ESPN insider Adam Schefter was on the cable network’s Sunday Night Countdown television program, and he made a comment that surprised me.
“Everybody expects after this season Drew Brees will retire,” Schefter said.
Brees, in his 20th year in the NFL at quarterback, has been a model of consistency for most of his career. Starting off in San Diego, and then moving to the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Brees has made the Saints a perennial playoff contender for 14 years.
With one Super Bowl ring on his finger, Brees ranks first in career passing yards in NFL history (80,358), second in passing touchdowns (571), and fifth in QB rating (98.7%).
If this indeed is his last run for the Super Bowl — the Saints play host to Tampa Bay in a division playoff game on Sunday — does he go down as one of the best signal callers in the game?
Brees absolutely deserves to be in that conversation.
Is he one of the best of the best? I’m not so quite convinced of that yet. Though stats speak volumes, other elements do come into play.
Consider Joe Montana, who easily ranks among the all-time greats. During his career with the 49ers, Montana won four Super Bowls, threw for 273 touchdowns and over 40,000 passing yards. The latter two fall well short of Brees’ numbers (with a longer career), but what brings Montana into this argument is that when the 49ers needed him to be at his best, he was. Montana’s nickname, “Joe Cool,” reflects his demeanor on the field, and it showed. He was able to win when it mattered most.
Another quarterback who has a case for the top echelon in league history is Brett Favre. His durability is legendary. He started 297 games in a row. Favre racked up one Super Bowl ring, three MVPs, and 11 Pro Bowls during his 1992-2010 career. He also has the stats to back up the accolades, with more than 70,000 passing yards and 508 touchdown passes. To post high numbers, play most of your career and always be a contender for personal awards, it’s sensible to say that Favre is among the greats.
Lastly, the career that may never be repeated belongs to Tom Brady, who will match up against Brees in Sunday’s playoff game. Brady, a seventh-round draft pick, has a resumé that’s unsurpassed, with six Super Bowl wins, most by any quarterback, and four MVP awards. At 43 (Brees turned 42 on Jan. 15), Brady continues to play at a high level with Tampa Bay, and his career doesn’t look to have an end in sight. Brady seems destined to surpass Brees in both passing yards (Brady has 79,204) and he already has the lead in passing touchdowns with 581.
Regardless of whether Brees ends his career after this season, he will certainly don the golden jacket and be enshrined in the Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio. Though he makes a solid argument to be considered one of the best, I can’t put him above Montana, Farve or Brady due to the different elements each brought.
But I can say confidently that Brees is just behind that trio on the all-time greatest list at quarterback.