Not sure if you heard or saw, but Monday night was a historical game for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who passed Peyton Manning en route to becoming the all-time leader in terms of passing yards. It is an important achievement showcasing just how explosive Brees has been as a quarterback since arriving in New Orleans. And even if the broadcast spent an overwhelming amount of time covering the record, it still needs to be noted that we are, as a collective society, still underrating Brees as an all-time quarterback.
Brees is a modern medical marvel, a guy who managed to recover from a torn labrum he suffered with the Chargers (in a game he had no business playing in) and go on to produce huge numbers. He’s also the greatest single quarterback ever to play the game under six feet tall; Brees has long been given a “he’s the exception” tagline when it comes to evaluating people who can play the hardest position in sports without being tall. (Nevermind that most really tall quarterbacks struggle to succeed; it might be more difficult to be tall than to be short.)
There are non football reasons to respect Brees, who battled with multiple teams over the franchise tag and battled with management over labor relations and who was part of the reason why the franchise tag has seen limitations placed on it during the last CBA.
But all of it pales in comparison to Brees’ on-field production. Brees has led the NFL in passing yards seven different times. He has led the league in passing touchdowns four times. He led the league in completion percentage five times and repeatedly broke his own completion percentage record for a full year over and over. Last year he completed a ridiculous 72 percent of his passes and this year he’s upped the ante — he is completing 77.9 (!!!) percent of his passes through five weeks. Brees has 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions this year. Two years ago he led the league with 325 passing yards per game and he’s upped that number this year, averaging 331 yards per game, which doesn’t lead the NFL right now, but which likely will be the top number if he sustains it over the course of a season.
Those people are idiots. Brees is averaging the second highest passing yard per game total of his career right now, while also managing the highest yards per attempt of his career right now. Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff are your quarter season MVP leaders, but do not sleep on Brees when it comes to making a run for the NFL’s top award. According to OddsShark.com, Brees made a move up this week into the No. 2 spot in terms of NFL MVP odds.
Bear in mind, throughout a career that features nearly 500 touchdowns, the most passing yards in NFL history and a Super Bowl , Brees has never won an MVP award. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback who has shredded the league repeatedly since arriving in New Orleans. That’s preposterous.
And it’s part of why he’s underrated: Brees’ entire career has been played with the specter of multiple legendary quarterbacks in the NFL as well. He has never played without either both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in the league. Somehow, Drew Brees has never been considered the best quarterback in football at any point in his career.
Debates about Brady vs. Manning treated Brees as a third wheel of sorts, and by the time Manning fell off a cliff, Brees was simply a member of the “elite” quarterbacks along with Brady and Rodgers.
Manning won MVP in 2009 — Brees’ Super Bowl season, in which he beat Manning — without leading the league in any meaningful category. (Seriously.) Manning also won it in 2008; Brees and the Saints went 8-8. Brady, the obvious 2007 winner, netted the award in 2010 as well. It’s hard to argue with Rodgers in 2011, when the Packers went 15-1, but Brees’ stats were better. It’s a lot like Phil Mickelson happening to play professional golf at the same time as Tiger Woods only with multiple goats roaming the pasture.
We’ll look back years from now and wonder how Brees never captured the award. We may even look back and wonder if Brees has a case to be above Manning and Rodgers in terms of the quarterback pantheon, especially if he punctuates his resume with a late-career MVP run and a second Super Bowl victory for New Orleans.
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To the rankings: