After 20 years in the National Football League, the last 15 with the New Orleans Saints, quarterback Drew Brees announced his retirement today.
The news comes 15 years to the day when he agreed to terms to sign with the Saints, the start of a relationship that has been bountiful for the signal-caller, the team and the Gulf South community. Brees was a 15-year team captain and led the Saints to nine playoff appearances, seven division titles, including four consecutive from 2017-2020, and the Super Bowl XLIV championship, where he was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
"Drew is so much more valuable than all the records, awards and accolades that he amassed through a 15-year career with the New Orleans Saints and 20-year NFL playing career, one of the greatest in our league's history," Owner Gayle Benson said. "When Drew first joined the Saints in 2006, my late husband Tom was determined to deliver a team to New Orleans that would win a championship on the field and become a leader in the community following the setbacks that Hurricane Katrina dealt our region. Over and above his outstanding performance, Drew came to represent the resolve, passion and drive that resonates not only with Saints fans and football fans, but our entire community. He played the game and played the position at its highest level, but just as important, represented our organization and region in the highest fashion. We will forever be grateful to him for what he brought to our club and the entire Gulf South community, showing everybody what can be accomplished by putting our sleeves up and showing leadership, determination and hard work. As we grew as a region and as a football team, it was also a pleasure to watch him grow as a husband to Brittany and become a father to four incredible children."
"Drew Brees has been remarkable in all facets of his career," said Saints President Dennis Lauscha. "His career accomplishments and leadership skills have been well-documented and for good reason. He has been incredible to work with from my perspective because he really understands the business of professional football. He is incredibly bright and insightful and his contributions to helping move our organization forward and where we wanted to go on the business side were as impressive to me as some of the things he accomplished on the field. He is a great ambassador for our city, state and region and I am confident he will continue to make positive impacts here locally. It has been our incredible fortune to watch his daily efforts and commitment and on behalf our entire organization, we are eternally grateful for everything he has done and wish him well. He will always be a Saint."
"Drew Brees has been integral part of our franchise since joining our team in 2006 and his contributions to our organization and to our entire community will continue to be passed down," Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said. "During his time with the Saints, we have had the opportunity to see Drew immediately transform our franchise, help it continue to grow to where he would help us contend year-in and year-out for championships and set a standard for the quarterback position. He has developed a lasting legacy not only as a player, but more importantly as a person. We are fortunate to have had him in a Saints uniform for so long and we salute Drew on a Hall of Fame career and thank him and Brittany for their contributions to our club and community."
"When I was hired by the Saints as head coach in 2006, the very first goal was to establish a functional and winning culture," Head Coach Sean Payton said. "In doing so, it was vital to know what we were looking for in a player, talent, work ethic, makeup, intelligence and leadership are all qualities we found in Drew Brees. We also found a player with a burning desire to win. Within a year, he helped lead our team to the club's first NFC Championship appearance.
"Throughout his career, his consistency and dedication to excellence were unparalleled. In a very short period of time, he would help lead a region to recovery and a team to a Super Bowl Championship. He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field. His attention to detail and competitive spirit were infectious. For all of us that have had the chance to coach him, it has been our privilege, we are better for it.
"I am forever grateful for what he has done for our team, our community and for me personally."
Following his NFL retirement announcement, we look back at Saints quarterback
Brees, 42, was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the first pick in the second round (32nd overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft out of Purdue University. Brees received his first significant action as a rookie in 2001, took over the Chargers starting job in 2002 and led San Diego to its first playoff berth since the 1995 campaign in 2004, as he was selected to his first of 13 Pro Bowls, voted a consensus NFL Comeback Player of the Year and PFWA George Halas Award (given to an NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed) winner.
After suffering a serious shoulder injury in the last game of the 2005 season, Brees signed with New Orleans and rehabbed ardently from an extensive surgery to prepare for an unforgettable debut in the Crescent City, where he was selected as an Associated Press All-Pro, Pro Bowl starter, led the Saints to the NFC championship game for the first time in franchise history and set the table for a prolonged run of astounding production and consistency.
A season after becoming only the second quarterback in NFL history to reach 5,000 passing yards and capturing the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Brees led New Orleans to the top of the mountain in capturing Super Bowl XLIV as he was named the game's MVP. His heroics on and off the field would earn him the esteemed Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and AP Male Athlete of the Year honors. Two seasons later, Brees produced one of the most prolific seasons ever as he was named AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year for the second time, completing 468-of-657 passes (71.2%) for 5,476 yards with 46 touchdown passes and a 110.6 passer rating, as he set what was then the league's single-season passing yardage mark in leading New Orleans to its second 13-3 campaign in three seasons.
