This was supposed to be a list of 11 examples of players and media figures whining about The Record.
But it is not that.
The reason it’s not is because after a thorough two-man search of the interwebs we’ve discovered that there actually isn’t much controversy about Drew Brees setting the all-time passing record late in the Atlanta shellacking. There just aren’t eleven examples of actual criticism—there’s very little from the Falcons camp and even less from any respected sports media.
It seemed to me that there was a lot, though; didn’t it seem that way to you too? What then’s behind all the noise if in reality there’s not much material criticizing Sean Payton, Drew Brees, and the Saints?
Well. This is why.
This is probably a good time to remember that cliche about pictures being worth a lot of words.
Our initial list got to seven. Of the seven entries, fully six of them are things written by Pete Prisco. The one that wasn’t—“Classy? Not so much.”—was written by Yahoo’s Jason Cole.
While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of references online and in the general world of sports media to the “controversy” over how Drew passed Marino, all of them source either Prisco’s piece or Cole’s, with the overwhelming majority of them pointing to Prisco.
It’s here important to note that Prisco didn’t just write a piece and then drop it—nor did the feelings he expressed in his article arise from the reactions of stunned, appalled Falcons in the locker room. For proof of that we can just look at the man’s Twitter timeline, which preserves his initial reaction to the record attempt.
"I would have taken him out," Prisco said. "Worth the fine. Worth the penalty."
"I’d take a personal and a foul," Prisco immediately added, as if his initial point hadn’t been made. "This is crap."
"I’d tell my players to hit Drew Brees in the mouth," he finished, only moments after the first two tweets had hit the Twitterwire, adding nothing more to the very first observation than a more specific type of violence.
With proof of Prisco’s state of mind even before talking to the Falcons, it’s worthwhile wondering if the sentiments of the players with whom he spoke have even been accurately reported. “It came on our watch,” Prisco reports one Falcon as saying, “But it didn’t have to come that way. We won’t forget it.” In the context of Prisco’s article, that’s a damning statement, except that the unnamed player could simply be referring to the fact that the record happened against the Falcons at all. He could be understandably upset that his team was curbstomped in an important game, that his attempts at preparation and efforts on the field became a sideshow to the more important matter of Breesian history.
Whatever: the point is that, knowing Prisco’s opinion before spewing means we know what he was looking for when he went to speak with the Falcons—controversy. Short of outright denials and clear statements that they were perfectly happy (after getting slammed by nearly thirty points by a hated rival, no football player or football coach or football fan is happy) for Drew, anything the Falcons said would thus become confirmation for Prisco’s pre-existing bias.
We’ve detailed Prisco’s consistent habit of ranking the Saints lower than his peers (he’s always been a big fan of Jim Haslett—possibly a personal friend of Haslett’s—and it wouldn’t surprise us if Prisco holds a grudge dating back to what he sees as unfair treatment of that coach), and that habit continues, subtly, with remarks like this from his current power rankings:
"They might be playing better than anybody right now. The defense is still giving up a lot of yards, though."
Which is a valid observation, except the teams above and below the Saints in those rankings—Green Bay and New England—are each giving up more yards than the Saints.
It’s not really my style to actively claim bias and think the media’s out to get us. I don’t believe that’s necessarily the case here. What I do believe is that Pete Prisco is no journalist, though. Right now, he’s barely a sportswriter. Over the past few days—to a lesser extent with the Saints in general, but especially these past few days—Prisco’s acted like a fan. A biased, illogical, unreasonable fan.
There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re all fans sometimes. But if Prisco’s going to make a living selling a product, he has the responsibility of ensuring that product isn’t the same bullshit you can get in a random Atlanta sports bar.