Why Drew Brees really had a better career than Brett Favre AND John Elway

Drew Brees should be ranked ahead of Brett Favre and John Elway

By: Jake Rajala

The NFL Top 100 team of all time was voted by gifted football minds in early 2018 and introduced to the football world through a TV series in November of 2019. The notable quarterback position featured ten gifted talents at its vital position. Here are the QBs that landed on the mythical list: Tom Brady, John Elway, Brett Favre, Otto Graham, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Roger Staubach, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and Sammy Baugh. Keep in mind that these players were partially voted for the success they yielded in their decade. As expected, it is incredibly hard to judge the success and stats of Johnny Unitas in comparison to the production of Peyton Manning. 

Even if the Top 100 list held respected figures throughout the history of the NFL, they had a job to figure out how who deserved to be on the list and it couldn’t largely be separated into success in each decade. In other words, they likely had to pick more successful QBs in a certain period compared to other periods. So, the Top QB list rightfully had five out of 10 QBs that played and dominated in the 90s. The talent of those QBs in the 90s overweighed the success and level of competition portrayed by some QBs in the 60s or 2000s. 

With this being enunciated, I still believe there was a QB that deserved to be in the Top 100. This profile is none other than former Saints QB and future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees. I believe that Brees clearly has to be over the similar time period signal-caller in Brett Favre and I also feel comfortable saying he should have a sliver more of praise over John Elway. 

It’s a joke that a large case against Brees is that “he played in an easier, passing era” (besides the fact that Favre played in a similar league). Yes, Brees did play in an era where CBs need to have very sound technique and WRs have more opportunities than ever before. Still, Brees decorated the NFL with his touch on the highest level for countless years. Here is a greek-god stat by the former Saints QB that is hardly ever mentioned. 

Drew Brees has five, 5,000 yard passing seasons. There is only one other QB that has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in a season and that’s Tom Brady, who did it twice. The seven-time Super Bowl champion, Tom Brady threw for 5,235 yards in 2011 and 5,316 yards in the 17 game season in 2021-2022.

Here is the more impressive aspect of Brees mowing down every defense in his 5,000-yard seasons. Here is the list of Brees’s top receivers in the receiving yards category: UDFA Lance Moore, third-round pick TE Jimmy Graham (twice), seventh-round pick Marques Colston, and then first-round WR Brandin Cooks. It’s very simple and clear that Brees played with modest talent, but he was able to uplift the talent around him. 

Brees is also second in all-time passing touchdowns, passing yards, pass completions, and fifth all-time in passer rating. Favre is 42nd in passer rating and Elway is 87th all-time in passer rating. 

Brees also has 53 game-winning drives, which is just second behind Peyton Manning (54 game-winning drives). That is absolutely nuts. Brees went 7-9 in four of the five seasons from 2012-2016. To say he was in a plethora of non-winnable games over that time period would be an understatement. But, he still accumulated 53 game-winning drives in his career. Elway’s reputation is largely known for his comeback drives and he put together 40, which is just a bit below Brees’s mark. 

Brees is arguably the best “regular-season” QB in NFL history.

It’s no shock that Brees is a stat machine and even winning machine throughout most of his career, but he does not compare well in playoff success to the likes of Tom Brady and 49ers legend Joe Montana. A championship victory should be a significant factor, but it shouldn’t tell the whole tale of each legendary QBs. Playoffs are truly a very short season that can resemble teams that are largely aided by elite defensive play. For example, we’ve witnessed the Steelers and Giants arguably carry their QBs in Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. So, the younger Manning brother does have two Super Bowl victories – which is one more than Brees. Still, there shouldn’t be a world where anyone believes Eli has a legacy close to that of Brees. 

With that said, there is a lot of speculation that there is a grand difference between that of Brees and two-time Super Bowl champion Elway. It’s well noted that Brees has had Gregg Williams, Rob Ryan, and Free Safety Marcus Williams giving up big offensive plays in the postseason like candy. But, let’s put that aside. Even if we pretend Drew Brees deserved a historically low defense for many years and a non-championship caliber defense was left to support him in the playoffs, he’s still been disrespected other ways at large in the playoffs. A very interesting and not talked postseason moment for Drew Brees lies in the 2019 NFC Championship game where the Saints were basically stripped of an NFC Championship trophy. The infamous no-call of clear pass interference by Nickel Robey-Coleman on Tommy Lee Lewis kept the Saints from attempting a chip shot field goal to edge out the Rams in the NFC championship. That is a fact.  

So, if Brees went to his second Super Bowl against the Patriots (who scored 13 pts in the game) and won, wouldn’t it be obvious that Brees had put together a better career than Favre AND Elway at that point? Of course, Brees didn’t win a second Super Bowl. I still don’t quite see a noticeable difference in Brees playing for a second Super Bowl and Elway winning two SB trophies (hypothesizing if there was a pass interference call on Robey-Coleman). Brees performed like a quality QB leading up to that penalty (excluding overtime) and “basically put his team in the seat for a Super Bowl competition”. Could there be any difference in judgment in his play leading up to the worst non-pass interference call in NFL history based on that penalty? The answer has to be no. 

Keep in mind that I’m not comparing his performance in a game to that of the “Minneapolis Miracle” or even the “49ers miracle” when Vernon Davis scored a last-minute touchdown against the Gregg Williams-led Saints defense. I’m straight up mentioning the same Saints-Rams game that had Boomer Esiason stating that the Saints got cheated out of a Super Bowl appearance on CBS after the game. Furthermore, the New York Post properly stated that the Saints were cheated out of a Super Bowl berth.

Even with Brees claiming only one SB trophy, he still ought to be recognized more profoundly in comparison with Brett Favre “in the playoffs”. Favre has a passer rating of 86.3, 5,855 passing yards, and 44 passing touchdowns to 30 interceptions in his playoff pocket (24 games). Meanwhile, the Black and Gold QB legend accumulated a 97.1 passer rating, 5,366 passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns to 15 interceptions in his 18 playoff games. It’s clear that Brees has been even more productive than Favre in his “frozen tundra” playoff showdowns. This is besides the fact that Favre lost to Brees in the 2009 NFC championship. 

It can be easy to pretend there’s magic dust with very talented QBs who record playoff prominence and numerous Super Bowl victories. The Super Bowl-winning QBs will often perform at a high level, but it’s truly a vital team game in a very short-lived season. It isn’t Elway’s fault that a ref didn’t blow a game for him, or that he had a talented defense and 2,000-yard rusher in Terrell Davis to help him, but utterly odd factors should be more recognized, and supporting casts truly play a slight factor. On a side note – the top 100 NFL team of all time was voted prior to the 2019 NFC playoffs.

Supporting casts are also a modest factor and it should be recognized that Brees had a much less talented crew in the playoffs and regular season than the likes of Favre and Elway, as well. If we can point out that Dan Marino performed like a rockstar in an age where passing attempts weren’t at large, it’s fair to say Brees was a titan with a god-awful supporting cast for a large period of his career. It’s especially worth noting external factors when there is only a slight difference of postseason riches between that of Brees and some other HOF QBs with similar talent.

 

Brees truly deserved to be in the NFL Top 100 team. Yes, it’s easy to simply acknowledge that Elway has one more Super Bowl ring. It’s also unchallenging to know that Favre and Elway were like Sports Illustrated cover boys or white knights for many, many years in their playing days. It’s still more clear at this day in age that Brees deserves to be credited with a spot over Favre and Elway in the illustrious all-time QB list.

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