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NFL Draft

Reflecting On Greatness Of Drew Brees After Retirement

  • The Draft Network
  • March 15, 2021
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In the prime of Drew Brees’ career, he was cemented in the top tier of active quarterbacks. Now, after two decades in the NFL, he leaves the league as one of the most accomplished passers ever. Brees, who started his career with the then-San Diego Chargers, became one of the best free-agent acquisitions ever, making the New Orleans Saints a prominent contender with 14 playoff appearances over 20 seasons and the team’s lone Super Bowl championship in 2009.

Brees, who announced his retirement via Instagram on Sunday, has one of the most accomplished resumes of any quarterback, reaching the pinnacle of success once—an effort that garnered the Super Bowl XLIV’s Most Valuable Player award. He holds records for the most career passing yards (80,358), most career pass completions (7,142), most 5,000 passing yard seasons (5), the highest single-season completion percentage (74.4%), and the highest completion percentage in a game (96.7%); those are just a fraction of his NFL records. Brees is the fastest player to reach 50,000 career passing yards (183 games), to reach 60,000 career passing yards (215 games), to reach 70,000 career passing yards (248 games), and to reach 80,000 career passing yards (286 games).

What’s most impressive, however, is what the league looked like before Brees and how his successful career, as one of the most dangerous pocket passers, ushered in a new era of quarterbacks who now use their powerful arm and ability to move outside of the pocket to wreak havoc. When Brees entered the NFL in 2001, there was only one 5,000-yard passing season in history; Dan Marino’s 1984 season (5,084). The passing boom, which saw Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes, and, most recently, Jameis Winston all record 5,000-plus yard seasons in the past decade, was led and dominated by Brees.    

“After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football,” Brees wrote. “Each day, I poured my heart & soul into being your Quarterback. ‘Til the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints organization, my team, and the great city of New Orleans. We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us.

"You have molded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories. My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give to you everything you had given to me and more. I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. Now my real life's work begins!"

Brees’ exit didn’t come as a surprise; his storied career was trending down as he battled notable injuries, and Father Time, in his last couple of seasons. He had a TV deal awaiting him and will join NBC as a studio analyst for "Football Night in America" and game analyst for the studio’s coverage of Notre Dame. While Brees was on the field, particularly during the 2011-12 and 2014-16 seasons, where he led the NFL in passing yards along with numerous other categories, he and head coach Sean Payton exemplified a thriving quarterback-coach marriage; both joined the organization in 2006, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“When I was hired by the Saints as head coach in 2006, the very first goal was to establish a functional and winning culture,” Payton said in a statement. “In doing so, it was vital to know what we were looking for in a player, talent, work ethic, makeup, intelligence and leadership are all qualities we found in Drew Brees. ... I am forever grateful for what he has done for our team, our community, and for me personally.”

It’s unclear who will follow Brees as New Orleans’ starter in 2021. The Saints restructured Taysom Hill’s deal and Jameis Winston will likely be in the mix too. Whoever Brees’ successor is will have big shoes to fill as Payton and New Orleans get used to a new face under center and a lot of new faces because of their salary cap crunch.

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