The Legacy of Drew Brees

Reliving the legendary career of Saints QB Drew Brees.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Confetti fell as Drew Brees held his newborn son in one hand and the Lombardi trophy in the other. It was 2010, his fourth year as a Saint, when he brought home New Orleans’s first Super Bowl trophy. Brees stood at barely six feet tall, lacked athleticism, and didn’t have the arm talent most other comparable quarterbacks had. So how did he do what all the previous Saints quarterbacks failed to do? The answer is simple. Throughout his career, Brees had incredible leadership, perseverance, and attention to detail that allowed him to carry his team to new heights. He overcame a career-threatening shoulder injury, during which his doctors told him he should quit football, to become one of the most productive quarterbacks in NFL history.

Brees reluctantly came back for his 20th season last year. He was facing 11 broken ribs, a torn rotator cuff, a collapsed lung, and a severe foot injury. He still performed as he always has. The quarterback started in 12 games, throwing 275 completions, 24 touchdowns, and six interceptions for 2,942 yards. Additionally, he led the Saints to a 9-3 record as a starter. By no means was this record his best season, but it was still an elite year from a seasoned quarterback. He gave New Orleans all his body had to offer, but the injuries caught up to him during the playoffs. Brees struggled to throw deep in the postseason and cited the injuries as the reason. The Saints fell to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in the divisional round, during which Brees completed 19/24 passes for 134 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. It was his first game with three interceptions since 2016. Brees realized that his body couldn’t hold up any longer, and he had a family waiting for him. That game would be the last time Brees would wear the black and gold.

Statistically, Brees has a case for being one of the top quarterbacks of all time (or even GOAT of the regular season). Brees is the only quarterback to pass for over 80 thousand yards. He’s reached this number by leading the league in passing a record seven times and passing for over 5,000 yards for a record five times. For a while, he was the all-time leader in touchdown passes until Tom Brady passed him this season. Brees has also racked up 172 wins as a starter, which ranks him fourth of all time among QBs. Brees has also notched 13 appearances in the Pro Bowl and two AP Offensive Player of the Year awards.

His individual accolades are quite impressive, but it’s what he’s done for the franchise and city of New Orleans that separates him. After Brees left the Chargers and signed a six-year deal with the Saints, he was tasked with turning the franchise around, and he did just that. Brees led the Saints to nine playoff appearances in 15 years, when they had only had five appearances over the last 60 years. He won New Orleans their first ever Super Bowl and put out a Super Bowl MVP performance for Saints fans to remember.

Brees also makes a case for being the greatest athlete off the field. Journalist Clay Travis describes it best: “No athlete has ever meant more to the city in which he played than [...] Brees has meant to New Orleans.” The quarterback took the helm of the Saints after Hurricane Katrina, which left New Orleans devastated. Brees led his community on the long road back and gave them hope. He donated millions of dollars and created the Brees Dream Foundation, which aims to make healthcare more accessible for people living in the city. Brees also spent thousands improving parks in low-income neighborhoods in New Orleans. He recently pledged another five million to building more hospitals and facilities in the area. Even outside of New Orleans, Brees is an ambassador for the World Food Programme, which works with the United Nations on feeding the hungry. He holds countless nonprofit camps and organizations in New Orleans for the youth yearly. Brees’s commitment to the city of New Orleans isn’t a statistic that can be measured, but it reflects the type of player and person he is.

Playing in the same era as all-time greats such as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Brees was just as elite. Brees was not highly recruited out of high school and was often overlooked, but he used these as his motivation. Most people would have decided being an NFL quarterback was impossible at that point, but Brees thought differently. He controlled what he had control of and did what he could to the best of his ability. What he lacked in athleticism, his elite work ethic, attention to detail, and leadership ability more than made up for. Despite being short in stature, Brees left a tall and undisputable legacy in New Orleans.