Continuing to be a model of consistency, Brees would eventually transition the franchise to a second period of excellence and in 2018, enjoyed another standout campaign where he set the NFL's single-season record for completion percentage (74.4%), completing 364-of-489 passes for 3,992 yards with 32 touchdowns, only five interceptions and a 115.7 passer rating as he led the Black and Gold to the NFC championship game, becoming the NFL's all-time leader in passing yardage and completions along the way. In what would turn out to be his final campaign under center in 2020, Brees became the first quarterback to surpass 80,000 career passing yards, completing 275-of-390 passes (70.5%) for 2,942 yards with 24 touchdowns, only six interceptions and a 106.4 passer rating in 12 starts. Brees finished the regular season ranked first in fourth quarter passer rating (128.7), second in completion percentage and sixth in passer rating, helping lead the Saints to their fourth consecutive NFC South Division title.
Brees was a two-time Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year, named to 13 Pro Bowls and five Associated Press All-Pro teams, was the 2004 NFL Comeback Player of the Year and the 2006 co-recipient of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. Overall, in his 20-year NFL career, he played in 287 regular season games (286 starts) and completed 7,142-of-10,551 passes (67.7%) for 80,358 yards, 571 touchdown passes and a 98.7 passer rating. He set numerous NFL passing records and retires as the league's all-time leader in passing yardage (80,358), completions (7,142) passing attempts (10,551), ranks second in career completion percentage (67.7%) and touchdown passes (571) and fifth in passer rating (98.7). Brees set marks for touchdown passes in a game (seven, tied with seven other players), completions in a season (471, 2016), completion percentage in a season (74.4%, 2018), completion percentage in a game (96.7%), 300-yard passing games in a season (13, 2011), consecutive games with at least 300 yards passing (nine, twice), most passing yards in a five-game span (1,954), most passing yards in a four-season span (20,767, 2011-14), most passing yards in a five-season span (25,637, 2011-15), most passing yards in a six-season span (30,845, 2011-16), most seasons leading the league in passing yardage (seven), consecutive games with a touchdown pass (54, 2009-12), games with four-plus touchdown passes (37), games with four touchdown passes and zero interceptions (25), games with five-plus touchdown passes (11) consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions (four, tied with three other players), overall (10) and consecutive (nine) seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes, career 300-yard passing games (123) and career 350-yard passing games (63). The Texas native holds four of the top five most accurate seasons in league history and threw for 5,000 yards an NFL-record five times, a feat no other player has accomplished more than once.
Starting all 18 postseason contests, he appeared in, Brees completed 481-of-721 passes (66.7%) for 5,366 yards with 37 touchdowns and a 97.1 passer rating. In his finest postseason moments in the 2009 playoffs, he completed 72-of-102 passes (70.6%) for 732 yards, eight touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 117.0 passer rating en route to the Super Bowl XLIV title. In Super Bowl XLIV vs. the Indianapolis Colts, Brees completed 32-of-39 passes (82.1%) for 288 yards with two touchdowns, zero picks and a 114.5 passer rating, winning MVP honors. In the contest, Brees completed 18 of his last 19 passes and final 10 attempts. He is one of only six quarterbacks (Troy Aikman, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Phil Simms and Russell Wilson) to have 200 passing yards, two touchdown passes and a 70% completion percentage in a Super Bowl win.
Brees' record as a starter for the Saints is 151-94 (.616) in the regular season and postseason combined, easily making him the winningest signal-caller in franchise history. Posting a 144-85 (.629) record in the regular season and postseason with Payton as his head coach, the Payton-Brees head coach/starting quarterback combination is second in total wins all-time to New England's Bill Belichick-Brady duo (249-75). Brees retires as the holder of virtually every passing record in club record books with his 15 years of service and 228 regular season starts for the Black and Gold, both the highest totals in the team's 54-season history. Since 2006, Brees leads the NFL with 68,010 passing yards, 491 touchdown passes, 8,742 attempts, 6,017 completions, a 68.8 completion percentage, 116 games with at least 300 yards passing, 16 with at least 400 and 518 completions of 25 yards or more.
Brees has been a community fixture in the Gulf South with his Brees Dream Foundation, expanding on its initial mission to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and provide care, education and opportunities for children facing adversity to committing to enhance the lives of all people. He has also been a regular participant in important charitable and social justice causes initiated by the Saints. In New Orleans, his ongoing efforts in support of the community have raised millions of dollars for numerous organizations, important causes and individuals in need. In 2020 alone, the foundation donated over $10 million to relief efforts throughout Louisiana related to Covid-19, partnering with regional organizations throughout Louisiana to provide meals to those in need and to construct heath care centers in underserved communities. The grandson of a World War II veteran, Brees has proudly participated in several USO tours. In addition to being selected as the co-recipient of the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2006, Brees was selected as the 2007 PFWA Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian Award winner and has also received numerous regional honors for his important community efforts.