The most magical of moments are reserved for the largest of heroes. Drew Brees, who is on one of the most remarkable 13-year runs in NFL history, received his moment of magic on Monday Night, etching his name further into NFL lore.
Brees, 39, set the NFL’s career passing yardage record with a 62-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter in Monday’s contest with the Washington Redskins, breaking a record previously held by Peyton Manning.
Make no mistake, Drew Brees is a hero, at least in New Orleans. He arrived to a Hurricane Katrina-ravaged city and to a team coming off a 3-win season with a new coach. Brees, himself, was recovering from an injury. New Orleans needed someone larger than life – Brees delivered in every way imaginable. Brees became the coronary artery of NOLA.
Brees, recovering from a torn labrum, bet on himself by spurning a lowball contract extension from the San Diego Chargers and signing with the New Orleans Saints for six years and $60 million in March 2006. Since that time, he has arguably been the most consistent quarterback in the NFL.
During his first season with the Saints, Brees led the league in passing yards per game, throwing for over 276 yards per game. In 2018, he’s passing for over 330 yards per game with, as of this moment, the highest quarterback rating of his career, 122.3, which ranks best in the NFL.
Peyton Manning was 39 when he passed Brett Favre to take the record for his own, too, but Manning was a shell of himself. Manning threw just nine touchdowns to 17 interceptions, with a quarterback rating just shy of 68. Brees has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in his age-39 season.
For all intents and purposes, Brees, who has the league’s best completion percentage, is playing the most efficient football of his career – he may not be at his physical peak, and he finally has a complimentary running game; but he is what makes the Saints offense tick.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Peyton Manning. He’s solely responsible for building my love of football at a young age. I will defend his honor until the end – but Brees’ career is getting into unchartered territory, and he has a legitimate claim to being the best quarterback in NFL history.
As of Monday Night, Drew Brees held the NFL’s highest passer rating. His career passer rating betters that of Manning’s, though Manning owns two of the six best single-season passer ratings in NFL history.
Peyton Manning had the highest highs, and Tom Brady has all the Super Bowls, but Drew Brees might be the most consistent, most reliable, most under-appreciated of his quarterback generation – we get lost in the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning debate, forgetting that Brees has quietly lit the league on fire for 13 consecutive seasons, starting 195 of 197 games and only missing one due to injury. The other absence? He was rested for Week 17 in 2009 when New Orleans had the NFC’s best record and later, won the Super Bowl over Manning’s Indianapolis Colts.
Brees was often easy to overlook; he was shattering defenses, but the Saints were hit-or-miss, and Manning and Brady were racking up accolades. However, Brees earned the magical moment that his career deserves – in primetime, in front of the nation, out of the shadow of other great quarterbacks of his generation, he laid claim to one of the most precious honors a quarterback can achieve, being the NFL’s all-time leading passer.
For a night, Brees was a giant standing over the football world, and good luck knocking him off his pedestal. He’s still at the top of the league, showing little signs of slowing down.
We’re all better for having witnessed his greatness, on an off the field, so admire Brees’ greatness while we still, somehow, have him surgically dissecting defenses, for father time is, in fact, undefeated.
Oh, and enjoy this congratulatory message from Peyton Manning, who remains the funniest quarterback comedian of all time.