Brees retires today, on the 15th anniversary of his signing with his now former team, the New Orleans Saints.
Brees began his Hall of Fame career out west
Drew Brees was originally drafted by the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers, back in 2001. He was the first pick in the second round, out of Perdue University. Like many rookies, he sat most of his first season and earned the starting job in 2002, his second year in the league.
His first two seasons as a starter were shaky leading his team to an 8-8 record in '02 and he was even benched for 5 games in '03, after only winning once out of their first eight games played.
The pressure was on in 2004 after the Chargers drafted Phillip Rivers, causing a minor quarterback controversy. Brees responded by leading San Diego to a 12-4 record and their first division title in ten years. He was also named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, and appeared in his first career Pro Bowl.
Drew Brees' shoulder injury forcds a major change
After being given a franchise tag by his team, Drew Brees stayed in San Diego for the 2005 season. He played well throughout the year, but then suffered a severe shoulder injury to his throwing arm during the last game of the regular season.
After an off-season of rehabilitation for a torn labrum and rotator cuff, Brees was fit to continue his NFL career. The Chargers, though, offered him a contract that he felt was too low and he decided to look elsewhere. The Saints and the Dolphins were front-runners at the start, with New Orleans winning out after Miami backed out for another quarterback. Drew Brees made it official with a six-year, $60 million contract, in 2006.
Drew Brees quickly made the New Orleans Saints contenders
Drew Brees and the Saints (with their new head coach, Sean Payton), finished the 2006 season with a 10-6 record, and the NFC South title. After getting the win in his first career playoff game, Brees led the Saints to their first NFC Championship Game, falling short to the Bears.
The next two seasons were not as successful for the Saints as they failed to make the playoffs both years. However, Brees was able to hit personal career marks for passing yards (5,069) and became the second passer in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 regular season yards, in 2008. That same year, he was selected to the Pro Bowl again and came away with the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award.
The 2009 season was the year that cemented not only the Saints as a top-tier team in the league, but also Drew Brees as one of the league's best quarterbacks of his era.
He set career and franchise highs for touchdown passes (6), in just the first game of the year. By just Week 6, Brees had won NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors twice. In Week 12, Brees earned a perfect passer rating of 158.3, against the Patriots.
New Orleans continued on their roll and didn't lose their first game until Week 14. The Saints marched all the way to their first and still only championship over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17. Drew Brees was named MVP for the game, tying the Super Bowl record with 32 pass completions.
After such a stellar season, Brees was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year again, All-Pro (second-team), and to his fourth Pro Bowl.
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Drew Brees was well on his way to the Hall of Fame while in New Orleans
While in New Orleans, the team generally succeeded throughout the rest of Brees' career as a Saint. Despite missing the playoffs 4 times since their Super Bowl win, Drew Brees was able to put up record-setting numbers along the way.
In 2011, Brees led the NFL in passing yards, completion percentage, and passing touchdowns for that season. He broke Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a single season with 5,084. Brees also became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for five touchdowns, 400+ yards, while having a completion percentage of 80% in the game. Brees also averaged 342.25 yards passing per game, another NFL record at the time.
In 2012, Brees broke Johnny Unitas's streak with at least one touchdown pass in consecutive games, by throwing one in his 48th game, a record then.
During the next two seasons, Brees went from sixth to fourth on the career passing yards list. And he also became the NFL's all-time leader in completion percentage at 66.21%, in 2014.
In the 2015 season, Brees reached the 60,000 career yard milestone in 215 games, the fastest ever. He also had his 10th straight 4,000-yard season, as well as 95 games with 300 yards passing and eight straight seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes, all NFL records.
In 2016, he moved past Dan Marino for third in career passing yards. In 2017, he reached 70,000 yards passing, the fastest to do so in history again.
In 2018, Brees broke Brett Favre's record for pass completions in a career with 6,301. He also became the fourth quarterback in history to reach 500 career touchdown passes, also breaking his own all-time record for completion percentage (for a second time), with 74.4%.
Drew Brees finally began to show signs of wear and tear
Drew Brees began to suffer from significant injuries after the start of the 2019 season. In the second game of the year, he sustained a ligament tear to his throwing hand, causing him to be sidelined until his return in Week 8. The Saints managed to make the playoffs that year and Brees even came close to breaking his completion record for the third time. However, they fell short in the Wild Card round, to the Vikings.
During Week 10 this past season, his final year in the NFL, Brees suffered a serious upper-body injury consisting of broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He returned in Week 15, ensuring the Saints' spot in the playoffs, by the end of the regular season.
Brees' stats weren't the greatest, mainly due to his time missed, but he did become the first quarterback in history to record 80,000 career passing yards. After a win in the Wild Card Round, the Saints lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers, in the Divisional Round. A game where Brees threw for only 134 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions.
Drew Brees calls it quits
After the devastating loss in the playoffs, Drew Brees renegotiated his contract with the Saints for the league minimum for a veteran, which was $1.075 million. This was viewed by experts as the first step in the player's impending retirement.
A few weeks later, a video depicting Brees pushing a sled during his workout went viral across social media, stirring up rumors that he might actually return. However, on March 14th, the 15-year anniversary of his joining the Saints, Drew Brees announced his retirement from the NFL.
Now that he's stepping away from the game, he's a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, eligible for induction in 2026.
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