Just how good is/was Drew Brees?

BaseballJones

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Assuming he retires, which seems like a legitimate possibility, and inspired by the Rivers thread, it might be a good time to do a serious analysis of Drew Brees' NFL career. I'll start with the raw numbers:

- 20 seasons
- 287 games, 286 starts
- 172-114 (.601)
- 7,142-10,551 (67.7%), 80,538 yds, 7.6 y/a, 571 td, 243 int, 98.7 rating
- led the NFL in completions 6 times
- led the NFL in passing yards 7 times
- led the NFL in passing TD 4 times
- led the NFL in passer rating 2 times
- led the NFL in completion percentage 6 times
- 4,000 or more yards 12x
- 5,000 or more yards 4x
- 30 or more TD 10x
- 13x pro bowler
- 1x all pro
- 9-9 in the postseason
- 1-2 in NFCCG
- 1-0 in Super Bowls
- 1x SB MVP
- #2 in career AV
- #1 in pass completions
- #1 in pass yards
- #2 in pass TDs
- #5 in passer rating

So his counting stats are insane. But also, his peak efficiency stats are crazy good too. Elite completion percentage numbers. Elite passer rating numbers. At his best, he was absolutely astoundingly good.

But...

- He also had 6 losing seasons (nearly 1 out of every 3 of his seasons was sub-.500)
- His playoff record for such a great QB is only 9-9
- Last three playoffs he went out by losing at home
- He was helped enormously by playing half of his games in a dome (141 out of 286):
- In domes: 69.8%, 8.1 y/a, 323 td vs. 121 int, 104.6 rating
- Outdoors: 65.3%, 7.1 y/a, 224 td vs. 110 int, 92.5 rating*

*For comparison, here's Brady's indoor/outdoor splits
- In domes: 68.6%, 8.8 y/a, 40 td vs. 12 int, 111.8 rating
- Outdoors: 63.7%, 7.4 y/a, 520 td vs. 170 int, 96.4 rating

In other words, Brady was better than Brees was both indoors and outdoors, even though many more of Brady's outdoor games were held in bad weather environments (being in the AFC East as compared with the NFC South).

So how good was Drew Brees REALLY? Unlike Rivers, Brees has always been considered elite even compared to his peers. And he's not just had a long career, but his numbers dwarf Rivers'. However, he's had the benefit of a great passing environment, and has had, comparatively speaking, only modest success from a W-L perspective.

What say you, SOSH? How good was Drew Brees really?
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I was shocked when San Diego went with Rivers and dealt Brees.....
That said...... he should be considered in the same sentence slightly after Brady, Manning, somewhere around the same part as Roethlesberger, Rodgers over the past 20 years....
He suffered, not quite to the same extent, as having been on some very flawed teams similar to Marino.
 

BaseballJones

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Well yes guys obviously he's a first ballot hall of famer. There isn't a person with a shred of football knowledge that would say otherwise. I'm really asking where do we go from there. So yes, bsj, thanks, top 10 all-time. Personally I find him to be both underrated and overrated at the same time. Obviously you can't deny the overall career production - off the charts. Yet when you parse it out a little more, he wasn't *that* good playing outside. Now fortunately for him, he didn't have to do that very often and that's not to be held against him. But it does give a little better context. For example, take wins and championships away...just comparing his numbers to Brady - Brees has a better overall passer rating than Brady (98.7 vs. 97.3), but in every scenario, Brady is actually better compared to Brees.
 

E5 Yaz

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There's really only three levels of consideration

Is the QB a hall of famer? If yes ...

Is the QB a first ballot hall of famer? If yes ...

Is the QB on the "Mount Rushmore" of HoF QBs?

Brees is the first two and not the third.

That's all that matters. Trying to nitpick numbers and/or accomplishments as to wehether he's 8th or 12 or whatever is a meaningless exercise
 

lexrageorge

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With apologies to a lot of the pre-merger players (actually, all of them) and most of the stars of the 1970's, I decided to create some ranking tiers. These are adjusted for the era:

The Russell/Jordan/Ruth/Splinter/Orr/Gretzky Inner Sanctum:
- "With the 199th pick of the NFL draft, the New England Patriots choose...."
- Joe Montana

Great QB's that sit in the same room, just on conference chairs instead of thrones:
- Peyton Manning
- Dan Marino
- Brett Favre
- Terry Bradshaw
- John Elway
- Drew Brees
- Aaron Rodgers

There are a lot of other great and very good QB's, but those are the highest ranked by my book. Brees belongs in the room, chatting with Brady and Montana. The great QB's not listed can stop in for a cup of tea, but otherwise sleep in tents outside the throne room.
 

Rudy's Curve

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I don't think he's close to the other big three of his era. He should've won MVP in '09, but the rest just falls short. He played at least nine games a year in domes and two others in warm-weather cities with the Saints and nine games a year with the Chargers in good conditions (Oakland isn't a warm-weather city but weather is rarely ever an issue). His career ANY/A is tied with Brady (with a massive weather advantage), below Peyton (who at least played four years in a cold-weather city and in an overall lower passing era) and well below Rodgers (with another big weather advantage plus Rodgers has a huge mobility advantage which isn't factored in). He's obviously a first-ballot HOFer, but he's not in the inner circle.
 

