Drew Brees’ Greatest Accomplishment is His Love for NOLA

Photo by Derek E. Hingle

Drew Brees’ record-breaking performance in the Saints’ 43-19 blowout against the Washington Redskins on Monday night had an unexpected consequence.

The living legend and future NFL Hall of Famer received a surprising amount of pushback from members of the National Sports Media (NSM).

Some former NFL players who have since become members of the NSM covering the NFL believe the soon-to-be 40-year old is nothing but all hype. That includes the NFL Network’s resident Brees hater, former Jacksonville Jaguars All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew. They claim Brees is a player that merely pads his statistics instead of winning games.

But make no mistake about it: Brees has earned all the accolades that he has gotten in the past 18 years.

He’s earned the ones that he’s gotten within the past 48 hours.

And he deserves every single one of them.

Maurice Jones-Drew, ESPN’s Max Kellerman, and other members of the NSM that have criticized Brees in recent days should remember what Ice-T once said: “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Instead of criticism, they should be giving him some long-overdue respect.

After all: how many NFL quarterbacks do you know have gotten a congratulatory tweet from former President Barack Obama?

Brees broke Peyton Manning’s record of 71,940 career passing yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the second quarter. It was one of the best performances of his 18-year career, as he completed 26 of 29 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns.

Additionally, his completion percentage of 89.7 was a career-best; and the opportunity to do it in front of both the home crowd in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as well as a nationally-televised audience watching on their televisions was the proverbial “icing on the cake.”

Few players in the sport’s entire history have played the quarterback position as well as Brees has. Few ever will.

Photo by Derek E. Hingle

With Brees under center, the Saints have delivered one World Championship to the city (2009) and have had two more “near misses” in 2011 and 2017.

If you’re a Saints fan over the age of 40, there’s no price that you can put on having your favorite team be a serious threat to win the Super Bowl every year.

And as of this very moment, it still isn’t.

What is an issue, is that the Saints now have a team that’s capable of winning another Super Bowl. And Brees will remain under center for at least one, maybe two, and possibly even three more seasons.

But despite still playing at a very high level at age 39, the assumption is that he likely only has a few good seasons left before a physical decline becomes imminent.

In fact, most NFL quarterbacks are already done playing football at his age.

However, Brees just set the all-time NFL record for completion percentage in a season last year at 72 percent. He topped 4,000 passing yards for the 12th consecutive year — something no other player in the League’s entire 99-year history has done in more than eight consecutive seasons.

Even more impressive: in the first five games of what currently is his 13th season with the Saints, Brees has passed for 1,658 yards (or 331.6 yards per game). That’s the second-highest total of his career — with 11 touchdowns in five games and without a single interception.

Photo by Derek E. Hingle

So the long-expected “decline” hasn’t happened yet. Which further disputes the narrative among those individuals from the NSM that continue to insist that Brees is overrated.

But for all the talk about breaking records in the past few days, everyone has missed out on or has failed to mention one very simple fact:  Drew Brees and his family love the city of New Orleans, the surrounding region, and all the folks that live there.

It’s an overwhelming, passionate emotion and compassion for the NOLA region and its nearby surrounding communities that drive and inspire him to even further heights of success.

“I love this city,” Brees said at his post-game press conference following the win over the Redskins.

“I love this fanbase. I love the Superdome. I love the environment that our fans create on a weekly basis when we play here.”

“There’s really no fanbase like it. Obviously, the bond that we share as a team with our fanbase is unlike any other, I think, in all of professional sports. They’re just so passionate, and this is as much for them as it is for anybody.”

If you’re reading this article as a fan of the Saints, then you should be relishing all this talk about Brees breaking one NFL record after another. It’s likely going to be remembered many, many years from now as the final chapter of  “The Drew Brees Era” in New Orleans.

But it won’t be the end of Drew Brees’ legacy.

Photo by Derek E. Hingle

For all the time that Brees and his family have spent in New Orleans, what he has given back in return to the city and its people are absolutely immeasurable.

Remember that this city and the surrounding region were literally left for dead in September of 2005 following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Brees single-handedly is as responsible for the NOLA community’s eventual rebirth and recovery as anyone.

Brees very easily could have chosen to play football in the friendly and inviting tropical climate of South Florida (Miami) for the Dolphins. Instead, he came to a team that had only won three games the year before (the Saints were 3-13 in the 2005 season). What’s more, the team was going to play its games in a city virtually destroyed by one of the greatest natural disasters in U.S. history.

But he chose New Orleans, and the past 12 and-a-half years have been a tremendous blessing for both Brees and his young family; for the Saints franchise and its passionately-devoted fanbase as well.

All four of Brees’ children have been born (and raised so far) in New Orleans. All three of his sons attend elementary school in uptown NOLA. Daughter Rylen will be joining them in the not-too-distant future.

Additionally, there are all the business investments that Brees (and wife Brittany) has made within the NOLA community. You also have to take into account his bond and “connection” to the city that was formed over a decade ago after he saw the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina, after originally signing with the Saints back in 2006.

In the past decade plus, Drew Brees and his family have become as much a part of New Orleans as New Orleans has become of him.

Photo by Derek E. Hingle

It’s the place that they now consider “home.” Not Austin, Texas (where Brees himself was born and raised). Not northern Indiana (where Brees played college ball at Purdue University). And not San Diego (where he first began his NFL career after being drafted by the Chargers, who are now in Los Angeles).

And if you happen to be raising a family with small children, then you already know how important it is for them to have some stability in their lives.

Legendary and former Saints quarterback Archie Manning and his wife Olivia did the same thing over 45 years ago when they moved to NOLA from Mississippi, and they never left. They still reside here to this very day.

Manning’s sons Cooper, Peyton, and Eli (perhaps you’ve heard of them) are all New Orleans natives, and their family’s own love and affection for the city and its surrounding region is well-documented.

Bottom line: if Drew Brees is the man that I think he is — a man of principle and devotion — then I’m certain that it will keep him in playing in New Orleans for a few more seasons if he feels that he can. He likely will end up living here for a whole lot longer.

Maybe we’ll even see sons Baylen, Bowen, and Callen on the New Orleans-area high school football highlights in a few years from now, just as Manning’s sons were back during the 1990’s.

When all is said and done, the greatest accomplishment of Drew Brees’ magnificent playing career as well as in life itself, will be his love for the city of New Orleans and its people — the very same people whose love for him and his young family, will endure forever…

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Read more of Barry’s  Saints coverage here.

If you enjoy Barry’s writing, be sure check out his Saints coverage, and in particular, his detailed story on the how the Saints continually leave their indelible imprint on the New Orleans community and culture.

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