When you think of the San Francisco 49ers, does Jimmy Garoppolo come to mind? Or is it some combination of Jerry Rice or Steve Young? Do you think of Marcus Mariota or Steve McNair when you hear “Tennessee Titans?” Do you think of Tarik Cohen when the Chicago Bears come up, or do you think of Walter Payton? Or maybe Brian Urlacher?
You get the point.
When an NFL team comes to mind, the first player that pops into your head is typically the franchise cornerstone of the team. When Bleacher Report ranked the top current NFL franchise cornerstones, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints came in second:
It doesn’t get much more obvious than Drew Brees.
Brees landed with the New Orleans Saints in 2006 as the city was trying to recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina. The team was in search of a cornerstone and coming out of a season where it had to play home games elsewhere.
At the time, Brees had been cast out of San Diego and had a questionable injury outlook. But since he landed with the Saints, the franchise has missed the playoffs just six times and won a Super Bowl, while Brees has hoisted plenty of individual awards, including a Super Bowl MVP.
Granted, Brees’ teams hit 7-9 three years in a row starting in 2014, but the blame falls on the shoulders of a horrific defense. Last year saw Brees surrounded by a competent all-around roster, and the end result was a career-high 74.4 completion percentage with 3,992 yards and 32 touchdowns against just five interceptions, a career low.
Given his on-field play and what he was able to overcome individually and within the team, as well as the city storylines, few players will ever be so intimately connected to a franchise.
It should be obvious that Brees falls short of the top spot behind Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. I could argue, though, that the true franchise cornerstone of the New England Patriots - the real first name you think of when you think of the Pats’ dynasty - is actually head coach Bill Belichick and not the GOAT, Tom Brady.
In any event, I can’t argue with Brees behind Brady, but while I agree with Brees’s ranking, I’m frankly a little surprised Brees ranked ahead of the player given the third overall spot, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. Too often A-A-Ron gets lumped in the group with Brady with Brees viewed as a tier under the two.