Cellar-Door

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With apologies to a lot of the pre-merger players (actually, all of them) and most of the stars of the 1970's, I decided to create some ranking tiers. These are adjusted for the era:

The Russell/Jordan/Ruth/Splinter/Orr/Gretzky Inner Sanctum:
- "With the 199th pick of the NFL draft, the New England Patriots choose...."
- Joe Montana

Great QB's that sit in the same room, just on conference chairs instead of thrones:
- Peyton Manning
- Dan Marino
- Brett Favre
- Terry Bradshaw
- John Elway
- Drew Brees
- Aaron Rodgers

There are a lot of other great and very good QB's, but those are the highest ranked by my book. Brees belongs in the room, chatting with Brady and Montana. The great QB's not listed can stop in for a cup of tea, but otherwise sleep in tents outside the throne room.
I get that we don't like him because he's a rival, but Peyton Manning was a MUCH better QB than Joe Montana, there isn't any reasonable basis to put Montana over Peyton.
 

Was (Not Wasdin)

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I was shocked when San Diego went with Rivers and dealt Brees.....
That said...... he should be considered in the same sentence slightly after Brady, Manning, somewhere around the same part as Roethlesberger, Rodgers over the past 20 years....
He suffered, not quite to the same extent, as having been on some very flawed teams similar to Marino.
I was at a New Years Eve party watching that game when Brees got hurt at the end of the 2005 season. I did not think he would ever play football again. Plus, those were the days of massive contracts for 1st round draft picks and SD wasnt going to pay Rivers to sit on the bench.
 

Hoya81

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The only knock I have on Brees is that he tended to turn the ball over at a high rate. It's masked a bit by the sheer number of passing attempts knocking down the interception %, but he threw 15 or more interceptions 9 times.
 

Kliq

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Someone will inevitably bring up that he had some losing seasons in his prime; which imo, is kind of moronic since his stats that year were insane and his defenses those years (run by Rob Ryan) were literally historically bad. There was nothing he could do to make those teams winning teams.

Brees is not as good as his numbers indicate, but he is probably a Top 5 QB for me. Incredible longevity (if he wasn't playing at the same time as Brady, people would be marveling at his longevity even more) and the most accurate quarterback who ever lived. Yes, he had some real benefits playing in a pass-happy era and indoors; benefits that Brady and Rodgers did not enjoy and that is probably why his stats on paper might look more impressive, but that doesn't mean he wasn't great.

Brees vs Manning is an interesting debate. Manning probably has the reputation and the MVPs to win the argument, but look at their numbers. Brees was significantly better in the playoffs:

Brees: 18 games, 9-9, 66.7 completion percentage, 5,336 yards (298 yards per game), 37 TDs and 15 INTs.
Manning: 27 games, 14-13, 63.3 completion percentage, 7,339 yards (271 yards per game), 40 TDs and 25 INTs

So Brees played in less games, but has an almost equal winning percentage, was more accurate, threw for more yards per game, and nearly the same amount of TDs in 9 fewer games, and a lower INT% (2.4 for Peyton, 2.1 for Brees). I'd also add that while Brees played with some very good players at times (Michael Thomas, peak Jimmy Graham, Kamara, Antonio Gates) he didn't have nearly the supporting cast that Manning had throughout his career. Who did Brees play with that is going to the Hall of Fame? Gates, but he only had three seasons with him, and that includes Gates rookie year when he wasn't very good.
 

Kliq

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The only knock I have on Brees is that he tended to turn the ball over at a high rate. It's masked a bit by the sheer number of passing attempts knocking down the interception %, but he threw 15 or more interceptions 9 times.
Brees playing on some pretty bad defenses has its pros/cons for his statistics. The Saints were in shootouts and down BIG a lot, and he was the master of the 200 yard fourth quarter, which allowed him to pad some of his passing stats but it also came at a price when it came to turnovers, since he was often just desperately trying to make a big play happen. Look at most of his big INT years, they often correspond with his team having a subpar record; while his ball security is much better in years New Orleans was good. Obviously, there is some correlation with the Saints being bad BECAUSE Brees turned the ball over a lot.
 

BaseballJones

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Brady had some really good defenses in NE, but also some pretty bad ones too.

2005: #26 ranked D - they went 10-6 and went to the divisional round of the playoffs
2010: #25 ranked D - they went 14-2 and went to the divisional round of the playoffs
2011: #31 ranked D - they went 13-3 and lost in the Super Bowl
2012: #25 ranked D - they went 12-4 and went to the AFCCG
2013: #26 ranked D - they went 12-4 and went to the AFCCG
2017: #29 ranked D - they went 13-3 and lost in the Super Bowl

I believe those Saints' defenses were worse, but Brady has elevated some pretty bad defenses to pretty high heights.
 

Seels

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I've been outspoken about how overrated I find him. Basically my criticisms are as follows:
  • he's played his entire career in favorable conditions, either in San Diego, or New Orleans. In New Orleans especially, he's played frequently in a division that plays little to no defense, and that plays many road games in favorable conditions. This is simply not a luxury other types in his vicinity have had.
  • The biggest arguments he have for him are his raw passing yardage and high completion percentage, but it's impossible to untangle these from the above point.
  • His style of offense has been pretty easy to game plan against in many of his playoff games.
  • While his defenses for a portion of the decade have left something to be desired, he's also not really helped the matter. Those offenses put on a lot of yards but weren't really great at ball control.
  • I think he's been blah in the playoffs, especially the last 4 years
So where would I rank Brees? He wasn't top 10 on the NFL top 100 thing that they had. People take issue with that, but if I think it's reasonable. There are a lot of quarterbacks who had better accolades, either more MVPs, more all pros, more championships, something. Brees is a 1 time all pro, 0 mvp, 1 super bowl win guy, who really only had a single time in his entire career that you would argue he was the best quarterback. What argument does he have over a guy like Marino? or Favre? He certainly isn't anywhere near Brady Montana or Manning.

