Where Does Drew Brees Rank Among The Greats?

Where Does Drew Brees Rank Among The Greats?
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Drew Brees once again used Monday Night Football as the stage to earn yet another record. With four passing touchdowns against the Colts, Brees overtook Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to set the passing touchdown record with 541. He was even made to wait, with a TD taken off the board before halftime.

The question is though, where does Brees rank? Despite the astronomical numbers, he’s always overlooked in favour of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Let’s take a look at the resume of the Saints’ legend.

The Stats

It’s hard to argue against Drew Brees the best statistical QB in NFL history. He may not be the best but he holds some phenomenal records. Brees has thrown for the most yards (76,884), 3500 more than Brady. He also (now) has the most TDs of anyone, though Tom Brady may briefly take the crown on Saturday night.

The best stat for Brees though has to be 5000 yards seasons. Brees was the first man to break Dan Marino’s 1983 mark of 5084 yards. Having fallen 15 yards short in 2008, he broke the historic mark in 2011 (as did Tom Brady) with 5476 yards. He now has five 5000 yard seasons – there have only been 11 in NFL history.

Brees’ other major stat was also on show on Monday night as he completed 29 of 30 passes (96.7%). Brees is also, arguably, the most accurate QB in history. He has a career completion percentage of 67.6% and has thrown at 68.8% during his Saints career. 67.6% is the best of anyone, per Pro Football Reference. Only eight QBs have thrown at 65% and they are all contemporaries of Brees. However, the Saints’ QB has done it over the most time.


Drew Brees’ resume isn’t without silverware. He has won six division title and been to the playoffs eight times. Of course he was also Super Bowl champion in 2009 as he grew with the Saints after Hurricane Katrina. Over his career he is 8-7 in the playoffs and throws for 317 yards on average in playoff games, with 33 total TDs and 11 picks. Put simply, Brees is a man that you can rely on in the big moments.

Despite the stats, Brees has often been overlooked for personal accolades. He has won Offensive Player of the Year twice. He was also first team All-Pro in 2006, with two second team nods but he has largely had the misfortune of great seasons when others, such as Patrick Mahomes last season, have too.

The Hall Of Fame Case

In the modern era, there have been 26 HOF Quarterbacks. It’s very hard to judge Brees against the likes of van Brocklin, Montana, Tarkenton or Staubach, largely because Brees’ blows them out of the water statistically. He also has the justification of a Super Bowl ring.

The only obvious comparison is Marino, who of course doesn’t have a ring. That’s because the league has moved to more of a passing league, rather than Brees being miles better than anyone. Of course it isn’t Brees’ fault either that he played in this era.

With his records, it is hard to imagine a Hall of Fame without Drew Brees, or one where he isn’t in the debate for top five all time.

The Case Against

As I said, it’s near impossible to make a case against Brees going to the Hall of Fame. But there are marks against him, though none of them are his fault and more a case of circumstance.

Brees’s success has largely come in Sean Payton’s offence, although he was also productive as a Charger. Much like Brady and Belichick, it is difficult to work out who the bigger factor is. Would Brees have had the same individual success had he gone to Miami or stayed in San Diego?

Brees is a product of his generation, passing records are being broken year after year by a variety of QBs. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Phil Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger are all talents with Hall of Fame resumes in years gone by. It is easy for the case of individuals in such a packed field. As well as the talented field, numbers are inflated in this generation, with rule changes benefiting the offence, particularly in the passing game.

That’s not to say that a large amount of QBs deserve to make it to the Hall of Fame. But while the numbers of some are far higher than older Hall of Famers, that doesn’t mean they are that much better.

The one mark against Brees is his lack of MVP. If Brees has never been the best (offensive) player in the league, how can he be one of the all time greats? That is more a case of misfortune of timing though.

Will Brees Stand The Test Of Time?

It’s difficult to judge apples to apples when it comes to numbers. Brees has the best numbers of anyone though, including his pass-happy generation. And he has had the longevity of the better part of two decades. Only Tom Brady can compete with that of the current crop. Brees is one of the best ever and in time, as he holds on to records for extended periodsoftime, maybe he will be seen as less underrated in the fullness of time.

For now though, we should appreciate Brees’ talent and ability because he won’t be around forever.

Image: AP Photo / Butch Dill

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