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Why is Drew Brees Rarely in the “Greatest QB of All-Time” Debate?

November 15, 2017 • Ben Heck • Features, Front Page, History, New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC South, Opinion

Just the other day, while watching 38-year old quarterback Drew Brees lead the New Orleans Saints to a 47-10 victory over Buffalo while completing 72% of his pass attempts, I had an interesting thought.

Why on earth is Brees rarely included in the “greatest quarterback of all-time” discussion?

It’s typically between four-time Super Bowl champion Joe Montana and five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.

So, I understand. Brees’ one Super Bowl ring doesn’t quite match up to the Montana and Brady collection.

But guys like Peyton Manning (two rings), Dan Marino (0 rings), Brett Favre (1 ring) and Steve Young (three rings, but only one as starter) often find themselves at least in the discussion. But no Brees?

In his 17 seasons in the National Football League, the 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback has thrown for 68,509 yards (third all-time), 478 touchdowns (third all-time), completed 66.8% of his passes (first all-time) and posted a career 96.6 QB rating (sixth all-time).

Given a couple more productive seasons, he very well could be No. 1 in all three of those statistical categories.

The league has only seen nine 5,000-yard passing seasons ever …. and Brees has five of them. FIVE.

While he may have a rather small playoff sample size (11 games), he at least has a winning playoff record (6-5) and a Super Bowl championship, unlike Marino.

And just take a look at his career playoff numbers in those 11 games: 306/464 (66%), 3,539 yards, 24 TD, 6 INT, 100.7 QB rating. He has six 300-yard passing games in the postseason, with 400+ in three of those games.

Another interesting aspect I’d like to point out is that one of the best wide receivers he’s ever thrown to is the undrafted Marques Colston. He did also get the opportunity to throw to TE Antonio Gates for three seasons in San Diego. And Brees to Brandin Cooks was a formidable duo for a couple seasons recently as well.

The early-2000s Chargers trio of Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson and Gates provided us with a great five-year run from ’01-’05 before Brees headed off to New Orleans to bring the ‘Aints a Super Bowl championship.

But let’s take a minute to just check out some of the guys these other quarterbacks had the opportunity to launch passes to throughout their careers:

  • Brady has had Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski.
  • Montana had John Taylor and the greatest receiver of all-time in Jerry Rice.
  • Young also had Rice and Taylor. And the first four years of Terrell Owens’ legendary career.
  • Marino had Mark Duper, Mark Clayton and O.J. McDuffie.
  • Manning had Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark in Indy. Also had a few years with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders in Denver.
  • Favre had Sterling Sharpe, Antonio Freeman, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.

For the most part, Brees’ go-to weapons in the passing game through his 17 years, aside from Colston and Gates, have been long-forgotten names such as Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem.

I’ll also throw in a few more names: Jimmy Graham (four spectacular seasons as a pass-catching TE before heading to Seattle) Kenny Stills, Curtis Conway, Adrian Arrington, Brandon Coleman, David Boston.

Last season, rookie Michael Thomas stood out as a key weapon for Brees, catching 92 passes for 1,137 yards and 9 touchdowns. This season, he’s reeled in 59 catches for 662 yards and 2 touchdowns through nine games. Brees surely hopes Thomas can keep up the pace to make up for the loss of Cooks, who is now catching passes from Brady in New England.

This season, the 38-year old Brees has the Saints sitting at 7-2.

New Orleans doesn’t typically have a top five defense and a top-tier rushing attack, but they do so far in 2017.

Let’s face it, Brady isn’t the only one still slinging it in his old age. He may have two years on Brees, but let’s not overlook what ol’ Drew has done during his prolonged tenure in the National Football League. Who knows how much longer we’ll be blessed with his presence!

If Brees can win another Super Bowl this season, do you think we’ll finally be talking about Brees as a — at the very least — top three quarterback of all-time?

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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