One For The Road
Brees delays retirement for another Super Bowl run
“Love you #WhoDatNation. Let’s make another run at it!”
With an Instagram post 10 days ago, Drew Brees announced his intention to return to the New Orleans Saints for the 2020 season.
With that, the Saints’ future – at least for the coming season – came into clearer view.
There had been talk that the 41-year-old quarterback, ancient by NFL standards, had hung up his helmet and pads for the last time, would end his playing career, and move from the field to the announcer’s booth.
Not so fast, my friend.
After being bounced from the postseason on the last play of the game three years in a row, Brees feels he’s still got work to do, not just for his team, but for himself, too.
This team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and Brees is coming off of a season where he played some of the best football of his career, throwing for 2,979 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only four interceptions in 11 regular season games.
Brees has been and remains one of the league’s most efficient and mistake-free quarterbacks. While there was some grumbling that Brees is over the hill, there is no doubt that he is the best QB on the roster and puts the Saints in the best position to win.
Yes, the last time we saw him, Brees had his worst game of the season. It seems he has one clunker of a game each season; unfortunately it came in the team’s biggest game of the year. His fumble and resulting turnover against Minnesota arguably cost the team the game. Some were concerned the cause was the surgically-repaired thumb on his throwing hand. It may well be he didn’t have full strength to grip the ball, but he has and will have time to continue rehabilitating it over this offseason.
With Brees under center, this team remains among the top of the NFL power rankings. Now that he’s announced he’s coming back, he and the team can focus on continuing their climb to the NFL mountaintop.
While the team’s performance is paramount, Brees also has personal reasons to return – namely keeping his name atop the career lists for most career touchdown passes and passing yards. Brees leads 42-year-old Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL, by six TD passes, 547 to 541. He also leads Brady in yardage, 77,416 to 74,571.
Surely the thought of playing one more year in order to cement his place in the record books was taken into consideration. Brees has played one season fewer than Brady, and he would most likely be eclipsed this season if he had retired. By coming back, Brees is likely to extend his lead in both categories, and could become the first NFL QB to pass for more than 550 touchdowns and 80,000 yards in his career. He only needs four TDs to accomplish the first goal and 2,584 yards to secure the second.
While some may say his return is self-serving and he should turn the position over to a younger player, again, he’s the most talented QB the Saints have.
No more could be asked of backup QB Teddy Bridgewater, who won five straight games in Brees’ absence. I believe he has the talent to be a very good starting quarterback in the NFL. But I wouldn’t rank him above Brees at this point.
Taysom Hill has been a sparkplug and is, surely, entertaining. Head coach Sean Payton said he has the potential to be a Steve Young-like player, but I don’t know that he’s shown he can take over as a starter for a full 16-game regular season and achieve the same results as Brees.
In a perfect world, all three QBs would come back to the Saints in 2020. Economics say that’s unlikely to happen. Bridgewater deserves the opportunity to be an NFL starter. If he has to go to another team to do so, so be it (as long as it’s not with an NFL South opponent!).
I expect Hill to be back, but his dynamic will change because the Saints don’t want to injure their backup QB on a gadget-type play. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they signed a free-agent (Hello, Andy Dalton) or drafted a quarterback to add to the mix.
The Saints will have to partake in some financial Jiu Jitsu to re-sign Brees and get the roster under the salary cap, but it’s their best move. Even if he’s no longer in his prime, he’s so good that he’s still one of the NFL’s best.
Let’s just hope he’s got enough in the tank to lift the Saints once again to the NFL’s best.