The New Orleans Saints will have a new starting quarterback under center for the start of next season. This after news came through that 42-year-old legend Drew Brees has retired from the NFL.
In a special social media post, Brees’ four children, Baylen, Bowen, Callen and Rylen were given the honor of announcing their father’s retirement. In truth, the news was not unexpected after Brees’ Saints lost 30-20 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of this season’s playoffs.
After that game, Brees spent time on the field with his family and Bucs quarterback Tom Brady in what many viewed as Brees on-field goodbye to the Saints.
Drew Brees has officially retired from the NFL @brgridiron
His kids helped him with his announcement ❤️ pic.twitter.com/p2uVvrqOPV
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 14, 2021
A Stunning Career
There is no doubt that Brees has enjoyed a phenomenal career in the NFL. After graduating from Purdue, he was taken with the first pick in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft (32nd in total) by the San Diego Chargers.
He played his first five years in San Diego, but it was a switch to the New Orleans Saints in 2006, under the then new head coach Sean Payton that would transform Brees and the Saints fortunes.
Just a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans region, Brees and the Saints reached the playoffs and three years later, they achieved the pinnacle of their sports, beating the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV.
Brees was named the MVP for that game after completing 32 out of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. A feat all the more remarkable when you consider that the Saints rushed for just 51 yards in total in the game.
At the time, the game saw the record for the largest deficit overcome in a Super Bowl game, the most completions by a quarterback and team in the game as well the most first downs achieved via passing.
Longevity And Talent
In 20 seasons in the NFL, Brees played all 16 regular season games on 12 occasions and played
fifteen games on a further four occasions. Indeed, the 2019 season was the first time Brees had not started 15 or 16 games during the regular season since 2003.
It was that longevity, ability to play whilst hurt allied to his natural talent that made Brees set new records for passing in the NFL. With 80,358 yards in total, he is now the all-time leader in the NFL for career passing and second in the all-time touchdown passes category with 571.
He is also second in the completion percentage at 67.7%.
Tributes Paid To A Gentleman Of The Game
As his head coach for the duration in New Orleans, Sean Payton is perhaps best positioned to speak about Brees’ influence on the Saints and the wider New Orleans community stating:
“When I was hired by the Saints as head coach in 2006, the very first goal was to establish a functional and winning culture. In doing so, it was vital to know what we were looking for in a player, talent, work ethic, makeup, intelligence and leadership and all qualities we found in Drew Brees…”
“In a very short period of time, he would help lead a region to recovery and a team to a Super Bowl Championship. He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field.”
“I am forever grateful for what he has done for our team, our community and for me personally.”
Tributes to Brees have poured in from friends and rivals alike with Tom Brady, Baker Mayfield, Michael Thomas, Adrian Petersen, Eli Manning, Mark Ingram, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Atlanta Falcons amongst those to have expressed their thanks and good wishes.
What Now For The Saints?
Sean Payton now has to address who inherits Brees’ mantle as the Saints new starting quarterback and there are two potential replacements already in the Saints organization. Taysom Hill has been played frequently over the last few years, but the Saints also signed Jameis Winston last season too.
Payton has already stated that Brees’ eventual successor was already in the building in New Orleans. The question is, whether it will be Hill or Winston that fill those daunting shoes?
However, don’t rule out the Saints making a move for a quarterback perhaps in the later rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft just as an insurance policy in case either of those options don’t quite work out.
After all, it is nigh impossible to replace a legend.