Today in NFC South history

One year ago today, the big story in the NFC South was the New Orleans Saints starting their offseason program without quarterback Drew Brees.

That came as Brees was looking for a long-term contract and shortly after coach Sean Payton had to leave the team to begin a season-long suspension for his role in the bounty scandal.

I long have been of the opinion that offseason workouts -- at least the early portions -- aren’t nearly as important as a lot of people think. But the Saints’ situation last year was different due to Payton’s absence.

If ever a team needed its quarterback and leader in April, May and June, it was the Saints. But Brees wasn’t there. He worked out on his own, but his absence made a lot of Saints fans question the loyalty of a guy that previously could do no wrong.

The Saints went through their offseason program with Chase Daniel getting all the first-team work at quarterback. The negotiations with Brees dragged on before a contract finally was agreed to in July.

Brees was happy because he got a deal that pays him an average of $20 million a year and the Saints were happy because their quarterback made it to training camp on time.

But the whole saga made me re-think my philosophy on offseason programs. Maybe they’re more important than I thought. The Saints had a lot of other distractions last year, but Brees and the offense weren’t always as precise as they had been in recent years.

As the Saints started 0-4 and finished 7-9, you couldn’t help but wonder if things might have been a little different if Brees had been there for the offseason program.