I was not surprised by Drew Brees’ superlative performance on a national stage Monday night against the Washington Redskins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
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He is NFL quarterback par excellence.
After watching Brees the past 13 years, since he dropped in the lap of the New Orleans Saints with a bum throwing shoulder and a huge chip on the other, one has come to expect a consummate professional, a leader of men who makes good in-game decisions, delivers the ball with pinpoint accuracy and piles up points and yards with alarming regularity.
Oh, he’s human, and he makes mistakes, but few NFL quarterbacks have done it better this century.
End of story.
So, the fact that Brees completed 26 of 29 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns for a gaudy 153.2 passer rating in Monday night’s 43-19 win against the Redskins did not surprise me. Nor was I surprised that on this night he needed less than a half to throw for 201 yards and eclipse Peyton Manning and Brett Favre as the league’s all-time passing yardage leader.
What does surprise me is the same-night and next-day pushback from some national pundits who question whether he belongs in the G.O.A.T. conversation, whether he belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks and suggest he is merely the systemic creation of offensive guru Sean Payton.
There were other observations about the man of the hour:
- Brees doesn’t look the part because he stands less than 6 feet tall and doesn’t possess a cannon-like arm.
- He plays at least eight games in a climate-controlled indoor environment every season.
- He plays in a pass-oriented system designed solely to compile yards and TDs.
- He plays in a quarterback-driven league and QB-friendly era where owners gear rules to protect their most valued assets and penalize/fine overly aggressive and injury-minded defensive units.
- He’s lucky to have hooked up with the perfect coach for his game in Payton.
Here’s what I believe:
▪ Drew Brees is under appreciated nationally. Maybe because all he does is play football. He isn’t a diva, doesn’t pretend to be Superman or any other superhero, stands for the national anthem, loves his family, puts team above himself and does things the right way. To some, he’s squeaky-clean boring.
▪ Because he plays in a smaller NFL media market, he hasn’t received his just due. Oh, he’s achieved first ballot Hall of Fame status, but he doesn’t have the larger-than-life presence that others enjoy who perform in bigger media markets. But his numerous records and career numbers speak for themselves.
And he’s not finished.
Thank God, Brees has a Super Bowl championship ring. I shudder to think how he might be viewed if not for his MVP-performance in XLIV.
He might not even be in the G.O.A.T. conversation.