Hard as it is to believe, there was once a time when Drew Brees wasn’t one of the best quarterbacks in the league. In fact, there was once a point where the San Diego Chargers were so disappointed with his development that they drafted his replacement, Philip Rivers, in the first round.
From that point onwards Brees has been arguably the best quarterback in the NFL over that period, forcing his name alongside Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the elite of the league, and shattering records in the New Orleans Saints offense. This year was no different, as Brees not only surpassed Dan Marino’s single-season yardage record, but blew it out of the water.
Marino’s mark had stood since his unbelievable sophomore season of 1984, and until this season, Brees had been the closest player to his 5,084 yard mark, and the only other passer to top 5,000 yards when he posted 5,069 in 2008. This season though he found another level, and the record now stands at 5,476, almost 400 yards past the record that stood for nearly 30 years.
Drew Brees has become the benchmark for prolific passing in the NFL, and he does it with unerring accuracy and an arm that can make every throw. What is most impressive about Brees is that he is able to be as prolific as he is on a consistent basis. His lowest passing total last season was 258 yards, and in that game he completed 75% of his attempts and threw a pair of touchdowns. Only three times in 18 games did he throw for fewer than 300 yards and he scored at least 1 touchdown in the air every single game. Brees has now thrown for at least one touchdown in 43 consecutive games, moving him to within four of the all-time record held by Johnny Unitas. That record has stood since 1957 and has been considered by many to be unbreakable, with the closest challenger before Brees being Brett Favre, who made it to 36 consecutive games.
The NFL record books are being re-written, and by the time Drew Brees is finished there may be a whole new set of unbreakable records to contend with. This season was one of his best, and demands a place near the top of our Top 101 list.
Best Game: Week 15 @ Minnesota Vikings (+9.0)
The Vikings were in disarray by the time the Saints rolled into town late last season, but they had a reason to play hard in this game, with memories of the 2009 NFC Championship game still fresh in their minds. The Saints, and in particular Drew Brees, weren’t interested in that and just dismantled them on their way to a 42-20 walkover. The Vikings began the game reasonably well and had success against the New Orleans defense, trailing 14-13 deep in the second quarter, but they just couldn’t stop Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense, who added touchdowns drive after drive.
Brees Dropped back to pass 41 times in the game, recorded 40 attempts, completing 32 of them (80%) for 412 yards and five touchdowns. His QB rating was a near-perfect 149.2, and even on plays when the Vikings got pressure his rating stayed exactly the same, 149.2. This was Drew Brees at his best: throwing a high volume of passes, but putting each one exactly where it needed to go and being able to move the ball at will all game long. Brees and the Saints were able to score with such inevitability that it just crushed the spirit of the Vikings and they went away for a comfortable win late in the game.
Drew Brees can force teams to beat themselves as they become so concerned with keeping up on the scoreboard, because they know he will inevitably put up more points.
Key Stat: Broke Dan Marino’s single-season yardage mark, finishing the year with 5,490 passing yards.
There hasn’t been a more prolific passer in the NFL in recent years than Drew Brees. Every season since 2006 has seen Brees pass for enough yardage to rank inside the top 41 seasons in NFL history. He holds six of the best 41 seasons in NFL history in terms of yardage, and has done it year after year with no drop-off. Only four men have passed for over five thousand yards in a single season, and Brees is the only one to have done it twice, and stands 241 yards out in front of any other season.
The remarkable part about those numbers though is that he isn’t achieving it simply through volume of attempts, but through ruthless efficiency. Brees broke his own record this season for completion percentage, with a ludicrous 71.2% of his passes finding their mark. He led the league with 46 touchdowns, threw for 8.4 yards per attempt and only had to throw away nine passes all season.
The NFL has become a passing league, and it’s because of quarterbacks like Drew Brees, who have made passing the ball a safer way to play football. It used to be an old adage that when you threw the football only three things can happen, and two of them are bad, but players like Drew Brees are proving that you can put the ball in the air 657 times in a season and lose just 14 of them to interceptions, while devastating opponents for over 5,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. Brees is changing the face of football, and last season may have been his best yet. He earned his spot in the top three of our list.
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