Review: Drew Brees is having the best season of his career at age 39
Drew Brees is smashing NFL records this season and cementing his legacy as an all-time great. Let’s just get the stats out of the way to begin with, because Drew Brees is doing some ridiculous things and that’s why you’re here, right? Through eight games, Brees has completed 76.3 (!!!) percent of his passes for 2,336 yards with 18 touchdowns and one interception. He’s on pace to smash the record for completion percentage in a season of 72 percent, set by none else than Brees last season. Brees has a passer rating of 120.6, not far behind Aaron Rodgers’ record 122.5 rating in 2011 that earned him NFL MVP honors. He also has a rating of 86.6 on ESPN’s Total QBR — just behind Tom Brady’s record of 88.5 from his MVP season in 2007. It’s been seven years and I’m pretty sure still nobody knows what QBR is, but the point is Brees is crushing it. In the biggest game of the year for the Saints, he threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-35 win against the Los Angeles Rams. It was a huge day for running back Alvin Kamara too — he had 116 total yards and three touchdowns — but with the Rams rallying and the game on the line, it was Brees who saved the day with a game-clinching, 72-yard touchdown to Michael Thomas. This @drewbrees to @Cantguardmike TD secured the @Saints' 7th straight win. @insidetheNFL | #ShotOfTheWeek#GoSaints pic.twitter.com/OdQ6lfGESe— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) November 5, 2018 In a year when passing numbers are through the roof, Brees’ absurd season is flying under the radar, even after he broke Peyton Manning’s passing record in Week 5. He’s twice been the AP Offensive Player of the Year, but never MVP. With his 40th birthday coming in January, Brees is making a strong case for his first time winning the award for the first time. Efficiency: 9.9 This is a buzzword for quarterbacks that’s received a lot more positively than “game manager,” but it really all boils down to the same thing: An efficient quarterback throws touchdowns and completions, and doesn’t throw many interceptions and incompletions. So by that measure, Brees is the definition of efficiency. He’s completing passes at a record-breaking percentage and he’s thrown just one interception all season. Take away nine drops, 10 throwaways, and three times he was hit as he was thrown, and the numbers would be even more outrageous: Drew Brees has been on the money in 2018! pic.twitter.com/zNE8yf7EQw— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 6, 2018 Thomas has emerged as a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but Brees is excelling with a receiving corps that is uninspiring, otherwise. What has helped tremendously has been the emergence of Kamara as one of the NFL’s most special running backs. With the Saints able to lean on the combination of Kamara and Mark Ingram, Brees averaged 33.5 attempts per game in 2017 — his lowest average since joining the Saints in 2006. The pace has picked up a little bit in 2018 at 34.9 passes per game for Brees, but it’s still much lower than the 42-attempt average he had in 2016. A more balanced offensive attack — not to mention the receiving skills of Kamara — has taken Brees’ completion numbers to new heights and likely extended his career. MVP-ness: 7.8 Not a word, I know. But you know what I mean. This may be Brees’ best shot at winning MVP, but it’ll still be an uphill climb. If there’s a reason Brees doesn’t win the award this year, it’ll be because other quarterbacks are throwing more passes and connecting on bigger plays. The 72-yard touchdown to Thomas was Brees’ fourth completion of 40 yards or more. Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers are each at 11. Hell, Case Keenum has 10. While Brees is doing a remarkable job avoiding mistakes, the Saints offense doesn’t ask him to uncork many deep balls, and his final stats probably won’t match up with the gaudy numbers of Mahomes or Jared Goff. Brees is pacing to finish with 4,672 yards and 36 touchdowns. Those would be his eighth-best and fifth-best totals in a season, respectively. Meanwhile, there are five quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Goff) on pace for more than 5,000 yards. Mahomes is on track to be the third quarterback ever to top 50 touchdowns. The Saints’ recent signing of Dez Bryant could be a boon to Brees’ passing stats, but the former Cowboys receiver isn’t the same player who caught 41 touchdowns between 2012 and 2014. He could be a productive player in New Orleans, but don’t expect Brees’ stats to skyrocket with the addition. If Brees posts the same exact numbers in the last eight games of the year, he’ll be in MVP contention. But unless some other quarterbacks slow down, there’s a good chance he comes up short again. Legacy: 9.6 Let’s throw in one more overused buzzword for good measure. Because with the careers of a generation of quarterbacks winding down, it feels like Brees if finally starting to get his due. When Brees claimed the record for career passing yardage earlier this season — a number he’s now added nearly 1,000 more yards to — Tony Gonzalez argued that he’s not just an all-time great, he’s the all-time greatest: Who Dat!@TonyGonzalez88 makes the case why @Saints legend @DrewBrees could be considered the pic.twitter.com/ZXqAXGKXH6— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 14, 2018 With Brees continuing to push passing numbers into a different stratosphere, that’s becoming a more accepted take. He can’t match Tom Brady in Super Bowl rings, or Peyton Manning in MVP awards. But at a time when he should be hitting the twilight of his time in the NFL, Brees is putting up career-best stats and has the Saints very much in the Super Bowl hunt. Whatever due he hasn’t been given already, it’s time you give it now.