The word “Elite” is thrown around a lot in professional sports. Sometimes it is warranted (Brady, Manning, Lewis, Polamalu) whereas other times it is not (Leaf, Russell, Golston). When the name Drew Brees comes up, however, there is absolutely no doubt that he is in the former category. Standing barely 6 feet, Brees is a small man thriving in a league that is defined by 6’5 270 lb. specimens.
Brees and Peyton Manning are far and away the two best football minds in the game today. Brees’ ability to read a defense before taking a snap, to notice single coverage on the outside, adjust his receiver’s route accordingly and then release a picture perfect ball zinging into a window just wide enough for a ball to squeeze through is nothing short of remarkable.
Brees started his career with the San Diego Chargers where he would take a few years to find his footing in the NFL, until his breakout season in 2004 where he had 24 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions while leading the Chargers to 12 wins and an AFC West title.
Only two years later, his time on the West Coast came to a surprising end as the San Diego front office brought in hot shot prospect Philip Rivers. Brees, undeterred, moved to the Bayou to link up with the New Orleans Saints. His first season in 2006 resulted in a 7 win improvement over the year before and an NFC South Division crown.
Since coming to New Orleans, Brees has not thrown for fewer than 4,300 yards and 26 touchdowns in a season. I’m sure there are many Madden lovers that couldn’t do that. The high point for Brees so far was the 2009 season where he threw for 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns while leading the Saints to their 1st Super Bowl Championship in franchise history beating Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
You can judge a player’s greatness by many things. Tim Tebow is a tremendous person off the football field, but he struggles on it. Terrell Owens was a stud between the lines, but his personal life was severely lacking in self-discipline. When you look at Drew Brees you see the best of both worlds. A quarterback that can do anything he wants on a football field, and a man that you never hear anything bad about off the field.
Brees set yet another NFL record on Sunday night during his team’s 31-24 win over his old team, the Chargers. He threw a touchdown pass for the 48th straight game breaking the old record set by the legend Johnny Unitas. To list every single record Brees has would take all day. In case you’re wondering, Brees is the holder of 60 NFL records. Yes. Six. Zero. He is a 6X Pro Bowler, 4x All-Pro, 3x NFC Offensive Player of the Year among countless other awards and honors.
What makes Brees’ case for being a legend is how he is viewed in New Orleans. He is absolutely beloved by the Saints faithful, and the city has embraced him as their unequivocal spokesman. He was a constant presence throughout the recovery from Hurricane Katrina and his play on the field has helped heal some wounds.
Going forward, Brees still has a lot of football ahead of him. He will probably continue to raise the bar and rack up the records, and he has a chance to possibly challenge for another championship. However, he could retire today and I would still have him as a 1st ballot Hall of Famer. No matter what team you support, or who your favorite player is, if you’re a fan of football, you must have nothing but respect for this man. He has mine, that’s for sure.