By: Brady Gardner
As becomes the case for most veteran athletes, Drew Brees is getting to the point where football fans can begin to reflect on his accomplishments in the NFL. His finest years are likely behind him, and within the next few years, his legacy will become the only thing left for people to remember his career by.
Brees is putting the finishing touches on a few rather impressive feats that have inserted his name on to lists that include some of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. In fact, the Saints’ star is quietly composing one of the most impressive resumes in all of professional sports.
But for some reason, Brees is never in the conversation for the greatest quarterback of all time. Names like Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and others have been considered time and time again for this prestigious position. Even 34-year old Aaron Rodgers has been a popular vote in this discussion, despite his comparatively small sample size of ten years in the starting role for Green Bay.
Well, it might be time to reconsider excluding Drew Brees from this debate.
Before I get into the real meat of the question at hand, I’d like to preface what I’m about to write with this information: I don’t think Drew Brees is the greatest quarterback of all time. The GOAT debate is another topic for another time. This article is only a presentation of two arguments: one in favor of Brees being considered one of the best, and another in contradiction of this idea.
With that settled, let’s take a look at why Brees might deserve a second look in the discussion for greatest of all time.
This past Monday, Brees overtook Peyton Manning for the most regular season passing yards, the most recent record of several that Brees has accumulated over the years. Despite being almost two years younger than Brady, Brees holds 14 passing records, compared to Brady’s 12. And these aren’t insignificant titles.
Aside from throwing for the most passing yards in history (72,103), Brees also holds the record for highest career completion percentage (67.1), career completions (6,344), and consecutive games with a touchdown pass (54). He has led the league in passing seven seasons out of his seventeen as a starter, and has been selected for a whopping eleven pro bowls.
Brees has been one of the top five quarterbacks in the league for more than decade. He has the records. He has the numbers. But there is one bad mark on his illustrious career that will hold him back in any GOAT debate. The albatross around his neck that, barring an extreme change in fortune to conclude his career, will hurt his legacy forever.
The guy hasn’t won enough on the big stage.
In Brees’ four years in San Diego, the Chargers won the AFC West once, but were quickly eliminated from the playoffs in the first round. He led the Saints to the top of the NFC South in his first year with New Orleans, eventually stalling in conference championship. In 2011, 2013, and 2017, Brees’ Saints were bounced in the divisional round. The lone Super Bowl ring Brees owns came from New Orleans’ 2009 campaign, won in a championship game against the Colts in which the Saints’ defense was the biggest story.
For many fans, postseason success is a requirement for any GOAT hopeful. While Brees has managed numerous winning records and top-half finishes, he has not had this success when it counts. Brady has five rings and counting. Montana has four. Bradshaw has four. Brees having one is simply not good enough.
But if we really think about it, could postseason success potentially be overvalued?
I realize I’m opening a whole new can of worms here, but football is a team game, and it requires a team effort to win a championship. Brees hasn’t always been surrounded with the best weapons or aided by the strongest defenses. And like Tom Brady, a lot of Brees’ accomplishments have been completed across different receiving options and different offensive schemes. So, while it would help Brees’ case if he did have a few more titles to his name, should we really be evaluating a single player based on his team’s results in the playoffs?
We can talk all we want about Brees’ lack of postseason accomplishments, but at 39 years old, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Brees to finally add to his underwhelming collection of playoff victories. He still has a solid coaching staff, young talent surrounding him, and has expressed interest in playing until he’s 45. Maybe, just maybe, Drew Brees is still on the rise.
Ultimately, the GOAT debate will never be solved. There are too many players to choose from, and too many statistics to consider.
But if we’re going to put together a shortlist of the players most deserving of this position, Drew Brees has to be on that list.