For many years in the NFL there was no debate that the biggest impact performer to change teams in the NFL free agency world was when NFL Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White left the Philadelphia Eagles to join the Green Bay Packers back in 1993.
In White’s six-year run with the Packers he, along with quarterback Brett Favre, helped turn around a franchise that had seen little success since the days of Vince Lombardi and the 1960s.
White was a Pro Bowl honoree each of his six seasons with the Packers, racking up 68 ½ quarterback sacks in six seasons and he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1998. He also led the Packers to two Super Bowl appearances and a victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
But right now the debate can be had on if White still holds that honor because I firmly believe today that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is the most significant and best free agent signing in the history of the sport.
All of us can remember before Drew Brees. This franchise had seen success under head coach Jim Mora, quarterback Bobby Hebert and the “Dome Patrol” defense of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but that was a short run for an organization that was more noted for their futility on the field and poor decisions when it came down to personnel than their winning ways.
General manager Mickey Loomis made the correct call to select then-Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Sean Payton as the new head coach of the Saints back in early 2006, but the decision to sign an injured Drew Brees in March of 2006 was the game-changer for this organization and it has changed the “Who Dat” world forever.
Brees was offered a heavily incentive-laden contract to resign with the San Diego Chargers, but he quickly rejected that deal and selected New Orleans over the Miami Dolphins, then coached by current Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
That move changed the franchise’s fortunes and while Brees is on the verge of breaking numerous NFL records it has been his ability to lead and bring a winning attitude that has been the difference maker.
For the last three seasons Brees has led the Saints to victories in 11 games or more. From 1967-2005 that accomplishment had only been done three other times.
Brees is leading the Saints to the playoffs for the fourth time, he has led the team to two NFC championship games and he was the catalyst in their win in Super Bowl XLIV over the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning.
And they look to be on the verge of having another strong run for a “Two Dat” finish this year.
Heading into the Monday night Atlanta Falcons contest Brees has thrown for 27,698 yards in less than six seasons and thrown 192 touchdown passes. He has also completed more than 64.3 percent of his passes each season in the black and gold and he is on the verge of completing over 70 percent of his passes for the second time in New Orleans.
Brees at 33 years old is in the prime of his career and the Saints football team is built around his passing skills, his ability to distribute the ball to a host of receivers each week and his will to win on the field.
Records will be important to one day show the grandchildren, but for Brees today it is all about winning games on Sundays.
Over the last eight weeks the Saints got to play the two teams they finished up playing in their Super Bowl run in the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts.
Without Brett Favre and Peyton Manning those teams don’t resemble the clubs they had in 2009 and we should fully appreciate what we are watching today.
There will be a day when Brees is not in the lineup.
But for now Saints fans can breathe in the rarified air of being one of the elite teams in pro football and having the most significant free agent signing in the history of the game in Drew Brees.