A New Orleans Saints quarterback is the NFL’s All-Time leading passer.
Let that sink in … I may be writing that to myself, frankly, because I’m not sure it’s completely sunk in for me yet.
It would be a feather in the cap of any fan base to be able to claim such an honor for their own quarterback, but for me, it still feels almost too good to be true, because I remember what it was like before.
Heath Shuler. Doug Nussmeier. Danny Wuerffel. Steve Walsh. Billy Joe Hobert. Billy Joe Tolliver. We legitimately had two players, at the lead position of our football team, named Billy Joe at the same time period. Neither was the answer.
Archie Manning was before my time and by all accounts great, but he was fleeing for his life on those terrible Saints’ teams. Bobby Hebert was the man during the first high-water mark of our franchise, but was asked to do more game-management than anything. Even Aaron Brooks’ most ardent backers would admit he was a flawed player—and yet he certainly belongs in this paragraph, as one of the three best Saints’ passers in the pre-Brees era.
I remember going to the store and seeing the regional cover of those NFL preview magazines, and almost universally the cover was adorned by the great Willie Roaf, year after year after year. Roaf was truly gifted, but was also an offensive tackle — there were no flashy skill players to speak of on this team.
Likewise, I remember getting into fantasy football for the first time and quickly learning there was no such thing as a rosterable Saints player. Even if you plucked their starting running back, the time for Mario Bates/Ray Zellars/Derek Brown was always ticking away until the next man would be called upon. Receivers? Don’t get me started. Quarterbacks … eh, you read the list.
Things began to change in the Jim Haslett era. Ricky Williams was a true bellcow, followed soon by another in Deuce McAllister. The discovery of Joe Horn felt like some kind of witch’s spell had been cast by Mickey Loomis. Even Willie Jackson posted numbers, as did Jeff Blake, briefly (the often-forgotten passer who led the Saints the majority of the way into the 2000 playoffs before injury) and Brooks. Then Hakim dropped the ball.
Then came Katrina. Three wins, and it was a miracle the Saints got that many. Brooks gave way eventually to Todd Bouman. Infighting. No home. Wait, maybe our home was New York for a week. That’s what they wanted us to believe, anyway. As brief of a glimmer as Haslett gave us, it looked like the Saints were back to nowhere-ville in terms of league relevancy, both in terms of the franchise and its individual players.
Then Drew arrived.
I didn’t want him. Let me admit that off the bat. Again—I didn’t want the future All-Time passing leader to sign here. I thought his shoulder was reduced to jelly and we’d be passing on some legitimate franchise prospects at quarterback.
You know … Matt Leinart. Vince Young. Jay Cutler.
Thank the heavens I’m not the Saints’ general manager.
He eased himself in for about a game before letting that arm loose in a comeback win in Week 2 of the 2006 season over Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Gleason blocked a punt the next week and a building on Poydras was reopened – you may have heard of it. On and on to the NFC Championship Game, and just a few years later, pigs had flown.
Brees’ passing yardage mark is not a record that will last forever, at least not likely considering the rate passing has blown up in the league. Then again, he hasn’t lost a step at all, seemingly, and if he can help it, he’s going to continue to build on that mark and make whoever aspires to take it from him work his butt off.
But whether it stands forever or not, today, the Saints boast the man who’s passed for more yards than Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino – and everyone else who’s ever played. The NFL’s All-Time passing leader.
Drew Brees. That’s who.