COMMENTARY: Don’t look past Saints’ Brees
The best quarterback of all-time vs. the most underrated quarterback of all-time.
The storylines have been building since the Colts jumped to an undefeated streak that reached
14-0 before they had nothing left to play for and the Saints jumped out to a 12-0 start until they went on an unexplained trip back to the days where their fans wore bags over their heads. But there is no doubt that the biggest story in this game is Peyton Manning vs. Drew Brees.
The two have had completely different careers dating as far back as high school and again, on Feb. 7, Manning will be the favorite when the two meet in the Super Bowl.
Manning was always the Golden Boy. It’s easy when your last name is Manning and you grow up in New Orleans where your dad was a legend, despite never posting better than an 8-8 record in 12 seasons with the Saints. Peyton was one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks coming out of high school and was made the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft.
There have been ups and downs since then, but Manning has put Dan Marino’s career stats on notice. He stands to gun down every significant record a quarterback can hold for a career and go out as the best to ever play the game. Adding one more ring will certainly aid in achieving that title.
Brees, on the other hand, has never been the most sought after player at any level. The Austin, Texa,s native had looks from Texas and Texas A&M until he tore his anterior cruciate ligament during his junior season. He, probably more than anyone ever, wanted to attend Washington State and follow in the footsteps of his idol, Drew Bledsoe. He even continued wearing a Washington State hat while he went to Purdue. But the Cougars didn’t have a scholarship for him.
So his options were basketball school Kentucky, where Tim Couch was his recruiting host (talk about a bad omen), and Purdue where Joe Tiller was about to set the Big 10 on fire with his new-fangled spread passing attack.
And what did Brees do as a Boilermaker? Set almost every passing record at the school including a game where he threw the ball 83 times. He racked up 11,792 passing yards and 90 touchdowns through the air. And after leading the nation in total offense with 358.1 yards per game, he was overlooked again for Florida State’s Chris Weinke in the Heisman voting.
The Falcons chose to look past him too when the draft came around, by selecting Michael Vick with the top pick after swapping selections with the San Diego Chargers. Not one other quarterback was selected in the first round. Brees was finally taken with the first pick in the second round.
After three seasons, the Chargers were ready to move past Brees after going back and forth between he and Doug Flutie. They acquired Phillip Rivers in a draft-day trade in 2004, but Brees won the job and had his best two years with back-to-back 3,000-plus yard seasons. But after suffering a shoulder injury during the 2005 playoffs, the Chargers found their window to let Brees walk.
The Dolphins didn’t want him because of the injury, but the Saints were willing to take a chance.
He hasn’t thrown for fewer than 4,388 yards since and led the Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.
But Brees is on the path of being overlooked again. The Saints find themselves five-point underdogs to the legend that is Manning, but something tells me Brees will make the most of his opportunity yet again.