Drew Brees retires from NFL after 20 years

Jude Papillion, Sports Editor

After 20 seasons in the NFL and 15 years with the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees, 13-time Pro Bowler, future first ballot Hall of Famer and one of the most decorated quarterbacks in NFL history, announced his retirement from football. His decision came via an Instagram post on March 14, 15 years to the day he agreed to sign with the Saints, with four children announcing in a video “After 15 years with the Saints and 20 years in the NFL, our dad is finally gonna retire. So he can spend more time with us! Yeah!”

Drew Brees was drafted out of Purdue University by the San Diego Chargers as the first pick of the second round in the 2001 NFL Draft, where he spent his first five seasons before he tore the labrum in his right shoulder in a 23-7 loss against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 31, 2005, leaving many questioning whether he would ever play another snap again.

Brees did get to see the field again. This time he wore the black and gold with a fleur-de-lis on his helmet as a member of the New Orleans Saints, signing a $60 million deal with the team and moving to New Orleans in March 2006 shortly after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. 

In his first year with the Saints and in the Saints’ first season back in New Orleans, Brees led the team to a 10-6 record and its first ever NFC Championship, losing to the Chicago Bears. Three seasons later, Brees, along with head coach Sean Payton, led the Saints to a franchise-best 13-3 record, winning the season’s first thirteen games and defeating Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to win the 2010 Super Bowl. In addition to helping deliver New Orleans’ first Lombardi Trophy, Brees was also named Super Bowl MVP. 

Along the way in 2007, Brees, along with fellow 2001 Charger draftee LaDainian Tomlinson, were co-recipients of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, awarded annually to an NFL player who has made a profound impact in community service while excelling on the field. 

Despite having talented Saints teams in his later years, Brees never made it back to a second Super Bowl but won four straight NFC South titles from 2017 until he retired in 2020, with stars like Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Cameron Jordan. He also played in one more NFC Championship: a highly controversial game against the Los Angeles Rams that included a no-call on a blatant pass-interference penalty committed by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, putting the dagger in the Saints chances of reaching the Super Bowl in 2019. 

In his final NFL game, Brees and the Saints were stopped short of reaching a Super Bowl again, this time by Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brees threw for just 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in a devastating divisional round loss. 

One of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Brees became the first quarterback to reach 80,000 yards in NFL history, finishing his career with an NFL record 80,358 passing yards. Brees threw for 4,000 passing yards in 12 straight seasons, the longest streak in NFL history. Brees also has five seasons with over 5,000 passing yards and is the only player with multiple 5,000-yard passing seasons in league history, with everyone else in NFL history combining for seven. Brees was also the first quarterback with 7,000 completions, finishing his career with an NFL record 7,142 completions. Brees has also thrown for a touchdown in 54 consecutive games, breaking Johnny Unitas’ record of 47. Brees has the most touchdowns in a single game, tossing seven against the Giants in 2015, and while he doesn’t have the record for most passing touchdowns with his 571, he only trails Tom Brady’s passing touchdowns by 10. Finally, Brees is first all-time in career completion percentage among quarterbacks who have played more than four NFL seasons at 67.7% and owns the record for four of the top-five single-season completion percentage marks in NFL history. 

While he is retiring from playing, Brees is not retiring from football entirely. The former quarterback recently signed a deal with NBC Sports to become an NFL analyst on “Football Night in America” and a game analyst for Notre Dame football, and there is speculation that Brees and Mike Tirico will eventually replace Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”

An icon both on and off the field, the impact Drew Brees had on both football and the New Orleans Saints, but also New Orleans, the State of Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast Region will not be forgotten.

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