legacy. While his sack rate, interception/attempt ratio and completion percentage do not incite great awe, it is an accurate statement to say that Brooks was the most exciting quarterback in Saints history since Archie Manning.
And unlike with Manning, Brooks’ teams were better than average. They even won a playoff game.
Truth be told, Saints fans are spoiled now. They are now privy to what an all-time quarterback great looks like. Brees is of course in that company, as I explained here.
Of course, when the comparison is to Brees, Brooks looks incompetent. From a legacy standpoint, Brooks had the unfortunate luck of immediately preceding Brees. In a mirror side-by-side, every single fan, coach or GM would take Brees 100 times out of 100.
But if we can step outside that realm and ignore Brees, I think we’d find that Brooks wasn’t that bad. Sure there were some ugly moments (this play against Brees’ Chargers heads the list), but Brooks was the second best quarterback in Saints history by a plethora of statistical measures.
Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you. As mentioned before, it is not the only way to evaluate a quarterback. The fans who reacted to the announcement with sarcastic wit may have been right to do so.
However, Brooks did win a playoff game. I hate that measure for quarterbacks, but considering the franchise’s futile history prior to Brooks’ insertion in the lineup it’s hard to argue:
Brooks deserves to be in the Saints Hall of Fame