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Tom Brady is Probably the Best Quarterback Ever, But How Does Drew Brees Compare?

These two contemporaries have eerily similar statistics, but one in particular sets them apart.

NFL: Preseason-New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This past Sunday, I finally conceded what had previously been the unthinkable for me as a fourth generation native of San Francisco. With his incredible fourth quarter heroics, Tom Brady won his his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth Super Bowl MVP. As the blue and red confetti fell, I said it out loud at the Homedale Bar in Lakeview, “Brady has officially passed Joe Montana on my list as the greatest NFL quarterback of all time.”

I’m not even mad about it anymore. Brady deserves to be called the best. As a die-hard Saints fan, I couldn’t help but think, “If Brady is the best ever, where does Drew Brees rank?” So I did a little research. Some stats surprised me. Some didn’t. But one thing is for sure. We have a hell of a quarterback here in New Orleans, and he stands shoulder to shoulder with the newly crowned king.

Brady and Brees’ professional careers began only a year apart. Brady, a product of Michigan University, was drafted infamously late with the 199th pick in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. You can watch him cry about it in this clip. Brees, a product of Big Ten rival Purdue, was drafted with the 32nd pick in the 2nd round of the 2001 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers.

Brady stands 6-foot-4 and 225-lbs, while Brees barely makes 6-foot and 209-lbs. Brady has played in 237 games over 18 seasons which averages to 13.2 games played per season. Aside from riding the bench as a rookie through the first game in 2001, 15 games in 2008 to an ACL tear, and 4 games in 2016 to league mandated suspension, Brady has played all 16 games of every season of his career.

Brees has played in 233 games over 17 seasons which averages to 13.7 games played per season. Brees has played in all 16 games in 11 seasons, while playing in 15 another three. Both quarterbacks have been the picture of health, availability, and consistency over their respective tenures.

Since joining the Saints in 2006, Brees has thrown for more yards than Brady in every season except two (2007, 2009), including passing for over 5,000 yards in 5 seasons compared to Brady’s one season hitting that elusive mark. Over their entire careers, Brees has passed for 4,529 more yards than Brady, while also averaging 23.9 more yards per game than the chin-dippled one.

Even though he was drafted a year later, Brees has amassed these figures in essentially the same amount of time as Brady since the Patriot quarterback lost almost the entire 2008 season to an ACL tear. Both players only played one game their rookie year. Today, Brees has passed for 9 more career touchdowns than Brady.

Brady has 456 TDs with 152 INTs, which equates to a 3 to 1 TD/INT ratio. Brees has 465 TDs with 220 INTs, which equates to almost a 2 to 1 TD/INT ratio. This is where Brady really separates himself from Da Breesus. Since joining the Saints in 2006, Brees has thrown more interceptions than Brady in every season except two (2006, 2009).

It’s no secret the Saints made it to the NFC Championship game and won the Super Bowl in those respective years. Brees has been absolutely prolific in his offensive production, but his habit of throwing back breaking interceptions has played a large part in his inability to lift his team up like Brady has over the years.

Their touchdown to interception ratio no doubt contributes to why Brady holds a slightly higher career passer rating of 97.2, while Brees holds a career passer rating of 96.3 (Passer rating scale is 0-158.3). Ill-timed interceptions aside, however, Brees has consistently posted higher completion percentages than Brady. Since 2006, Brees has finished each season with a higher completion percentage than Brady except two (2012, both Brady and Brees had 63% completion, and 2007). Brees’ career completion percentage (66.6%) is also higher than Brady’s (63.8%).

If you watched the Super Bowl last Sunday you may have noticed the great scramble Brady made for a critical first down. Neither he nor Brees have been known for their legs, but both can come up with important yards when it matters most. Brady famously ran the 40 yard dash at the NFL combine in over six seconds, which would be bad for an offensive lineman. He looks like he could run it in 5 something now even as a 39 year old.

Brady rushed for 64 yards on 28 carries this season (5.3 YPG) compared to Brees’ 20 yards on 23 carries (1.2 YPG). Even though Brees had five less carries than Brady, he punched in two TDs on the ground, which was two more than Brady. Over his entire career, Brady has 940 rush yards on 532 carries while Brees has 724 rush yards on 407 carries. Their career yards per carry are identical at 1.8 YPC. Brady has 17 rush TDs and 105 fumbles while Brees has 16 rush TDs and 95 fumbles.

The most important statistical difference between these two iconic players comes in the form of Super Bowl Championship appearances and wins. Brees has appeared in and won a Super Bowl with our beloved New Orleans Saints. Brady has appeared in seven and won five Super Bowls. Brees has won a Super Bowl MVP trophy while Brady has won four.

Prolific passers like Dan Fouts (from my Alma Mater St. Ignatius College Prep) and Dan Marino are in the NFL Hall of Fame; just like Brees will be as soon as he is eligible. And Brees does have a ring, which they don’t, but in the end, winning on the greatest stage matters. And no one has played better on that stage than Brady. For now, the king from Serra High School still reigns.