Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brees Continues Quest Towards Immortality

The New Orleans Saints (12-3) clinched the NFC South division title with its 45-16 victory over the playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. The victory wrapped up Week 16's slate of games, and also put signal caller Drew Brees one step closer to Hall of Fame immortality.

Prior to the game, Brees was a mere 305 yards away from breaking Dan Marino's 27 year old single-season passing yards record. At approximately 10:35 PM ET Brees, his team already up by a score of 38-16 with under three minutes to play, threw a nine-yard strike to running back Darren Sproles for a touchdown, extending the large lead.

The pass put Brees at 5,087 yards on the year, eclipsing Marino's total (5,084) by three yards. The most miraculous part of this feat? Well, actually there are two points that I would like to bring up: 1) Brees still has one game remaining in the season to extend the new total and 2) Brees is now the only quarterback in NFL history to put up two 5,000 yard passing seasons in a single career (5,069 in 2008).

Now, the record seems to be tarnished a bit–by experts and fans alike–because of the rule changes involving receivers and defensive backs, and the pass-happy offenses in the game today. But personally, I don't think that takes away from his accomplishment at all.

Yes, it's true that New England's Tom Brady will likely exceed 5,000 this year as well, making him the third different quarterback in history to do so. But you still don't see too many other quarterbacks in pass-heavy offenses pulling this feat off in today's game, do you? Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Peyton Manning has exceeded 500 passes in his career on 11 different occasions (600 once) and has yet to reach 5,000.
The likes of Brees, Brady and Manning have revolutionized the way the football is thrown in modern offenses, and I truly don't think it's fair to penalize him for his era. Brees, Brady, Manning and Brett Favre are in a class of their own, and there wont be too many other quarterbacks out there like Brees, who has accomplished so much despite his stout 6'0'' frame.

Brees, who was named to his sixth career Pro Bowl 11th career season on Tuesday night, has three All Pro selections (2006, '08, '09), two NFC MVP awards (2008, 2009), an AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year award (2008), AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year award (2004), Sportsman of the Year award (2010) a Lombardi trophy (XLIV) and a Super Bowl MVP–all to his name.

His spot at No. 9 on the all-time passing touchdowns list (276) and No. 12 on the all-time passing yards list (40,353) shows me that he has already proven he belongs in a class with the elite, and he very well could improve on that by the end of the playoffs if he's able to make a run at another Lombardi trophy for his city.

You judge a quarterback on his ability under the spotlight, and that's another aspect that Brees has continued to excel in: the playoffs.

In seven career postseason games (including one with San Diego in 2004, and Super Bowl XLIV w/ New Orleans), Brees has posted a near perfect stat-line, with a quarterback rating over 100.

Brees in the playoffs: 4-3 record; 189/285, 66.3%, 2,052 yards, 15 TD, 2 INT, 102.0 QBR
His win-loss record isn't anything spectacular, but his worst game of the seven was a game in which his Saints gave up 39 points to Chicago and he had to face the top defense in snowy Soldier Field. He threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns, his one interception came at a price but lets face it, he didn't get much help in that one.

Brees steps his game up when his team needs him the most and I think the only thing that would stop him from getting into Canton (if he was to retire right this second) is a lack of sufficient evidence. And by that, I mean it's not quite enough stats and individual wins for him to be inducted ahead of others.

Give him another solid year or two and he will undoubtedly be a shoo-in for first ballot. He's something special, and I think his two seasons of 5,000 yards passing, despite his pass-happy playing era, should be more than enough for immortality.

Congratulations, Mr. Brees. Although I'm not so sure his record is quite as untouchable as Marino's was, lasting nearly 30 seasons.

Photo credit
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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