We start with the results of the NFL’s divisional round, where Drew Brees may have played his last game after New Orleans’s loss to Tampa Bay. The Saints have had some fluky playoff exits in the past few years, and while this wasn’t one of them, it feels like Brees should perhaps have more than one Super Bowl ring by this point. But it’s much harder to evaluate the legacy of football players, even quarterbacks, on championship success than it is in leagues like the NBA. No one thinks Eli Manning is better than Brees, even though he has two titles to Brees’s one. Brees’s legacy as an incredibly prolific and accurate passer who helped change the course of the Saints franchise post-Hurricane Katrina should matter in any conversation about great quarterbacks of this or any era. What really overshadows him isn’t what he achieved on the field, or his late career run of bad luck in the playoffs — it’s the successes of the quarterback who just beat him. Not that any of us picked the Bucs this week in our survivor pool, but Tom Brady looms over Brees and so many other quarterbacks of the last decade.
Next, we’re joined by FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter Chris Herring to talk about James Harden joining the Brooklyn Nets and the legacy that he leaves behind in Houston. Long story short? The Nets went from interesting to terrifying on offense with the addition of Harden. Chris doesn’t think they’re a shoo-in to win the East, and it remains to be seen how well Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can share duties once Irving rejoins the team. But they are going to be both dangerous to play against and a lot of fun to watch. Meanwhile, the Rockets are likely ready to move on, given how contentious Harden’s departure was, but his eight seasons in Houston changed basketball forever. It’s maybe even a more interesting project to study because they never won a championship — that would automatically be the legacy we talk about if the Rockets had gotten over the line. Instead, we can think about the explosion of attempted 3-pointers, Harden’s unreal efficiency and that both reshaped how every team approaches offense.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Sara talks about the opportunities made possible by changes in WNBA free agency rules last year. For much of the league’s history, franchise tags and low player pay kept the stakes and the number of moves low. But those rules are loosening and making the possibility of superteams and dramatic negotiations more likely. Even if it’s not great for parity, these changes are likely very good for the WNBA. Fans will be able to join their NBA colleagues in parsing free agency storylines and keeping the fun going throughout the offseason.
What we’re looking at this week: