<span> <span style="text-decoration: underline;">AN AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENT</span> <span style="">(Re-printed from The Times-Picayune Editorial section; 12/30/2008)</span>
With a few more wins and 15 more yards passing this season, Saints quarterback Drew Brees would be the talk of the sports world.
Instead, the chatter this week is about Dolphins Quarterback Chad Pennington, who was dumped by the Jets in favor of Brett Favre, defeating his old team to seal a playoff spot for his new team. In the course of the season, Mr. Pennington became only the second player in Miami history to pass for more than 3,500 yards.
The other, of course, was Dan Marino. And he passed for a lot more than 3,500 yards.
He set the single-season passing record with 5,084 yards in 1984 -- a rarified mark that Mr. Brees came tantalizingly close to reaching Sunday against the Panthers.
With one more 15-yard completion, Mr. Brees could have tied the 24-year-old Marino record. With a 16-yarder, he could have moved ahead of him.
Alas, that didn't happen. He and the Saints fell short. "It wasn't meant to be," he said, adding that the quarterback of an 8-8 team might not be the right person to hold the record in any case.
But what Mr. Brees accomplished this season is remarkable despite the Saints' disappointing campaign. He passed for 5,069 yards and is the only player other than Mr. Marino ever to reach the 5,000 mark.
His three-season totals here are impressive by any measure: 13,910 yards passing, 88 touchdowns, a passer rating that averages among the best in the league. He passed for more than 4,400 yards in 2006 and 2007, all after having his shoulder reconstructed.
And he's a good guy. He has been an inspiring leader and has committed himself to rebuilding this community.
Every Saints fan wishes the team had done better than .500 this year. But if not for the skill and determination of Mr. Brees, there might have been far fewer victories. Like Chris Paul on the basketball court, he is a player who elevates a team.
But a football team can't succeed on the arm of quarterback alone -- no matter how well that quarterback performs.
Drew Brees allows us to believe there are better seasons to come, though. For that, and for his stellar play these past three years, we owe him thanks.