Via his four children, New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees is retiring from the NFL after 20 seasons (15 with the Saints, and 5 with the SAN DIEGO Chargers) to spend more time with them. I wonder if his daughter didn't want to wear a jersey or if they didn't have a 4th one laying around because girls can wear jerseys too, Drew!! It's really throwing off the feng shui of this post.
The official announcement of Drew Brees' retirement has seemed like a formality since the Saints were eliminated in the Divisional Round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers given the injuries he's battled the last few years and apparent loss of arm strength despite still putting up respectable Drew Brees like numbers (although this past week, there were rumbled that Bress might be coming back). Brees' retirement comes exactly 15 years to the day he signed with New Orleans in a beautiful moment of full circle-ness.
In today's sporting landscape, it's easy to focus on how Drew Brees "only" won one Super Bowl, but he won. I'm sure Jim Kelly, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, and Warren Moon would take "only" one ring. Winning a championship is how all QBs are measured; no matter how fair or unfair certain people may think that standard is, Brees won a Super Bowl.
You could argue the Saints and Brees sold their soul to the football devil after facing some all-time bad luck in the playoffs following their 2009 run. During the 6-playoff teams per conference era (1990-2019) only three teams finished 13-3 and didn't receive a first round bye; one was the 1999 Tennessee Titans and the other two were Saints teams (2011; lost on the Catch III in probably the best final 5 minute stretch in playoff history & 2019; lost in OT without getting a possession)
Plenty of people are going to nitpick at the one ring over 15 years in New Orleans, but I believe it's important to focus on his entire career and the impact Brees had in the game. He has to go down as one of if, not the best free-agent signings of all-time; not just the NFL.
As of now, Brees is the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and completed passes. He sea-sawed with Tom Brady for the all-time TD pass record. The dude has five career 5,000 yard passing seasons when no other QB has more than one and holds the single-season completion percentage record (74.4% in 2018). Brees won Comeback Player of the Year in 2004 (with the Chargers), and Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2006. His signing with New Orleans was a perfect marriage of two parties at a crossroads.
When Drew Brees signed with the New Orlean Saints on March 14, 2006, the franchise and the QB's future were both unknown. Brees nearly had his shoulder ripped off in a "meaningless" Week 17 game with San Diego and was considered damaged goods around the league. He only had interest from the Saints and Dolphins, and given the current state of the Saints, many people assumed he'd team up with Nick Saban in Miami. Talk about a Butterfly Effect moment in sports.
It's easy to think of the Saints as perennial contenders now after 15 years of Drew Brees, but the franchise was as hapless as it gets prior to his arrival. The Saints debuted in 1967 and didn't make the playoffs until 1987. From 1967-2005 New Orleans only made the playoffs five times and boasted a 1-5 career playoff record. OH, and they were on the verge of moving to San Antonio (or somewhere else) after the Superdome, and much of New Orleans was decimated by Hurricane Katrina.
When Drew Brees and Sean Payton came in for the 2006 seasons things instantly changed in New Orleans. The Saints first home game featured one of the most electric moments in sports history. The energy was palpable through non-HDTV at the time.
The Saints went 10-6 and received a first-round goodbye in the playoffs. 2nd overall pick in the '06 draft, Reggie Bush brought a dynamic Swiss-Army Knife to New Orleans offense and special teams. Brees beat the Jeff Garcia (remember that??) lead Eagles in the Divisional Round before ultimately losing to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game. Still, that season is widely considered one of the best single-season turnarounds in NFL history. Giving the circumstances, IMO it's the best one that didn't end with a Super Bowl ring.
Including 2006, over the next 14 seasons in New Orleans, Drew Brees would win two Offensive Player of the Year Awards (2008 & 2011), be named to 13 Pro Bowls, make five All-Pro teams, lead the league in passing yards seven times, completion percentage six times, touchdowns four times, and passer rating twice. He completely revamped a franchise on the brink and brought pride to a region that faced a natural disaster and unfathomable loss. Drew Brees is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game and completely changed a prototypical QB look. Doug Flutie walked so Drew Brees could run, and Russell Wilson could sprint. A DOL tip of the cap to Drew Brees, it was a hell of a run; you left it all out on the field and are a vital piece of the history of this great game.