I think I could see him anywhere from like the 8th best ever to like the 15th, but would probably lean towards lower. There's really been no point in his career I've found him to be even better than Rodgers, and Rodgers is really just now getting to the point where he has a serious argument in the top 10 himself.

So he's a sure fire hall of famer, but in the Fouts / Dawson grouping of guys rather than guys who have a viable argument for being top 5 ever.
 

lexrageorge

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I get that we don't like him because he's a rival, but Peyton Manning was a MUCH better QB than Joe Montana, there isn't any reasonable basis to put Montana over Peyton.
Montana was widely thought to be the best ever when he retired with a 16-7 playoff record and 4 Super Bowl titles. Had we done the survey then, he would have been in the Inner Sanctum.

I don't have a problem per se with adding Peyton Manning to the sanctum. But I don't believe that Montana should be kicked out just because Manning came along.
 

Mooch

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I get that we don't like him because he's a rival, but Peyton Manning was a MUCH better QB than Joe Montana, there isn't any reasonable basis to put Montana over Peyton.
Hmm... Tough to compare the eras but Joe Montana's career stats on the road (aka away from the winds of Candlestick Park) are comparable to (or slightly better than) Peyton's non-dome numbers:

Montana road games: 63.6 Completion %, 140 TDs, 64 INTs, Adj Y/A: 7.8
Manning outdoor games: 64.6 Completion %, 270 TDs, 138 INTs, Adj Y/A: 7.38

Add in Montana's clear playoff superiority and yeah, I'll take Montana over Peyton adjusted for era.
 

luckiestman

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Guys I’d rather have that I watched play

Brady
Manning
Rodgers
Steve Young
Joe Montana
Elway
Marino
Favre
Mahomes
Wilson
.........

In their prime I also would take Aikman and Warner. As you can tell, I’m not a fan of Brees’s game. He has some pretty stats though.
 

Seels

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I get that we don't like him because he's a rival, but Peyton Manning was a MUCH better QB than Joe Montana, there isn't any reasonable basis to put Montana over Peyton.
On what basis? Montana is one of the only guys that has a clear edge over Manning in adjusted any/a. Manning has longevity on Montana, but that's it.
 

terrynever

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Drew Brees threw 90 TD passes in three seasons at Purdue, back when Big Ten offenses were plodding along. Playing for Joe Tiller, he got the ball out fast in an innovative spread offense. That was more than 20 years ago. Gradually, the conference adjusted and started to catch up. Not there yet. Brees was the start of it while Tom Brady fought Drew Henson for a starting job at Michigan.
 

Kliq

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Brady had some really good defenses in NE, but also some pretty bad ones too.

2005: #26 ranked D - they went 10-6 and went to the divisional round of the playoffs
2010: #25 ranked D - they went 14-2 and went to the divisional round of the playoffs
2011: #31 ranked D - they went 13-3 and lost in the Super Bowl
2012: #25 ranked D - they went 12-4 and went to the AFCCG
2013: #26 ranked D - they went 12-4 and went to the AFCCG
2017: #29 ranked D - they went 13-3 and lost in the Super Bowl

I believe those Saints' defenses were worse, but Brady has elevated some pretty bad defenses to pretty high heights.
Brady is better than Brees, but (and we've had this argument before) those rankings are going by yards allowed, not by points allowed, which can be misleading since the Patriots under BB of course have utilized the bend-don't-break mentality. With Brady, the Patriots almost always had a top 10 defense by points allowed. In 2011, they were 15th. In 2005 and 2002 they were 17th. Every other Brady year was a top ten year, and even those three non-top 10 years they were still right at league average.

New Orleans with Brees, had 6 seasons were they ranked 25th or worse in points allowed, including one season when they were dead last and two more when they were 31st. All of those seasons correspond with the Saints missing the playoffs, even with Brees. From 2014 to 2016, three seasons where New Orleans went 7-9 all three years, the Saints defense ranked 28th, 32nd and 31st. It was a miracle they even made it to 7-9. New Orleans only had a top ten defense three times when Brees was there.
 

Cellar-Door

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Montana was widely thought to be the best ever when he retired with a 16-7 playoff record and 4 Super Bowl titles. Had we done the survey then, he would have been in the Inner Sanctum.

