Examining Drew Brees’ Career as He Announces His Retirement

A couple of days ago, longtime New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Breese announced that he’s hanging up his pads and calling it a career. Brees is most likely on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Most pundits and teammates agree that he deserves to be there, and they’re already looking forward to his tearful acceptance speech a couple of years down the line.

However, two questions remain. The first one is whether Drew Breese is truly a deserving Hall of Famer, and the second is whether he’s going to stay retired. We’ll go over both of those now.

A Football Career’s Anatomy

When you look at a great football player’s career, it’s not as straightforward as doing a basic math problem or filing a wrongful death lawsuit. You’d think that when a player announces that he has retired, that’s the last time you’ll ever see him play competitive football.

How often do things work out that way, though? Consider Bret Favre, the Hall of Fame Packers quarterback. We associate him with the Packers, but he played briefly for the Jets and Minnesota Vikings as well. Favre retired and then unretired not once, but twice.

What’s especially ironic is that Favre came back to play a year for Minnesota, the Packer’s hated NFC North rival. The Packer faithful had to boo the iconic Favre when he stepped on the field wearing Minnesota’s despised purple-and-white. Luckily, Favre didn’t have much left in the tank, and his time with the Jets and Vikings was short-lived.

Then, there’s Rob Gronkowski. Gronk retired after winning a third Superbowl with New England because of the wear and tear on his body. He was still relatively young, though, and when he saw his bestie Tom Brady head to Tampa Bay, he couldn’t resist hopping on board the train.

It worked to his advantage when the Bucs steamrolled the Chiefs in this year’s Superbowl. Gronk picked up a fourth ring, and he’s still in his early thirties, so it’s not inconceivable that we could see him back next year.

Will Brees Stay Retired?

As for Brees, is this retirement likely to be permanent? If he comes back, will it be for a cup of coffee with any particular team, like Favre, or can he return like Gronk and find instant success waiting for him?

Brees is 42, and he has played in the NFL for twenty years, fifteen of those with the Saints, and a mostly forgettable five years with the San Diego Chargers before that. His body has taken a ton of punishment in that time. This past year, he broke a bunch of ribs when a defender carried him to the ground with his arms pressed to his sides.

It’s not fun to break your ribs at any age, but when it’s your post-40-year-old body that’s absorbing the punishment, it’s even less pleasant. Football, like so many other sports, is a young person’s game.

Brees will undoubtedly be the subject of comeback talk as we get closer to football returning in the fall. There’s always a team that needs a quarterback solution, if only for one year. They’ll mention Brees’ name, and that will be TV and radio show fodder, with endless conjecture and speculation.

The smart money is on Brees staying retired. He has one Superbowl ring already, so he has reached the pinnacle during his career. He has plenty of money, and he also has a wife and several kids. This guy will likely ride off into the sunset without looking back.

Is He a Deserving Hall of Famer?

Next up is our second question: does Brees deserve a guaranteed Hall of Fame spot? Is Canton a foregone conclusion, or are there any blemishes or deficiencies on his resume that warrant closer scrutiny?

The short answer is that yes, Brees is a Hall of Famer, and no, there are no glaring deficiencies that should stop him from getting in. He is a 13-time Pro Bowler, and that alone should grant him entry. He is also a 5-time All-Pro, a Superbowl MVP, and a two-time Offensive Player of the Year.

On top of all that, he holds the career passing yards record, though Tom Brady should quickly eclipse that. He has the all-time completions and all-time completion percentage records as well.

The Intangibles

All of that screams Hall of Fame, but there are other reasons why Brees should go in, and they have nothing to do with his sparkling resume. Brees came to New Orleans as they were rebuilding from Katrina. The hurricane devastated that city, practically sweeping it off the map.

It took years to rebuild, and when 2009 rolled around, many of the residents were still getting back on their feet. That year, Brees led the Saints to the franchise’s first and only Superbowl Championship.

Many residents still talk about how it’s difficult to describe what that win meant for them. The football community had written off that team year after year. They had one of the worst all-time win-loss records. Only the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals surpassed their futility.

Brees changed all that. His leadership altered the franchise’s direction, and by the time they won the Superbowl, New Orleans had become an unlikely professional football hub and player landing spot. College players wanted to go there for the first time to play alongside Drew Brees, or “Breesus,” as the fans began to call him.

The Saints were perennial Superbowl contenders for many years after that, though they never won it again. Brees allowed the team and city to reach a high-watermark, though, that they will never forget.

The question going forward is whether the team that remains can stay relevant. Look at how New England’s stock nosedived after Tom Brady left. For the answer to that one, stay tuned, but one thing is certain: New Orleans, both the city and the football team, sure will miss Drew Brees.


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