While the sentiment that Drew Brees is not an elite quarterback may anger many in the Bayou, the reality is, that point of view is not void of truth. It is not, in terms of NFL history – which we are discussing – not currently, or amongst those of his generation.
During the course of his now 19 year career, Brees has put up some magnificent numbers and set some remarkable records. At the end of the 2019 season those include:
– An NFL record of 547 TD passes and 77,416 passing yards
– A record of 54 consecutive games with a touchdown
– A record with 74.4% completion in 2018
– A record of five 5,000 yards passing seasons
– Led NFL in passing yards 7 times (’06,’08, ’11-’12, ’14-’16)
He also has the big one; winning Super Bowl 44 with an elite MVP winning performance, outplaying Peyton Manning, and defeating the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17 going 32-39 (his 32 completions tied a Super Bowl record set by Tom Brady in Super Bowl 38) for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Although his numbers aren’t “empty calories” (great stats that don’t have much meaning in terms of great play and winning), much like many of his contemporaries, Brees has played in a passing era, which was ushered in around 2002-03. That came about with rule changes that were detrimental to playing defense while aiding offences – particularly, passing offences.
One of the most conspicuous indictments against him is that at no point in his career – all 19 years – has he been considered the best player and/ or QB in the game. So what is “elite” status? What does it encompass? If it means being the best, then Brees by definition falls short in this regard. Over the last two decades there has not been a single point where has he been regarded as being the best at his discipline.
To add to that, he has never won a league MVP title. On the contrary, Aaron Rodgers and Hall of Famer, Steve Young – who like Brees, are single Super Bowl winning QB’s – are both 2 time MVP’s and both have been considered the best in the game at some point. You can even say for a stretch.
While it should be accounted for that Brees played in the era of Manning and Brady, who collectively have eight MVP’s between them (with a record 5 belonging to Manning), one has to consider that it did not hinder other players from picking up the most significant piece of individual hardware.
The Tennessee Titans’ Steve McNair (co –MVP with Manning in 2003), Seattle Seahawks’ Shawn Alexander (2005), LaDaininan Tomlinson (2006), the aforementioned Green Bay Packers’ Rodgers (2011 and ’14), Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson (2012), Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton (2015) and Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan (2016) were all recipients of the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award between 2003 (the year Manning won his first of five) and 2017 (the year Brady won the last of his three). Yet Brees was unable to pick up a single one.
Along with Rodgers – in the mid 2000’s – many believed that Tomlinson was the best player in football, even if only for a season or two. That was never true of Brees.
Despite his Super Bowl triumph, he has only played in three NFC Conference Championship games (2006, ‘09 and ‘18) in 19 seasons (18 as a full time starter). Compare that to Young who did not become a full time starter until his age 30 season and in his eight seasons as a starter also reached four NFC Conference Championship games.
Now this is not meant to disparage Brees, or cast aspersions on him as he is a fine QB. A first ballot hall of famer and one of the greatest in the history of the sport. The purpose of this is to illustrate that when we are talking about the elite, the best of the best, the top 10 – notwithstanding all the great things he’s accomplished – he may not quite be there. Brees is just shy of being “elite” when assessing all the quarterbacks who have ever played.
The records and numbers may impair our vision slightly, so this is meant to serve as an accurate evaluation – or analysis – of his career.