I don't have a problem per se with adding Peyton Manning to the sanctum. But I don't believe that Montana should be kicked out just because Manning came along.
Hmm... Tough to compare the eras but Joe Montana's career stats on the road (aka away from the winds of Candlestick Park) are comparable to (or slightly better than) Peyton's non-dome numbers:

Montana road games: 63.6 Completion %, 140 TDs, 64 INTs, Adj Y/A: 7.8
Manning outdoor games: 64.6 Completion %, 270 TDs, 138 INTs, Adj Y/A: 7.38

Add in Montana's clear playoff superiority and yeah, I'll take Montana over Peyton adjusted for era.
On what basis? Montana is one of the only guys that has a clear edge over Manning in adjusted any/a. Manning has longevity on Montana, but that's it.
Manning put up better league adjusted numbers (ANY/A+, TD%+, INT%+, Rate%+) and he did it over 100 more starts. I get that Montana was the best when he played, but Manning is the best statistical QB of all time. I can see the argument for Brady over Manning, and I agree with it. He was close, in the same era and has 6 Superbowls to Manning's 2. Montana had 4 to 2, but given the effect of teams on SBs (and also that Manning directly competed with Brady) I don't see how that offsets better adjusted stats, a major lead in MVPs won and All-Pros made, as well as a massive advantage in games started without a downturn in form.
 

DJnVa

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In their prime I also would take Aikman and Warner. As you can tell, I’m not a fan of Brees’s game. He has some pretty stats though.
I don't know. In Aikman's prime he never had QB rating over 99, only once threw more than 20 TDs, and never cracked 3500 yards and only once was over 65% completion--his career TD/INT was only 165/141. Dude won some big games obviously, but he was the ULTIMATE game manager.
 
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Seels

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Manning put up better league adjusted numbers (ANY/A+, TD%+, INT%+, Rate%+) and he did it over 100 more starts. I get that Montana was the best when he played, but Manning is the best statistical QB of all time. I can see the argument for Brady over Manning, and I agree with it. He was close, in the same era and has 6 Superbowls to Manning's 2. Montana had 4 to 2, but given the effect of teams on SBs (and also that Manning directly competed with Brady) I don't see how that offsets better adjusted stats, a major lead in MVPs won and All-Pros made, as well as a massive advantage in games started without a downturn in form.
Playindex is paywalled now, but I know that Manning certainly did not have the edge in any/a+. If you have proof otherwise, please provide it.
 

Super Nomario

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Well yes guys obviously he's a first ballot hall of famer. There isn't a person with a shred of football knowledge that would say otherwise. I'm really asking where do we go from there. So yes, bsj, thanks, top 10 all-time. Personally I find him to be both underrated and overrated at the same time. Obviously you can't deny the overall career production - off the charts. Yet when you parse it out a little more, he wasn't *that* good playing outside. Now fortunately for him, he didn't have to do that very often and that's not to be held against him. But it does give a little better context. For example, take wins and championships away...just comparing his numbers to Brady - Brees has a better overall passer rating than Brady (98.7 vs. 97.3), but in every scenario, Brady is actually better compared to Brees.
I'd be interested in how much his first two years with the Chargers (when he wasn't very good) are dragging down his overall outdoor numbers. He had an unusual career path where he was pretty bad until his fourth year in the league (second-to-last with SD) and then broke out.

I think there's a perception that Brees had a great supporting cast in New Orleans, but Saints fans will tell you that he never had a Pro Bowl receiver until Michael Thomas. Marques Colston was a really good big slot but not your typical #1. Cooks was really good but Brees only got three seasons with him; arguably his last two years with Brees were the best seasons of Cooks' career. Jimmy Graham was great for 5 years in NO but was never the same guy outside the Crescent City. Certainly Manning and Montana had better receivers, and probably Brady did for the most part. Brees generally did have quite good OLs.

OTOH, Brees played most of his career with one of the best offensive minds in the game in Sean Payton. So it's hard to know how to factor that in. I rarely hear anybody hold that against Montana though.
 

Super Nomario

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Playindex is paywalled now, but I know that Manning certainly did not have the edge in any/a+. If you have proof otherwise, please provide it.
Just looking at their advanced stats section on pfref, Montana only had four seasons of ANY/A of 120 or up. Manning had 11. Manning's first (98) and last (75) seasons were much worse than Montana's worst (109 in his final KC season) but for the bulk of their careers, Manning would have been well ahead.
 

coremiller

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Manning put up better league adjusted numbers (ANY/A+, TD%+, INT%+, Rate%+) and he did it over 100 more starts. I get that Montana was the best when he played, but Manning is the best statistical QB of all time. I can see the argument for Brady over Manning, and I agree with it. He was close, in the same era and has 6 Superbowls to Manning's 2. Montana had 4 to 2, but given the effect of teams on SBs (and also that Manning directly competed with Brady) I don't see how that offsets better adjusted stats, a major lead in MVPs won and All-Pros made, as well as a massive advantage in games started without a downturn in form.
Montana had health/durability issues that limited his career totals. But there are some era effects there, QBs get hit a lot less now than they did back in the 80s. A lot of the most dangerous hits QBs used to take are illegal now. it used to be really rare to see great QBs continue to play well into their mid-30s, now if they want to they all push 40.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a QB go through his reads faster or better than Brees. Just insane.

I do agree that he’s not top 5, but probably top 15. E5‘s point is probably correct; he’s not on Mt Rushmore, so this is a largely irrelevant discussion. I would note, though, that the Old Timers always get left out of these discussions, because the passing game went through such radical changes over the past 20 years and stats exploded as a result. People tend to forget that the question was Montana or Johnny U when Montana retired (and Terry freakin Bradshaw was never in the discussion, despite the rings his great defense, coach, RBs, and WRs got him.)

Also, different styles of play and eras, but similar sized guys, so I sometimes compare Brees to Fran Tarkenton. Both of them compensated for a lack of clear physical advantages with their own make-do skills.

