McCarthy cautioned his bosses not to be fooled by first impressions. "I told Randy and Jim that when Aaron gets here he won't bowl you over with his communication skills," McCarthy says. "He can seem quiet at first."
"Sure enough," says Haslett, "the first snap [at training camp] he sort of mumbles something, and no one can hear him. I thought, What the hell is this?" Pointing out Brooks's deficiencies is Haslett's way of keeping his 24-year-old quarterback grounded. Take the first half of the Niners' game two weeks ago, when Brooks completed two of seven passes for 21 yards and "checked out of four running plays that he shouldn't have," says Haslett. "He ticked me off. Then he finds his composure and runs the offense wonderfully in the second half. He's mature, he's smart, he's a hard worker and he's a great kid. But as I told Aaron, he's one of many guys on this team who has a job to do. He really hasn't done anything yet."
In the revelry following Sunday's division-clinching win, it was apparent that Brooks had taken Haslett's words to heart. As thousands of elated fans stood screaming in the stands, Saints owner Tom Benson broke into his signature boogie, on the 50-yard line. He pulled Brooks into his arms and asked his young quarterback if he wanted to take a spin just as a swarm of cameras set upon them. With a gracious smile, Brooks demurred. There may come a time to dance in New Orleans, but this wasn't it. There's still work to do.