Drew Brees retires an NFL great, there is no doubt about that. The New Orleans Saints quarterback has announced his retirement after 20 seasons in the NFL.
The Brees retirement news has seen many players of the past and present pay their tributes to one of the best of his era.
We have now seen two likely hall of famers and NFL greats such as Philip Rivers and Brees retire. Tom Brady is likely to call it a day within the next two to three seasons and Ben Roethlisberger is expected to play one final year. It is a changing of the guard in the league.
The announcement that Brees retired was made over the weekend through his children on his Instagram account. As an NFL fan in the UK who got into the sport after watching Brees play, I wanted to pay tribute to a player destined for the Hall of Fame.
October 26th 2008, a younger version of myself turns on the television looking for something to watch. I cast my eye on ‘Live American Football’. It was the second NFL regular game in history to be played in London, between the Saints and the San Diego Chargers. Both Brees and Rivers played in this game.
Watching Brees turned me into a fan of the sport. This would result in me buying a copy of Madden 09 which helped me learn more about the sport. Two years later and Madden 11 was released. The game opens up with Drew Brees giving a speech which still to this day gives me goosebumps.
Brees will go down as a legend in the NFL and currently holds numerous records. This includes the most career passing yards, most career pass completions, the highest single-season completion percentage (74.4%) and most consecutive games with a touchdown to name a few. He also won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2006.
So how did it all start for Brees in his NFL career?
AN INJURY AFFECTED SPELL IN SAN DIEGO
Brees hasn’t always been a Saint. He started as a Charger, being drafted in the second round. He may have won Comeback Player of the Year but struggled massively to stay healthy during his time.
This caused the Chargers to go and take Eli Manning with the first overall pick in the 2005 Draft before Manning refused to play and he and Philip Rivers swapped teams shortly after.
There was a season where both Brees and Rivers were both in the quarterback room at San Diego. Brees won the starting job but would depart the Chargers during the 2006 offseason and did have talks with the Miami Dolphins.
They decided to take Daunte Culpepper due to injury concerns over Brees, a decision they probably still regret to this day considering how the careers of Brees and Culpepper played out.
The Saints had struggled for most of their history as a franchise but Brees came in and changed all of that.
BREES BRINGS LOMBARDI TO NEW ORLEANS
In his first season, Brees guided New Orleans to a 10-6 record, a first division title and a trip to the NFC Championship game, when they lost 39-14 to the Chicago Bears.
The Saints would miss a spot in the playoffs in the next two seasons (2007 and 2008) but the 2009 season would see Brees and New Orleans go all the way. In 2009, Brees tied a franchise record with six touchdowns in one game in a Week 1 win over the Detroit Lions. He also led the Saints to a comeback, overcoming a 24-3 second-quarter deficit to win 46-34 against the Miami Dolphins.
The Saints started 13-0 before losing their final 3 games, with Brees becoming the first player to score five touchdowns against Bill Belichick. He finished the game with a perfect passer rating (158.3).
New Orleans would get the first-round bye and beat the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings on their way to Super Bowl 44.
Less than five seasons after they were not allowed to play at the Super Dome due to Hurricane Katrina, the Saints were Super Bowl champions. Brees guided New Orleans to a 31-17 win over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
Brees tied a Super Bowl record with 32 completions, throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns on his way to Super Bowl MVP.
HEARTBREAKING PLAYOFF LOSSES LATE ON IN CAREER
The Saints reached the playoffs in 9 of Brees’ 15 seasons with New Orleans. They assembled a team in the later parts of the 2010s that was one of the best in the league. Players such as Alvin Kamara, Cameron Jordan and Michael Thomas were just three players in a strong roster, all under the guidance of head coach Sean Payton.
During the 2017 season, New Orleans came up against the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round. It was all looking good for the Saints as they appeared all set for a place in the NFC Championship game thanks to a Will Lutz field goal with less than 30 seconds remaining as they took a 24-23 lead.
However, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, who started the season as the backup, threw a pass to Stefon Diggs who caught the ball near the sidelines. Many would have predicted Diggs to run out of bounds to give them one more chance of scoring a touchdown. Instead, Saints cornerback Marcus Williams missed a tackle and Diggs was given the remainder of the field, which the wide receiver fully utilised and ran into the endzone with no time left. Cue ecstasy in Minnesota and heartbreak in New Orleans.
Further heartbreak was to come. The next season saw the Saints reach the NFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Rams.
The Saints were in prime position to win this game, with the team approaching the red zone. Then there was controversy, with a blown call by the officials. It was 3rd and 10 with less than two minutes remaining. Brees threw towards Tommylee Lewis and Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman should have been flagged for a helmet to helmet and defensive pass interference.
Neither was flagged and the Rams went on to kick a field goal to take the game to overtime and win with a game-winning Greg Zuerlein kick.
Brees’ final two seasons saw New Orleans lose once again the Vikings thanks to an overtime touchdown reception from Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph in the Wildcard Round during the 2019 season. Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would eliminate the Saints during the 2020 season in the Divisional Round. It all appeared to lean towards Brees’ last game, with the way Brees left the field and the moment he had with Tom Brady and his wife and kids.
BREES RETIRES WITH JUST ONE RING
The NFL is all about parity but somehow Brees retires having only ever played in one Super Bowl. Considering how good Brees has been, it is a true shame that we never saw him in another one. Players in the AFC struggled to make the big game due to the likes of Brady and Peyton Manning but Brees was in the NFC. Quarterbacks such as Jared Goff, Nick Foles and Jimmy Garoppolo have all been starters in a Super Bowl and have all been far less productive in their NFL careers than Brees has.
In the same way, as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may end his NFL career, it is a true sporting injustice that we have only seen Brees play in one Super Bowl.
Brees retires, ending his career with 10,551 passing attempts, 7,142 passing completions, 80,358 passing yards, 571 touchdowns, 243 interceptions and a 67.7 completion percentage.