Edit/add: For a cross-sport comp, I think Brees is a bit like Greg Maddux. Everyone knows he was great, won 4 CYs, ERA titles, etc. But no MVP. Not a big K guy. Not quite as dominating in the postseason. Only one championship ring. Known more for his brains than his physical talents. Overshadowed at times by Clemens, and later replaced by Pedro, Big Unit, etc.
 
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NJ_Sox_Fan

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At first thought, I did not consider him a Top 10 QB of All Time. Then I tried coming up with 10 I thought were better, and as it turns out, I guess I think of him as the 7th or 8th best of all time and really there is argument he could be as high as 5th.
 

Cellar-Door

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Playindex is paywalled now, but I know that Manning certainly did not have the edge in any/a+. If you have proof otherwise, please provide it.
I'm going off their pro-football reference pages.

Montana ....... Manning
141 .............. 153
138 .............. 139
127 ..............131
122 .............. 130
119 .............. 127
119 .............. 125
119 .............. 125
117 .............. 122
117 .............. 122
115 .............. 122
113 .............. 120
110 .............. 115
109 .............. 113
.................... 109
.................... 108
...................... 96
....................... 75
 
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Kenny F'ing Powers

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Guys I’d rather have that I watched play

Brady
Manning
Rodgers
Steve Young
Joe Montana
Elway
Marino
Favre
Mahomes
Wilson
.........

In their prime I also would take Aikman and Warner. As you can tell, I’m not a fan of Brees’s game. He has some pretty stats though.
Yep. I wouldnt include Aikman, but this list is probably accurate. And if were including guys in their prime/peak, I'd even argue for players like Romo and Rich Gannon. And that doesnt include players I never saw - Otto Graham, Jonny Unitas, etc - or even some of the players who lead very good teams for a decent stretch (Jim Kelly, McNabb, etc).

I'm not a huge fan of Brees either. Think he was a very good QB for a lot of years, and his ability to get on the field for that long earned him a trip to Canton on the first try. But if there was a game on the line, theres a lot of other guys I'd take over him.
 

tims4wins

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Brady is better than Brees, but (and we've had this argument before) those rankings are going by yards allowed, not by points allowed, which can be misleading since the Patriots under BB of course have utilized the bend-don't-break mentality. With Brady, the Patriots almost always had a top 10 defense by points allowed. In 2011, they were 15th. In 2005 and 2002 they were 17th. Every other Brady year was a top ten year, and even those three non-top 10 years they were still right at league average.

New Orleans with Brees, had 6 seasons were they ranked 25th or worse in points allowed, including one season when they were dead last and two more when they were 31st. All of those seasons correspond with the Saints missing the playoffs, even with Brees. From 2014 to 2016, three seasons where New Orleans went 7-9 all three years, the Saints defense ranked 28th, 32nd and 31st. It was a miracle they even made it to 7-9. New Orleans only had a top ten defense three times when Brees was there.
This isn't all due to bend but don't break though. The Pats offense had a ton to do with the points against being down. Opponents had awful starting field position, and the Pats offense rarely turned the ball over. Brees averaging several more picks a year than Brady has something to do with this. The Pats defense was absolutely horrible in 2011. Forget the points allowed. Sergio Brown was starting at safety. They were so, incredibly bad, but they played from ahead because the Pats offense was otherworldly. So they got some extra turnovers because teams were always passing, didn't have to defend the run, etc.

They were 30th in defensive DVOA in 2011. 31st in 2017. They went 13-3 and went to the Super Bowl both years. That is a massive difference from Brees going 7-9. Massive.
 

BaseballJones

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Yes to what @tims4wins just posted.

I do wonder: how many titles would the Pats have won with Brees instead of Brady, all other things being equal? I definitely do not think 6. But maybe 2? Maybe 3?
 

BigSoxFan

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Brees' indoor/outdoor split was a lot more pronounced than I was expecting, especially since many of them were outdoor in ok places like Charlotte, Tampa, etc. He was good anywhere but Road Brees is not a HOF-calibre player, IMO.

Indoor
Games: 141
Rating: 104.6
Y/A: 8.08
Y/G: 306.5
INT%: 2.26
TD/INT: 2.67

Outdoor
Games: 132
Rating: 92.5
Y/A: 7.13
Y/G: 250.2
INT%: 2.38
TD/INT: 2.04
 

coremiller

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One of the things with Brees is that, in addition to the post-bountygate years where his defense was awful, he's been on the wrong side of some excruciating playoff losses. 2011 against SF, 2017 against MN, and 2018 against LA are all all-time stomach-punch losses. In all of them he drove his team down to take the lead late in the 4th quarter (multiple times in two of them) only for the defense/refs to give the game away. We might think of him much differently historically if any of those games had turned out differently.

The irony is that the Saints really had no business winning the 2009 NFCCG against Minnesota, a game where they got massively outplayed but got every possible lucky bounce. But they have been paying back the karma ever since.
 

Super Nomario

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This isn't all due to bend but don't break though. The Pats offense had a ton to do with the points against being down. Opponents had awful starting field position, and the Pats offense rarely turned the ball over. Brees averaging several more picks a year than Brady has something to do with this. The Pats defense was absolutely horrible in 2011. Forget the points allowed. Sergio Brown was starting at safety. They were so, incredibly bad, but they played from ahead because the Pats offense was otherworldly. So they got some extra turnovers because teams were always passing, didn't have to defend the run, etc.

