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Saints quarterback Drew Brees proves why the intangibles set him apart

Drew Brees is routinely one of the best players in the NFL, and this season hasn’t been different. Despite injury, Brees is continually proving why he is the best to ever do it.

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is in the midst of his 15th season with the New Orleans Saints. During those years he has helped his team win a Super Bowl, won the Super Bowl MVP award for that game, and holds nearly every meaningful passing record in the league’s history. However, there is one achievement that Brees has never been awarded: NFL MVP. And while his chances for winning it in 2020 are virtually non-existent due to multiple broken ribs, it is still a shame the trophy doesn’t sit in one of his numerous cases.

Drew has had some phenomenal seasons, whether it be any one of his five 5,000-plus passing yard seasons, or any of his four seasons where he recorded a 110-plus passer rating, the man has strung together some of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had in NFL history. However, arguably the greatest seasons in his career were the 2009 Super Bowl-winning year, as well the historic 2011 season.

The 2009 season is perhaps the most egregious instance in which Brees was not awarded MVP. Peyton Manning took that honor, but only because he had more game winning drives. Brees led the league in passer rating (109.6), QBR (83.4), touchdown percentage (6.6%), touchdowns (34) and completion percentage (70.6%), yet Manning won the award. Manning then went on to lose to Brees in Super Bowl XLIV. The 2009 season will go down as one of the biggest highway robberies in the MVP award’s history. It is absolutely insane that Brees lost this award.

Yet, 2011 was a similar story. Everyone remembers this season for the historic offense that New Orleans fielded, as well as Drew’s best statistical season. To refresh your memory, the quarterback slung the ball for 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns, all while completing 71.6% of his passes. Absolute insanity. Yet, he didn’t win the MVP award. Instead, it went to the Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers due to his passer and quarterback rating. The exact reason why Brees did NOT win the award in 2009. Once again, it was a complete joke that Drew didn’t win the award in 2011. It seems that every year Brees has performed to historical greatness, the field goal posts are moved for the criteria to win the award.

Other great seasons for the quarterback include the 2018 season, which ended in heartache to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship, as well as 2012 and 2013. However, the 2012-13 seasons didn’t field particularly strong Saints squads and the MVP award was never in the conversation for Brees despite statistical dominance.

Let’s fast-forward to the present day. This season has been an absolute roller coaster for New Orleans. The team currently sits at 8-2 with losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and the Green Bay Packers. However, they have won massive games against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and look to be on a roll down the stretch. Even the national pundits who claimed that New Orleans was going to experience a beat down by Tampa Bay all season long have changed their tune. Now all of a sudden the Saints are Super Bowl favorites.

Yet, not many in the media have mentioned Brees’s role in the current success the team is experiencing. Instead, the narrative has surrounded Drew’s age, his injury history the last two seasons, lack of downfield passes, and questions surrounding his arm strength. None of this takes into account that Brees’s top target, Michael Thomas, missed a half of a season with a high-ankle sprain and hamstring injury, or that his WR2 in Emmanuel Sanders was also missing for two of those eight games. In the game against the Chicago Bears, Brees was missing all three of his top wide receivers and still found a way to win. Much of that was to the credit of Alvin Kamara, and what could be a historic season for him.

The Saints are the top dog not just in the NFC South, but in the entire NFC. Michael Thomas can’t get any of the credit for eight of those games, neither can Sanders who missed two, and Callaway who missed one. Additionally, the secondary had been atrocious until they went against the Buccaneers, then it all seemingly changed. Why can’t the talking heads give Brees some credit?

Taysom Hill has started the last two games, one against the Atlanta Falcons and one against the Denver Broncos. He found success against the Falcons, but struggled with a change in gameplan at the last minute against the Broncos. However, there might be a secret to Hill’s recent success: Drew Brees.

In a recent press conference, Rod Walker of The Times-Picayune asked Hill how Brees is helping him out off the field and some things he has picked up from him. Here is what Hill had to say about the legendary quarterback:

“The things that are most important to me, I would say are the most important to Drew. I don’t want to speak for him but, my family is incredibly important to me, my family is incredibly important to me and I’ve seen how important that has been to Drew. I’ve had the opportunity to observe how he manages preparing and playing week in and week out and also fulfilling his role as a husband, and a father. Those are what really sticks out.”

There is plenty of evidence that Hill has tried and is still actively trying to emulate Brees’s approach to the game in terms of preparation and execution. Even with Brees sidelined with injury, he is still acting as a mentor and as a coach for Hill. His expertise and guidance can and has directly attributed to the success that Hill is experiencing as a starting quarterback.

When we take a look back at the first half of the season before Drew’s injury, it is clear to see he was on the MVP path. If we use ratings as the criteria, which is how Aaron Rodgers won the MVP award in 2011, Brees sat tied in first for passer rating and third in QBR for the league in the first half of 2020. Drew’s percentage completion currently sits at 73.5%, good enough for first in the league and it’s not particularly close, once again highlighting his extreme efficiency. However, the league is still enamored with last year’s MVP, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who operates an offense that was successful even under Alex Smith.

Personally, after the first half of the season I believed the award came down to two players, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. Wilson is operating an offense and leading a team that without him would be a four or five win team. Brees is proving that at 41-years old he doesn’t want to slow down and was still able to lead a hobbled offense to victory week in and week out before his injury.

Additionally, Brees tied a modern-NFL record for 12 different receivers in a game during the last matchup against the Buccaneers. Elevating receivers is something he has done his entire career and he is continuing to do so in 2020. With all of his weapons back and healthy, there is a distinct possibility that we could see Drew turn it on and really make some noise when he eventually returns for the final stretch of the season. Even Skip Bayless went out of his way to compliment Drew (baby steps y’all):

Now, with his injury, the national media will forever put a black mark on Brees’s 2020 season. It may be his last, but he still has plenty of goals left to accomplish and he loves playing the underdog role. That’s okay because this is exactly what fuels the legendary quarterback. That bodes well for New Orleans.

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