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Following his NFL retirement announcement, we look back at Saints quarterback Drew Brees' career with 100 of the best photos from his time in New Orleans.
Drew Brees' NFL Career Timeline
New Orleans Saints quarterback announced his retirement from the NFL on March 14, 2021
Mar 14, 2021
Photographs By Michael C. Hebert

On Sunday, March 14, 2021, 15 years to the day after signing with the New Orleans Saints, quarterback Drew Brees announced his retirement from the NFL. Join us for a detailed look at Brees' NFL journey and highlight the impressive milestones of his 20-year career.

1. Drew Brees Drafted 32nd Overall

Drew Brees was selected by San Diego in the second round (32nd overall) of 2001 NFL Draft.

'9 for No. 9: A Champion's Journey' - Chapter 3: Going Pro

Despite putting up record numbers while at Purdue, Drew Brees was an undervalued prospect heading into the 2001 NFL Draft. See how Brees ended up with the San Diego Chargers and how he fared during his early playing career in the third chapter of our nine-part series 9 for No. 9: A Champion's Journey.

2. Brees' First TD

On November 4, 2001 Brees threw his first career NFL completion and touchdown pass. Making his only appearance in 2001 in relief of Doug Flutie vs. Kansas City, Brees was 15-of-27 for 221 yards with one TD to Freddie Jones.

Highlights: Drew Brees' 1st Career Touchdown Pass

3. Pro Bowl Bound

In 2004, Brees was voted to his first career Pro Bowl and selected as a consensus Comeback Player of Year and Most Improved Player of the Year.

Highlights: Drew Brees' Top Plays from 2004

4. Adversity Strikes in Season Finale

Brees suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder in the second quarter of the season finale vs. Denver on December 31, 2005, which required surgery.

9 for No. 9: A Champion's Journey - Chapter 4: The Injury

After the San Diego Chargers added quarterback Phillip Rivers during the 2004 NFL Draft, Drew Brees began to take his playing career to the next level. Unfortunately, Drew suffered a severe shoulder injury during the 2005 season finale vs the Denver Broncos, leading to uncertainty about his playing future not only with the Chargers but in the NFL period in this the fourth chapter of our nine-part series '9 for No. 9: A Champion's Journey'

5. Brees Inks Deal with the Saints

After having shoulder surgery, Brees signed a six-year contract with the Saints on March 14, 2006.

On March 14, 2006 the New Orleans Saints signed quarterback Drew Brees. The contract was a six year, $60 million deal that included a $8 million signing bonus. Full Story >>

Photos of Drew Brees from the 2006 season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. New Orleans Saints photos.

6. Franchise Records Begin to Fall

On December 10, 2006, Brees set the Saints single-season passing yards record, ending the season with 4,418 passing yards (Since broken 9 times by Brees).

Saints Classics Game Rebroadcast: Saints vs. Cowboys - December 10, 2006

Sean Payton and Bill Parsells go head-to-head in this 2006 classic matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys.

7. Man of the Year

Drew Brees was awarded the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2006.

Drew Brees talks about the honor of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award

8. Brees Breaks 5,000

In 2008, Brees threw for 5,069 yards which was the first of five times he would throw for 5,000+ yards. Of all the seasons ever compiled by NFL quarterbacks throughout the years, only 12 have resulted in an individual player throwing for more than 5,000 yards in a single season. Brees has done it five times, nobody else has accomplished the feat more than once.

Brees demonstrated his offensive air attack leading the NFL in pass attempts (635), pass completions (413), passing yards (5,069) and completions of 25 yards or more (35). His 5,069 passing yards establish him as the second player in NFL history to surpass the 5,000 yard mark. Full Story >>

9. Offensive Player of the Year

In 2008, Brees was named the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year after becoming only the second QB in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards and tied the league record with 10 games with 300 or more yards. Voted to the Pro Bowl, Brees led the NFL in passing yardage (5,069), attempts (635), completions (413), completions of 25 yards or more (35) and tied for a league-best with 34 TDs.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees was named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. Brees continued to re-write the team's record books in 2008, becoming just the second player in league history to throw for 5,000 yards in a single season, passing for 5,069 yards with a team-record and league-leading 34 touchdowns. Full Story >>

10: All-Time Saint

On December 19, 2009, Brees became the Saints All-Time leader in passing touchdowns (No. 121 with New Orleans).