They were 30th in defensive DVOA in 2011. 31st in 2017. They went 13-3 and went to the Super Bowl both years. That is a massive difference from Brees going 7-9. Massive.
The 2014 and 2015 Saints defenses both had top 10 starting field positions but still finished worst or second-worst in points and yards allowed. It really can't be overstated how terrible those defenses were. By DVOA, the 2015 Saints had the single worst pass defense in their entire history (since 1950), eighth-worst overall (and worst of this millennium).
 

Kliq

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This isn't all due to bend but don't break though. The Pats offense had a ton to do with the points against being down. Opponents had awful starting field position, and the Pats offense rarely turned the ball over. Brees averaging several more picks a year than Brady has something to do with this. The Pats defense was absolutely horrible in 2011. Forget the points allowed. Sergio Brown was starting at safety. They were so, incredibly bad, but they played from ahead because the Pats offense was otherworldly. So they got some extra turnovers because teams were always passing, didn't have to defend the run, etc.

They were 30th in defensive DVOA in 2011. 31st in 2017. They went 13-3 and went to the Super Bowl both years. That is a massive difference from Brees going 7-9. Massive.
I am not arguing that Brees is better than Brady. Jesus.
 

rodderick

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Brady is better than Brees, but (and we've had this argument before) those rankings are going by yards allowed, not by points allowed, which can be misleading since the Patriots under BB of course have utilized the bend-don't-break mentality. With Brady, the Patriots almost always had a top 10 defense by points allowed. In 2011, they were 15th. In 2005 and 2002 they were 17th. Every other Brady year was a top ten year, and even those three non-top 10 years they were still right at league average.

New Orleans with Brees, had 6 seasons were they ranked 25th or worse in points allowed, including one season when they were dead last and two more when they were 31st. All of those seasons correspond with the Saints missing the playoffs, even with Brees. From 2014 to 2016, three seasons where New Orleans went 7-9 all three years, the Saints defense ranked 28th, 32nd and 31st. It was a miracle they even made it to 7-9. New Orleans only had a top ten defense three times when Brees was there.
Points allowed are also incredibly misleading and context dependent (field position, amount of opposing drives, whether you're trailing or leading and by how much, etc.).

Using defensive DVOA, the Patriots had 5 top 10 defenses in Brady's time in NE (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2019) and he led the 30th and 31st ranked defenses to the Super Bowl in 2011 and 2017. All in all, the Patriots had an average rank of 15th by defensive DVOA from 2001-2019 excluding 2008.

With the Saints, Brees had 6 top 10 defenses by DVOA (2010, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020). The Saints had an average rank of 16th in defensive DVOA from 2006-2020.
 

tims4wins

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I am not arguing that Brees is better than Brady. Jesus.
I get it. But having a losing record 4 times in 5 years in the prime of his career isn't particularly awesome. The point is that guys like Manning and Brady pulled up their teams around them. If Brees is truly in the same conversation, then that wouldn't have happened IMO. He's a great player, a first ballot HoF'er, no one is arguing that point. But he's not among the greatest of the greats, partly for this reason. He played 15 seasons in New Orleans. The Saints won 8 games or fewer 6 times - 40% of the time.

Rivers played 15 years in his career and also won 8 games or fewer 6 times. Make of that what you will.
 

Mooch

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I'd also say that Drew Brees has been well protected by some really talented guys in his career. Armstead, Ramczyk, Unger, Strief, Nicks, Evans, etc... PFF always has the Saints in the top half of the league and usually in the top 10 most years.
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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I'd be interested in how much his first two years with the Chargers (when he wasn't very good) are dragging down his overall outdoor numbers. He had an unusual career path where he was pretty bad until his fourth year in the league (second-to-last with SD) and then broke out.

I think there's a perception that Brees had a great supporting cast in New Orleans, but Saints fans will tell you that he never had a Pro Bowl receiver until Michael Thomas. Marques Colston was a really good big slot but not your typical #1. Cooks was really good but Brees only got three seasons with him; arguably his last two years with Brees were the best seasons of Cooks' career. Jimmy Graham was great for 5 years in NO but was never the same guy outside the Crescent City. Certainly Manning and Montana had better receivers, and probably Brady did for the most part. Brees generally did have quite good OLs.

OTOH, Brees played most of his career with one of the best offensive minds in the game in Sean Payton. So it's hard to know how to factor that in. I rarely hear anybody hold that against Montana though.
Im not sure I'd agree. No, he never had Randy Moss, but he always had enough quality wide receivers to get the ball to. Joe Horn (1 season), Michael Thomas, and Marques Colston would have been the best WR (not named Randy Moss) that Brady had in New England. Hell, you could argue that Brandin Cooks was the second best outside receiver Brady had, and he would have been the 4th or 5th option for Brees. They also had solid depth options with guys like Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Kenny Stills, Ted Ginn, etc.

As for Graham, there was legit conversations about "Gronk or Graham". The dude was absolutely a top end target. Id argue his catastrophic injury in his first season in Seattle has much more to do with his lack of production than not playing with Brees.

