But every other NFL quarterback over the last 40 years knows that winning a Super Bowl doesn’t come quickly, or easily.
The following is a year-by-year recap of Drew Brees’ long, hard NFL journey to the top of the football world.
2001: The beginning
Drew Brees was selected by the San Diego Chargers in April's NFL Draft, the first pick of the second round. The Chargers had gone 1-15 the year before. And no, Drew didn’t balk about playing there, unlike Eli Manning in 2004. Brees was the second quarterback taken in the draft. The first? Michael Vick, selected first overall by Atlanta.
Brees only played in one game during his rookie year, Nov. 4 versus Kansas City. The Chargers finished 5-11 with 39-year-old Doug Flutie as their starter.
2002: A chance to start
With Brees as its starter, San Diego won six of its first seven games before losing its final four en route to an 8-8 season. Brees started all 16 games and threw for 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
2003: Rock bottom for Brees
’03 was a total disaster for the Chargers and the worst season of Brees’ career. San Diego finished 4-12, while Brees threw four more interceptions than touchdowns (15 to 11) while averaging just 5.9 yards per completion. He was eventually replaced as starter by Flutie during the second half of the season.
2004: Things start to “click”
Drew Brees took advantage of rookie quarterback Phillip Rivers’ contract dispute, which lasted most all of training camp. Handed the starting job by default, Brees responded by throwing for 27 touchdowns against just seven interceptions, while his 104.70 QB rating was third highest in the league. Brees was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year as the Chargers went 12-4 and won their first division title since 1994. But San Diego was upset in the first round of playoffs by the Jets, 20-17 in overtime.
2005: A lost year
The talented Chargers missed the playoffs at 9-7. They won five games by a margin of 13 or more but lost five by four or less. Brees tied for fourth in the league with 24 touchdowns, but was sacked a career-high 27 times while his QB rating dipped to 89.20. Brees suffered a torn labrum during the season finale that required arthroscopic surgery in the offseason.
After the ’05 campaign, Brees turned down San Diego’s largely incentive-based five-year $50 million offer. He signed a six-year $60 million deal with the Saints in mid March, just six months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.
2006: Brees’ leads renaissance in the Bayou
It took the Saints franchise 20 years to finish a season with a winning record (12-3 in ’87). It took 13 more to win a single playoff game (in 2000 against the Rams). In ’05, the Saints finished 3-13 and, thanks to Katrina, had to play their home games in San Antonio, Texas. But Brees and the new-look Saints quickly started rewriting franchise history.
Just a year after major surgery, Brees led all NFL quarterbacks in total yards and finished third in both touchdowns and QB rating. New Orleans finished with the top-ranked offense in the league for the first time ever, and with a record of 10-6, was awarded a first-round playoff bye for the first time in club history.
In their playoff opener, the Saints defeated the Eagles, 27-24, advancing to their first NFC title game in history. But their magical ride ended the following week with a 39-14 loss to the Bears at a snow-swept Soldier Field.
2007: Back below sea level
The Saints were outscored 103-38 over their first three games in rout to a hideous 0-4 start and disappointing 7-9 season. New Orleans did rank fourth in total offense, while Brees finished second in the league in passing yards. His 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions were both career-highs.
2008: A season for the ages (Brees edition)
Drew Brees’ 5,069 passing yards were just 15 shy of Dan Marino’s single-season record. His 34 touchdown passes were a new career-high and tied for the league lead. The Saints featured the top offense in the NFL but finished just 8-8, losing six games by five or less.
2009: A season for the ages (Saints edition)
Brees eclipsed the 4,000 yard mark for a fourth straight year. Again he threw a league-high 34 touchdowns. His quarterback rating shot up to 109.60: the sixth-highest single-season mark in league history. His pass completion percentage of 70.6 percent was the highest in the 90-year history of the NFL. The Saints scored a franchise-record 510 points during the regular season and finished as the league’s highest-ranked offense for the third time in four years.
But it wasn’t Brees and the explosive Saints offense that made the difference this season. It was the defensive commitment the team made in acquiring veterans like Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer in the previous offseason. The Saints also hired defensive guru Gregg Williams to coordinate for his fifth different franchise in 10 years.
2009 was the first time in Drew Brees’ career that he was truly surrounded by playmakers. Playmakers, that is, that would be on the field while he and his talented offensive teammates were on the sidelines. And that made all the difference.