In the past we have looked hard at the question, who is the Greatest of All-Time at the Quarterback position. In light of recent events we’d like to update that by adding another name for consideration.
Drew Brees passed Peyton Manning in total yards this week. And the case for him as the GOAT have emerged.
So we thought we’d apply him to our own test for GOAT. For a full look at our arguments and rankings check it out at the post here.
But a quick overview of our criteria:
- Championship Victories (Super Bowls, NFL Championships)
- Regular Season Winning Percentage
- How their teams played with or without them
- Ability to win with multiple franchises and coaching staffs
How does Drew Brees stack up?
Brees has won a single Super Bowl, defeating the Indianapolis Colts in 2009. It is the only time Brees has made it to the Super Bowl with either franchise he played for.
This is embarrassingly little when comparing him to the other greats. As one who puts much less weight on team accolades when it comes to crowning and individual great, I can’t let someone with so little team success off the hook. One Super Bowl doesn’t put you in the league with the others, sorry. Of our list, Manning has the least amount of Super Bowl appearances and he has 4.
Drew Brees has a Regular Season Winning Percentage of .575. Again this is embarrassingly low compared to Brady’s .733, Manning’s .685, or Elway’s .648 (the lowest from our list). Winning matters, Brees’ did not win enough to make himself a part of this elite category.
Here is Brees’ strongest case, how his teams played without him. He began his career with the San Diego Chargers where his first few season’s he fought Doug Flutie for the starting position. After winning it outright he would then be challenged by Philip Rivers for the role, though he would win if after Rivers held out for more money.
But the Chargers chose Rivers over Brees and Brees ended up with the abysmal New Orleans Saints. The season before Brees came to the Saints the team had put up a 3-13 record. In his first season in 2006, Brees and the new Head Coach, Sean Payton, went 10-6 and won their Division. They would go on to the NFC Championship Game and lose to the Chicago Bears who would lose to Manning’s Colts in the Super Bowl.
The next year the Saints would miss the Playoffs with a losing record (7-9) and would go on to miss it the following year too. The next season, 2009 would see the Saints and Brees win the Super Bowl over Manning’s Colts.
But Brees’ Saints have missed the playoffs more times than made it. Though he has been an amazingly healthy player throughout his career, missing only 1 game as a member of the Saints. But that also means these losing seasons and missed playoffs can’t be placed at the feet of anyone else.
Another huge strike against Brees is his success with Saints has only been while coached by Sean Payton. He had success with the Chargers, but their success after he left was superior to that with him. Brees first year with the Saints they went 10-6. But the Chargers without him went 14-2. He has had success with two franchises, but not the success we expect from the elite players. Making it to the playoffs just doesn’t cut it among this class of quarterbacks.
How do we account for the record breaking?
We discussed this more fully with the old timers like Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh, but football has changed a lot over the years. And throwing the ball has been one of the main ones. When we highlighted Sammy Baugh we noted he threw the ball in an era of running. Making his achievements and stats of throwing that much more impressive. The same can go for Otto Graham. However, Drew Brees lives in the Golden Age of the Quarterback. NFL Defenses are penalized critically for any shot at Quarterbacks. Brees is just the latest beneficiary of the pro-offense/pro-quarterback league the the NFL has become.
Brees record is a reminder of how amazing past players were, players like Graham, Baugh, Unitas, Elway and Montana. Their games were much more balanced with Defenses being encouraged to “take out” opposing players.
Manning and Brady played at the dawn of this age and are certainly beneficiaries like Brees. But their team success shows they did it better, even if the record now belong to Brees.