The 2018 season will forever be remembered by the “no-call”, and the “what could’ve been” season. Yet, for so much disappointment to end the season, there is a beacon of hope in the form of Drew Brees.
Level of Play
Brees’ level of play in 2018 was arguably the highest of any point in his career. According to PFF, Brees had a positional grade of 94.7, the highest of his career, and the top mark for the quarterback position in 2018. Drew Brees’ grade for this season transcended his mark in his spectacular 2011 season (where he also claimed second in the MVP race). Oh by the way, Drew Brees turned 40 this season, which makes this year even more astonishing.
The only two quarterbacks in any type of serious consideration for the MVP trophy in 2018 were Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes. It came with little surprise as Mahomes took home the award; However, Brees had just as legitimate of a claim. Brees had a record-setting percentage completion rating, career low interceptions (5), and the highest passer rating in the league. Brees accomplished all of this while having only a legitimate WR1 in Michael Thomas. Brees had no true WR2, as Ginn Jr. was injured the majority of the season and Tre’Quan Smith was inconsistent.
Brees also threw touchdowns to nine undrafted free agents, showing the lack of depth in positional players. Perhaps the only blemish on Brees in the 2018 season was the level of play of the offense during the final six weeks. The Saints’ offense went from first in the league for points/game, to below the league average of 23.3 points/game. Brees threw more interceptions in the last six games than he did in the first twelve. Much of this can be chalked up to a banged up O-Line, lack of playmakers, and depth of positional players down the stretch. Meanwhile, Mahomes won out on yardage, and touchdowns while having arguably the best offensive lineup in the NFL around him.
The argument that Brees was only in contention for the 2018 MVP award was due to his “legacy” is completely unfounded. Patrick Mahomes was the flavor of the year at the quarterback position, and put up massive numbers to win out in MVP voting.
The Records and Achievements
Saints fans have become accustomed to watching Drew Brees break record after record, season after season. 2018 was no different for Brees, as he set some huge all-time records, a few odd records, and reached a few more career milestones. I ranked them below in order from what I have deemed “just a little less” to “most” impressive:
- Drew Brees finally beat the last team remaining on his hit list when the Saints defeated the Ravens in Week 7. It’s impressive not only because he is the third quarterback to do so, but it also shows the longevity and consistency of his career.
- Drew Brees set the NFL record by throwing to nine undrafted free agents over the course of the 2018 season. En route to the season record, Brees threw to a record-setting four undrafted free agents (Lewis, Carr, Arnold, and Kirkwood) during the Saints’ Week 12 game against the Falcons. This record is telling of the supporting cast around Brees during this season, and how phenomenal Brees had to play and lead to keep his offense churning.
- Following the Week 16 game of the season, Brees broke his own single season completion percentage record of 72-percent set in 2017 by throwing for 74.4-percent. He sat out Week 17 against the Panthers in preparation for the playoffs, but his record still stood. Completion percentage is not the end all be all, nor is it incredibly telling of performance. Quarterbacks can complete short screens and slants all season to fluff up their numbers. However, Brees set the record this year while throwing for 8.2 yards/completion. For reference, in his outlandish 2011 season his threw for 8.3 yards/completion. Brees was more accurate and efficient than ever before.
- Drew Brees set the NFL all-time passing yards record. Brees set the record in Week 5 on Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins when he launched a 62-yard touchdown to Tre’Quan Smith to reach 72,103 career yards. Afterwards, he embraced his family while Peyton Manning congratulated him on the big screen. Brees ended the 2018 season with 74,437 yards. It will take a level of consistency and longevity, unseen yet by the new crop of young quarterbacks, to catch Brees’ record.
What to Expect in 2019
2018 gave Saints fans no indication of decline in our quarterback, even though his age starts to creep up to that uncomfortable line of “how much longer does he have?” Brees’ health and fitness regimen keep him at a level that younger quarterbacks currently strive for. In 2019, I expect Brees to throw for over 4,000 yards, probably closer to 4,200, and 40 touchdowns. Brees will also maintain the efficiency that has characterized his career by throwing for over 70-percent completion percentage for the fourth straight year. The back half of 2019 will be nothing like the back half of 2018. The Saints will keep their foot on the gas, and Brees will be surrounded with more offensive weapons to keep the train moving.
Drew Brees and company are coming off the most disappointing end to a season in Saints franchise history. One can only imagine that the fire has been lit, and the Saints will be out for vengeance. Even with little payroll flexibility, and few draft picks for this year’s draft, expect to see more weapons around Brees next year. The Saints will stop at nothing to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl in 2019, with Drew Brees at the helm. I predict the 2019 season won’t be his last.