That's not really how the Saints offense have been built, though. Brees has an astounding completion % because of how much they use their RBs in the passing game. We could argue he didnt always have top options at WR - I'd disagree with you - but hes always had a stable of RBs built to catch balls and drive his offense. Kamara, Bush, Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Duece McAllister, Mark Ingram. Including this year, heres where the Saints rank in running back targets:

2020 - 3rd
2019 - 4th
2018 - 3rd
2017 - 1st
2016 - 1st
2015 - 4th
2014 - 2nd
2013 - 2nd

When you have great receiving backs for 15 years (even back to his days in SD with LT), it can go a long way to giving you pretty stats. As Pat's fans spoiled by solid receiving backs, we know this better than most.

IMO, hes almost always had a great offensive line, very good RBs, and anywhere from above average to great WRs. Coupled with a dome, Payton, longevity, and solid QB play, you get Drew Brees. If Rivers played in New Orleans, I think youd see similar numbers and more wins and wed be talking about Rivers as a top 5-10 QB.
 
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coremiller

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a QB go through his reads faster or better than Brees. Just insane.

I do agree that he’s not top 5, but probably top 15. E5‘s point is probably correct; he’s not on Mt Rushmore, so this is a largely irrelevant discussion. I would note, though, that the Old Timers always get left out of these discussions, because the passing game went through such radical changes over the past 20 years and stats exploded as a result. People tend to forget that the question was Montana or Johnny U when Montana retired (and Terry freakin Bradshaw was never in the discussion, despite the rings his great defense, coach, RBs, and WRs got him.)

Also, different styles of play and eras, but similar sized guys, so I sometimes compare Brees to Fran Tarkenton. Both of them compensated for a lack of clear physical advantages with their own make-do skills.

Edit/add: For a cross-sport comp, I think Brees is a bit like Greg Maddux. Everyone knows he was great, won 4 CYs, ERA titles, etc. But no MVP. Not a big K guy. Not quite as dominating in the postseason. Only one championship ring. Known more for his brains than his physical talents. Overshadowed at times by Clemens, and later replaced by Pedro, Big Unit, etc.
This is not a good comp, because Brees never had a dominant stretch like Maddux did from 1992-1995. Maddux was the game's undisputed best pitcher for four years in a row. Brees never peaked that high.

Maddux also had a memorably distinctive style with his two-hour 85-pitch shutouts. That's one of the things that's hard on Brees in these legacy conversations, he was a death-by-a-thousand-paper cuts guy and he didn't have a distinctive style or a ton of memorable moments. Even the year the Saints won the Super Bowl, the two biggest plays of their postseason were Favre and Manning's late-game interceptions.
 

Mooch

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Here's an odd stat about Brees: He only played 6 road playoff games in his entire career and went 1-5 in them.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Playindex is paywalled now, but I know that Manning certainly did not have the edge in any/a+. If you have proof otherwise, please provide it.
Just looking at their advanced stats section on pfref, Montana only had four seasons of ANY/A of 120 or up. Manning had 11. Manning's first (98) and last (75) seasons were much worse than Montana's worst (109 in his final KC season) but for the bulk of their careers, Manning would have been well ahead.
They don't have ANY/A+ for Montana in seasons he barely played (79 and 92, plus he missed 91), but here's a calculation of their career ANY/A+'s:

Montana: 5659 career dropbacks (attempts + sacks), excluding 79/92
Manning: 9683

Montana
80: 5.1% of career dropbacks * 110 ANY/A+ = 5.6
81: 9.1 * 119 = 10.8
82: 6.5 * 117 = 10.6
83: 9.7 * 122 = 11.8
84: 8 * 138 = 11.1
85: 9.3 * 119 = 11.1
86: 5.6 * 113 = 6.4
87: 7.4 * 127 = 9.4
88: 7.6 * 115 = 8.8
89: 7.4 * 141 = 10.4
90: 9.7 * 117 = 11.4
93: 5.5 * 119 = 6.5
94: 9 * 109 = 9.9
Total: 120.7

Manning:
98: 6.2 * 96 = 5.9
99: 5.6 * 120 = 6.8
00: 6.1 * 127 = 7.8
01: 5.9 * 109 = 6.5
02: 6.3 * 113 = 7.2
03: 6 * 125 = 7.5
04: 5.3 * 153 = 8.1
05: 4.9 * 130 = 6.3
06: 5.9 * 131 = 7.7
07: 5.5 * 122 = 6.8
08: 5.9 * 115 = 6.8
09: 6 * 122 = 7.3
10: 7.2 * 108 = 7.8
12: 6.2 * 125 = 7.8
13: 7 * 139 = 9.7
14: 6.3 * 122 = 7.7
15: 3.6 * 75 = 2.7
Total: 120.3

Yeah, neck and neck. Peyton is hurt by his first year (inheriting an awful team) and his last when he was cooked. I'll give the slight edge to Montana since he was much better in the playoffs and played in the swirling winds of Candlestick, but I don't think it's a slam dunk. While Peyton certainly had his share of weapons, Montana had the guy that has the biggest gap between #1 and #2 at any position (maybe left tackle is also up there?). Peyton's ability to avoid sacks was absolutely otherworldly.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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This is not a good comp, because Brees never had a dominant stretch like Maddux did from 1992-1995. Maddux was the game's undisputed best pitcher for four years in a row. ...
Perfect, no, but “not good”...? Well, Maddux wasn’t the “undisputed” best even during that time, and that’s my point. In 1993, Glavine won more games. Maddux was 8th among pitchers in bWAR. Many thought Clemens was better overall, and that Johnson was better shortly thereafter. And even Braves fans felt disappointed by their playoff runs. Great? Yes. HOFer? Yes. But one ring, no MVPs. I mean, do you think Maddux is on the pitching Mt. Rushmore?? But if you want to find reasons to disagree, fine. It’s an example...
 