Brees hit Lance Moore for a seven-yard score against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday evening in the Saints' 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, giving him 121 scoring passes since he joined New Orleans as a free agent in 2006. FULL Story >>

11.Bowl XLIV MVP

Nearly flawless in the postseason while leading the Saints to Super Bowl XLIV title, Brees completed 72-of-102 passes (70.6 percent) for 732 yards with eight touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 117.0 rating. In Super Bowl XLIV vs. Indianapolis, Brees was 32-of-39 for 288 yards with two TDs and a 114.5 rating, winning MVP honors.

New Orleans Saints photos of Drew Brees in Super Bowl XLIV. Photos by Michael C. Hebert.

12. Sportsman of the Year

Drew Brees was awarded the AP Male Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 2010.

Sports Illustrated Group Editor Terry McDonell announced today that Drew Brees is the 2010 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Brees is the 57th honoree since the magazine's founding in 1954, joining a transcendent group of athletes and sports figures including Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Jack Nicklaus, Derek Jeter, John Wooden and Cal Ripken Jr. to receive the award. Full Story >>

"It was unbelievable. Just looking back on it, I feel like it's one of the greatest honors you can receive because when you think about who's eligible: it's every sport, man, woman, team, over the course of a year." Full Story >>

Brees is only the fourth quarterback to receive the honor in the past four decades, along with the Patriots' Tom Brady in 2007, the 49ers' Joe Montana in 1989 and 1990, and the Raiders' George Blanda in 1970. Full Story >>

13. Single Season Passing Yards Record

On December 26, 2011, Brees set the single-season passing yards record (5,476 yards since broken by Peyton Manning). Brees has led the NFL in passing yards in seven seasons, more than any other quarterback in NFL history.

NFL Films Uncut: Brees Breaks the Record

NFL Films captured history when Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's single-season passing record. Follow Brees along the sideline after his record-breaking pass and listen to his entire locker room speech.

14. Brees Breaks Unitas' Record

On October 7, 2012, Brees set an NFL-record with his 48th straight game with a touchdown pass, passing Johnny Unitas.

NFL Films: Drew Brees breaks Johnny Unitas' record

New Orleans QB Drew Brees received a nice surprise from Joe Unitas, Johnny Unitas' son, before Brees broke Unitas' record. Take a look at this story of how the younger Unitas wrote a script to honor his father.

15. Youngest to 50,000

In 2013, Brees became the youngest player to reach 50,000 passing yards.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees joined the exclusive 50,000-yard club in the fourth quarter Sunday night when he hit Jimmy Graham with a 22-yard pass against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Brees achieved the feat in just 183 games, the fastest of the five players. Full Story >>

HIGHLIGHTS: Saints vs Panthers - Brees Breaks 50,000 Yards

16. A Picture of Precision

In 2017, Brees set an NFL record by completing 72 percent of his passes.

He entered the game completing 71.9 percent of his passes – the NFL single-season record was 71.6 percent, set last year by Sam Bradford. Full Story >>

Brees' Postgame Presser following the Record

17. Completion King

On September 23, 2018, Brees set an NFL-record for most all-time completions (completion no. 6,301).

On a day when he set the NFL record for completions, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees used his legs to drive his team to a 43-37 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Full Story >>

Drew Brees breaks Brett Favre's NFL completion record

18. Brees Surpasses Manning

On October 8, 2018, Brees set the record for most all-time passing yards, breaking Peyton Manning's 71,940 mark.

Can't-Miss Play: Brees breaks Peyton's passing record on epic TD

"I don't think it could have happened in any better fashion than it did. To have been in that moment with my teammates on the field, the offensive line; It just played out better than I even could have imagined." Full Interview >>

19. Brees Throws 500th TD

On October 21, 2018, Brees threw for touchdown pass number 500 against the Baltimore Ravens.

Drew Brees joins the 500 TD club

20. Brees Defeats all 32 Teams

In 2018, Brees became the third quarterback in NFL history to beat all 32 teams by taking down the Baltimore Ravens on October 21, 2018.

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker helped Drew Brees enter another exclusive fraternity Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium as Tucker's missed extra point guaranteed the New Orleans Saints a 24-23 victory and gave Brees wins over all 32 NFL teams. Full Story >>

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