The New Orleans Saints gambled and won
Drew Brees, after five years with the then-San Diego Chargers, was on the market.
Imagine. An NFL starting quarterback enjoying unfettered free agency.
The Chargers had concerns about surgery on Brees’ right (throwing shoulder) and had already drafted Philip Rivers. So the Chargers moved on, getting nothing for a one-time Pro Bowl pick.
The Miami Dolphins gambled and lost. They seemed to have the inside track on signing Brees but also had concerns about the shoulder. They went with Daunte Culpepper instead. They chose poorly.
That left the Saints. And New Orleans, still a place reeling from Hurricane Katrina.
Brees signed with the Saints in March of 2006, some eight months after the disastrous floods. He committed to the battered city and threw his energies into the long rebuilding project. His arm turned out just fine.
He’s now in his 14th season with the Saints. He has won a Super Bowl and a city’s total adulation. On Monday night, he passed Peyton Manning for the NFL’s all-time record when he threw his 541st career touchdown pass.
Also the NFL’s leader in career completion percentage and passing yards, Brees did the nearly impossible in the 34-7 home victory over the Indianapolis Colts. He completed 29 of 30 passes (yes, he lamented that lone incompletion) for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
The Saints (11-3) already own the NFC South Division title. Overall home-field advantage for the playoffs (and it’s an advantage at the raucous Superdome) is still a possibility, though they currently hold the No. 3 seed in the NFC.
As the NFL celebrates its 100th anniversary, various polls and rankings are out that try to compare all players present and past to pick the all-time greats. It’s an argument that spans the changes in the style of play, liberalized passing rules and an increased number of games.
That the NFL is passing-crazy leads to opportunities for numbers that an icon like John Unitas could never match, and he pops up in many top fives.
The competition is stiff on that front. Joe Montana won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. There’s that Tom Brady fella with nine Super Bowl appearances, six championship rings and TD pass numbers (538) just behind Brees’. Whoever plays longest should win this battle and Brady is 42, Brees turning 41 in January. Manning, with two Super Bowl victories and his own slew of passing marks built with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos also could be No.1.
You can pick your own top five QBs of all-time. It’s hard to compare numbers from the past. John Elway played in five Super Bowls and won the last two. Unitas played 18 years and threw 290 TD passes, which was remarkable for the time but about half of where Brees could be in a year.
Choose wisely. Do not overlook Drew Brees as the greatest of all time. Another Super Bowl win could nail down that honor. And the arguments will continue.
The nice thing about arguments? You can have them all day and never be proven wrong. Or right.
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