Brees set to join elite fraternity
Only Manning, Favre, and Marino have more career TD passes
If there was any doubt as to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ place among the all-time greats of the game, consider this, as early as the first game of the season he is set to become just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw 400 career touchdown passes. He’ll join an elite fraternity that includes Peyton Manning (530), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420).
Brees will enter the 2015 season opener against the Phoenix Cardinals a week from Sunday with 396 total career touchdown passes. While four throwing touchdowns in a game may be a lot to ask of this team so early in the season, it’s not out of the question that it could happen. With him under center, Saints fans have grown to expect the unexpected.
The former first pick of the second round in the 2001 NFL Draft spent the first five years of his career in San Diego. There he posted modest numbers that didn’t prevent the Chargers from drafting their current quarterback, Philip Rivers, in 2004. When Brees had what looked to be a career-ending injury to his throwing shoulder in 2005, the Chargers let him go.
New Orleans was the only team to offer Brees a contract for the 2006 season. The six-year, $60 million deal showed the belief new head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis had in the recovering player. An instant bond was established between the player and the coach. In their first season in black and gold, they led the Saints to their first conference championship game. In their fourth year in New Orleans, with a near perfect second half by Brees, the team captured the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
Brees has been a gridiron smoke show in his time in the Big Easy. In five seasons in San Diego, he threw for a modest 80 touchdowns and 12,348 yards. In nine with the Saints, he has 316 TDs and 43,685 yards. In that time, he’s become the face of the franchise and the Saints’ greatest player of all time.
Since he came to New Orleans, the Saints have been built around Brees and he has thrived. The few detractors he has say he benefits from playing in Payton’s system, but that dog don’t hunt. Brees has maximized the system’s potential in the same way Joe Montana maximized the potential of Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense. If you don’t agree with me, ask yourself, what are the Saints chances of success should another quarterback on the roster have to take snaps this season?
It’s mindboggling to think that Brees is 24 TD passes short of passing Dan Marino, and will more than likely later this year pass the former Dolphin for third place on the all-time list. In his nine years with the Saints, Brees’ lowest TD tally was 26 in 2006. Over the past five years, he’s averaged nearly 38.8 touchdown passes a season.
It’s tough to say whether or not he’ll catch Favre’s 508 (Manning’s 530 and counting may be impossible), but Brees is 36 years old this season. With Super Bowl appearances by Tom Brady (37 this year) and Manning (39) over the last two seasons, it’s conceivable – barring injury, of course – that Brees could add to his stat totals for a few more years to come. I know I, and Saints fans around the world, will be on the edge of our seats rooting for him as the future hall of famer ascends to the constellation of stars that are the NFL’s all-time greats.
After coming to New Orleans in 2006, Drew Brees has lit up NFL scoreboards with 316 touchdowns. With the 80 TDs he threw with the San Diego Chargers from 2001-2005, he’s just four touchdown passes shy of 400 in his career.
NFL Career Touchdown Passing Leaders
Peyton Manning – 530*
Brett Favre – 508
Dan Marino – 420
Drew Brees – 396*
Tom Brady – 392*