Was it Dec. 10, 2006, in Dallas, in a 42-17 victory over the Cowboys, the first time he threw five touchdown passes in a game for the Saints?
Or maybe it was Nov. 24, 2008, against Green Bay in a 51-29 victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, when he completed 20 of 26 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, and recorded a passer rating of 157.5, the first of three times he was within a whisper of the NFL’s perfect 158.3 rating (which he hit the next season, against New England)?
How about the 2009 season, when his rating was 109.6, the first time he topped 100 in that category, and completed a then-record 70.6 percent of his passes? Or was it the entire 2006 campaign, his first in New Orleans, when he finished with 26 touchdowns, a total that was huge in Saints history but now seems miniscule because he hasn’t had less than 28 in a season since?
Perhaps, it was the ridiculously prolific, historic year of 2011, when he set NFL single-season records for passing yards (5,476), completion percentage (.712, topping his own mark), completions (468) and 300-yard passing games (13)?
No? Not then, either?
Probably, it’s difficult to identify the last time because there really are no surprises anymore with Brees, the most productive passer in team history and one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in league history.
It’s a luxury the Saints have, to not have to wonder if their quarterback will be efficient. To not be surprised if he finishes a game with five touchdown passes, which he has done an NFL-record eight times.
To not raise an eyebrow if his passer rating tops 140.0, like it has 14 times.
To watch New Orleans open a season and pencil in Brees – no, chisel him in, in rock – for 4,796 yards, 35 touchdowns a completion percentage of 67.1 percent, his averages in 111 games as a Saint entering this season.
“I’ve got this opportunity that very few have,” Brees said. “I want to make the most of it. I want to be able to utilize the gifts, talents that God has blessed me with and take advantage of the opportunities that I’ve been given. At the end of the day, this is part of your legacy. It’s not only what you do on the field, it’s what you do off the field.
“It’s how you carry yourself, the type of person you want to be perceived as, the type of player you want to be perceived as. Plus, I have a competitive nature. I love to compete, I love to play.
“If I wasn’t playing professional football, I’d be in the YMCA men’s basketball league, and probably whatever baseball league I could get into, and playing golf on the weekends, and maybe get in some kind of tennis league. Something. You’ve got to do something to get that competitive edge fulfilled.
“I’m just blessed to have this opportunity. I’m going to try to do it as long as I can, try win as many games as I can, try to win as many championships as we can.”
Likely, he wouldn’t have to produce another one to remain an icon in New Orleans.
Fans haven’t forgotten how Brees was the first major free agent signee after Hurricane Katrina, how some considered him as damaged (shoulder surgery) as the city to which he chose to relocate, how he picked up the banner and since has carried it, how he led their beloved Saints to the NFC championship game in 2006 and to victory in Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season.
“From a football standpoint, he’s one of those elite quarterbacks that’s a good fit for any team and we’re fortunate that it’s worked out where he’s been our quarterback,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said.
“As it pertains to New Orleans, I think he’s someone who’s very giving, very caring. I think he does a great job with his charity efforts.
“He’s got all those elements that you’re looking for as a team leader and a quarterback, both on and off the field. I think the timing, it all just worked out. It worked out for the team, it worked out for Drew, it worked out for the city – every one of those things fell into place in a special way.”
And they’re still falling into place.
This season, during the Saints’ 6-2 start, Brees has registered another five-touchdown game, and another 140-plus rating outing (against Buffalo). He engineered a last-second comeback win (Tampa Bay).
He tied his own NFL record with a ninth consecutive 300-yard passing day, and completed 77 percent of his passes in one game (against Miami).
You shouldn’t be, considering the player, considering his drive, considering the absolute need to be the best he can be in everything he does.
“Yikes,” said Jets Coach Rex Ryan, who has been known to orchestrate a few good defenses, before New York faced Brees and the Saints. “That’s pretty much it. That dude, he’s a surgeon. He just picks you apart.
“He can make all the throws, all the verticals and things, (he’s) poised, sees the field, accurate. Other than that he’s not very good. He extends plays. He’s as good as it gets. I’m just happy Miami never got him, because we would have had to play him twice a year. Now it’s only once every four years I think.
“He’s an amazing guy. The consistency. It’s almost taken for granted. These numbers are historic that he puts up.”
Historic, and expected because Brees expects nothing less, on or off the field.
“The same approach that I take with my job, my career, is the same approach I take with our foundation work, with business opportunities off the field, with being a dad,” Brees said. “I try to be as present as I can in each of those moments.
“When I’m playing football, my mind shouldn’t be elsewhere. When I’m with the family, my mind shouldn’t be elsewhere. And it’s about being the best that you can be at what you’re doing, at that moment.”