Super Nomario

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Im not sure I'd agree. No, he never had Randy Moss, but he always had enough quality wide receivers to get the ball to. Joe Horn (1 season), Michael Thomas, and Marques Colston would have been the best WR (not named Randy Moss) that Brady had in New England. Hell, you could argue that Brandin Cooks was the second best outside receiver Brady had, and he would have been the 4th or 5th option for Brees. They also had solid depth options with guys like Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Kenny Stills, Ted Ginn, etc.
Horn was at the tail end; he's no part o' nuthin' in this discussion. Michael Thomas is great. I don't think I would put Colston on the level of Welker. Cooks was really good, and he was gone after 3 seasons. Brees didn't get Marvin Harrison for a decade like Manning or Rice for a decade like Montana. Mostly he had a rotating cast of good / solid guys but not special, other than Thomas.

As for Graham, there was legit conversations about "Gronk or Graham". The dude was absolutely a top end target. Id argue his catastrophic injury in his first season in Seattle has much more to do with his lack of production than not playing with Brees.
Probably some of that is true, some isn't, but the Saints O didn't miss a beat without Graham. Gronk played a lot longer in NE than Graham did in NO.

That's not really how the Saints offense have been built, though. Brees has an astounding completion % because of how much they use their RBs in the passing game. We could argue he didnt always have top options at WR - I'd disagree with you - but hes always had a stable of RBs built to catch balls and drive his offense. Kamara, Bush, Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Duece McAllister, Mark Ingram.

When you have great receiving backs for 15 years (even back to his days in SD with LT), it can go a long way to giving you pretty stats. As Pat's fans spoiled by solid receiving backs, we know this better than most.
How many of those guys had their best seasons with Brees though? Bush had his best receiving season and 4 of his best 5 with the Saints. Then they swapped him for Sproles, who had his three best seasons in NO. You can argue it's scheme / Payton rather than Brees, but clearly RBs were more productive with the Saints than elsewhere.
 

Kliq

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I get it. But having a losing record 4 times in 5 years in the prime of his career isn't particularly awesome. The point is that guys like Manning and Brady pulled up their teams around them. If Brees is truly in the same conversation, then that wouldn't have happened IMO. He's a great player, a first ballot HoF'er, no one is arguing that point. But he's not among the greatest of the greats, partly for this reason. He played 15 seasons in New Orleans. The Saints won 8 games or fewer 6 times - 40% of the time.

Rivers played 15 years in his career and also won 8 games or fewer 6 times. Make of that what you will.
I guess I'll argue that Brees should get zero blame for not making the playoffs those years. In the aforementioned three year 7-9 stretch where New Orleans had a historically terrible defense, Brees completed 70 percent of his passes and averaged 5,117 yards per season, along with 35 TDs and 15 INTs. What more could he statistically have done to get his team into the playoffs? Complete 80% of his passes? Throw for 6,000 yards? 50 TDs? You can squint and say he if took better care of the ball maybe they would have eeked out a game or two but that is pretty much it. The guy put up amazing numbers but he was torpedoed by a HISTORICALLY bad defense.

All of the evidence is right there in the numbers. Anytime Brees had a semi-competent defense, his team was very good. When they were incredibly bad, his team missed the playoffs. His numbers are basically the same every year, and they happen to be the gaudiest passing numbers in the history of the game. This idea that he could have done more to "pull up the team around him" is preposterous, and feels like when people argue that it is somehow Mike Trout's fault that the Angels never make the playoffs.
 

SumnerH

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I'm going off their pro-football reference pages.

Montana ....... Manning
141 .............. 153
138 .............. 139
127 ..............131
122 .............. 130
119 .............. 127
119 .............. 125
119 .............. 125
117 .............. 122
117 .............. 122
115 .............. 122
113 .............. 120
110 .............. 115
109 .............. 113
.................... 109
.................... 108
...................... 96
....................... 75
That comes out with Montana slightly ahead for their careers (you have to weight by dropbacks), 120.8 to 120.5.
 

BaseballJones

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I guess I'll argue that Brees should get zero blame for not making the playoffs those years. In the aforementioned three year 7-9 stretch where New Orleans had a historically terrible defense, Brees completed 70 percent of his passes and averaged 5,117 yards per season, along with 35 TDs and 15 INTs. What more could he statistically have done to get his team into the playoffs? Complete 80% of his passes? Throw for 6,000 yards? 50 TDs? You can squint and say he if took better care of the ball maybe they would have eeked out a game or two but that is pretty much it. The guy put up amazing numbers but he was torpedoed by a HISTORICALLY bad defense.

All of the evidence is right there in the numbers. Anytime Brees had a semi-competent defense, his team was very good. When they were incredibly bad, his team missed the playoffs. His numbers are basically the same every year, and they happen to be the gaudiest passing numbers in the history of the game. This idea that he could have done more to "pull up the team around him" is preposterous, and feels like when people argue that it is somehow Mike Trout's fault that the Angels never make the playoffs.
I understand what you're arguing, but we know that a baseball player's impact is far far far far less than a quarterback's.