Say what you want about Drew Brees.
Say his arm isn’t what it once was, or that he can no longer lead an offense. Say he’s no longer a dominant NFL quarterback. But this wouldn’t be the first time the All-Pro signal-caller was doubted.
First, the six-foot quarterback was too short to be effective in the league. Then, after suffering a 360 degree tear of his rotator cuff and labrum, he was labeled too fragile. A decade removed from his shoulder injury, with only one missed start due to injury since then, the Saints’ gunslinger has handled criticism and doubt before, and he’s doing so again.
At the start of the 2015 NFL season, many were skeptical that the 15th-year quarterback wouldn’t be able to produce big numbers in an offense lacking dominant weapons. This is the fear that led many to believe New Orleans would target a quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft. After a misguided rumor circulated that Mickey Loomis would aim to trade Brees to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for the first-overall pick and a shot at their quarterback for the future, the Saints elected to draft Garrett Grayson in the third round of the draft.
To me, this ensured that the Saints’ belief in Brees hadn’t vanished yet, as Grayson doesn’t appear to possess starter qualities, now or in the future.
As the season started, and the Saints struggled, many were quick to throw Brees’ name in the fire. If Brees “struggled,” averaging 326 yards, completing 66 percent of his passes with six touchdowns over the Saints’ first four games, while posting a Passer Rating no lower than 80.5, then there’s no word for the defense’s deficiencies over that span. While Brees has certainly picked up his level of play in his last four games, posting three games with a Passer Rating of at least 108, that’s not to say he wasn’t playing well all along.
With the makeup of the current team, I don’t believe Brees should be on pace for a career-high number of passing attempts (which he is), but that’s been the gameplan, and the former Boilermaker has executed it with his usual mastery. Through Week 9, Brees has completed 69.6 percent of his passes, the second-highest among qualified quarterbacks (min. 100 attempts). In addition to his accuracy, Brees leads the league in yards-per-game, completions of 20+ yards as well as completions of 40+ yards. Averaging a league-high 345.4 yards-per-game means that while playing in just fifteen games this year, Brees will still eclipse the 5, 100 yard mark.
Surely, achieving this feat will silence those who claim the Saints’ quarterback’s best days are behind him, right? Only time will tell.
With all the milestones Brees has reached throughout his career, perhaps there’s one more he’s aiming for.
At 39-years-old, Peyton Manning is essentially one completion away from surpassing Brett Favre as the league’s all-time leading passer. Brees ranks fourth on that list, currently trailing Favre by 13, 042 yards. If Brees and Manning maintain their 345 and 268 yard averages, respectively, the two would finish the season separated by 12, 769 yards. Assuming Manning retires upon the conclusion of this season, that gap would take Brees three years to bridge.
While it’s uncertain as to how much longer Drew Brees will play, one thing is clear. He will not go quietly into the night.