Drew Brees’ momentous career in professional soccer will be defined by numbers, so many numbers, because the digits he collected are too staggering to ignore: 80,358 passing yards, 571 touchdown shots, 67.7% completion rate, 20 seasons dedicated to analyze the NFL defenses as the main surgeon. QB, not only of an era but of all times. He’ll be tagged too, just for winning one Super Bowl, as if historically great quarterbacks could just snap their fingers and collect rings.
I will remember Brees though, not just for the records he compiled with the cruelty of a murderer, but also for how damned ingrained he was in the most abnormal of ecosystems, the alternate universe of NFL stardom. When I interviewed him in Louisiana for a 2018 Illustrated Sports On the cover, she invited me to her son’s bouncy house birthday party and even prepared a plate of takeout. Interestingly, the pizza, pasta, and salad were neatly separated in the container he provided. Brees remained precise and meticulous, always, from the most meaningful interactions to the totally pointless one.
Those who know Brees best understand this side of him. “He’s probably the most normal of all the superstars I’ve come across,” says Tom House, the respected pitching coach who has coached Brees, Tom Brady and Nolan Ryan among many, many others in various sports. Many elite athletes, House says, prioritize their careers. He is not judging; they have to do it to maximize their earnings and their potential. However, Brees seemed to House closer to 50-50 in the way he divided his priorities between his team and his family. Each search made Brees better for the other.
House, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, knew otherwise from experience, as baseball had cost him his first marriage. Now that he’s remarried, the pitching guru who helped stabilize the most accurate passer movement in NFL history has learned an important lesson about balancing his life in return, marking another measure of Brees’ enormous impact, which spread to injured athletes inspired by his 2006 return from shoulder surgery to other NFL players who appreciated his work as a member of their union’s executive committee.
Like all fans who have ever pulled on a Saints jersey, House wishes Brees had won another title. He’s been this close the past four seasons, leading teams with legitimate hopes only to be knocked out in a fluid catch now known as the Miracle of Minneapolis (2017), terrible pass interference (’18), a strange surprise in overtime. (’19) and, more recently, a GOAT named Brady (January). But House asks, precisely: Why define Brees by the games he did not win when we have so many examples of his brilliance?
Sure, there were missteps. Brees backed AdvoCare, a health and wellness company that in 2019 paid $ 150 million to settle charges for operating a pyramid scheme. Then there was the Yahoo! Finance interview this past offseason in which he advocated for players to defend the national anthem rather than kneel in protest. But Brees is to be commended for listening to teammates outraged by what he said, for trying to understand the issues that led to the protests, and for committing to working towards improvements.
Brees made 13 Pro Bowls, won the 2004 Comeback Player of the Year award and won 172 games as a starting quarterback. He led the NFL in passing yards seven times and created more than 50 winning series. He would win that Super Bowl after the ’09 season and also take MVP honors from the game.
His impact, however, extended far beyond wins and those stats, as dazzling as they were. Brees will also be commended for what he did in, to and around New Orleans, beginning with his arrival in 2006 fresh from surgery to repair the tear in his right labrum that threatened to end what was hitherto an uneven career. . He took a city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina and gave it back an important and unspeakable asset that was in short supply: hope.
“There is something almost miraculous in that relationship,” says James Carville, the famous political consultant and longtime Saints fan. “Drew defines the psyche of a place more than any athlete I can remember. It is more than victories and defeats. It’s almost supernatural, the way it fits. ”
As the seasons passed, Brees became a vital part of Carville’s life, almost like a friend. The two men never met, but Carville began defending Brees in public and private conversations, arguing, rightly, that Brees belonged to Brady and Joe Montana in the best quarterback conversation in the NFL. “If you don’t count touchdowns, yards and completions, then it isn’t,” Carville jokes. When the Rams pulled the Saints out of the playoffs three seasons ago, after that phantom P-INT, Carville says he felt more “for Brees,” knowing his odds of securing another title diminished with each passing year.
Carville also points out, correctly, that the way Brees is viewed, his highest position in NFL history, “will age well with time.” We will see Brees more favorably in 10 years, Carville posits. The missteps will fade, the numbers will remain, and the possibility of someone approaching them – beyond, perhaps, Patrick Mahomes in pretty ideal circumstances – is as likely as Brees growing another six inches in retirement.
House agrees. He says that when soccer analysts look back to the era of quarterbacks that is now nearing its end, Brees and Brady will be alone. “All the experts are saying [Aaron] Rodgers is this and [Peyton] Manning is that, ”House says. “But Drew is there with the GOAT. Time will confirm. ”
Brees will also make the transition to broadcasting, where he is likely to stand out, as a “normal” legend who can analyze football with astonishing precision. In other words, he will remain Drew Brees, the superstar quarterback who never behaved that way.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.