Drew Brees came into this league as the first pick of the second round (32nd overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft.
Almost a footnote to LaDainian Tomlinson at the time, Brees had lifted his black and gold Purdue Boilermakers to the Rose Bowl months before the draft. Shortly after, he was a Charger in the trade that gave Michael Vick to Atlanta.
When the Chargers thought Brees and his arm were done after lifting San Diego out of the dumps, they sent him packing in favor of Philip Rivers.
Thus, he would end up sending another black and gold team once known as the "'Aint's" to a victory in Super Bowl XLIV this past year.
What I am trying to get across here is that Drew Brees weathered the storm and came out on top. Now is his time to reap the rewards in the regular season that he has yet to achieve.
There are six candidates that can legitimately hold the title of preseason favorite for NFL MVP right now, and they are a familiar bunch. There are others that could be noted, but due to the way the media works, these six have to be the leading candidates. Drew Brees is the leader among them all.
Let's break down the six and find out why Brees should be the leader in the clubhouse.
Candidate No. 1: Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson this past season came up with over 2,000 yards rushing—a feat that has only been done six times. He also passed Marshall Faulk for all-purpose yards in a season. He is going No. 1 in nearly every fantasy football draft and is pushing for 2,500 yards rushing this season.
What does it mean?
Well, Chris has a target on his back that every defensive player is going to be looking to pierce. If he can continue to succeed at rushing and the Titans play like they did once Vince Young was inserted, he has a shot.
The reality is that it's going to be hard enough just getting close to 2,000 yards again this season, and this is a quarterback's league, not a running back's league. He would have to go above and beyond expectations, and I just don't see it happening.
Candidate No. 2: Tom Brady
Brady is coming into a contract year and wants to prove to the Pats organization that he is worthy of MVP money. He set the league touchdown record in 2007 with his 50 touchdown passes, and that cannot be overlooked. He is still the pretty boy of the league, and if he has a great season, the voters won't be shy in looking to Brady as an MVP choice.
The argument against Brady, of course, is his injury of two seasons ago, but that should be fine now. This past season he showed flashes of his brilliance of 2007, and he should be good to go.
What will hurt his chances this season is that his defense is lackluster, which will mean more losses. Tom Brady won his MVP on a team that went undefeated. This Patriots team might be good, but they're not great enough defensively that he can fully carry them to wins. That is what it will take if Brady has any aspirations to be MVP.
Candidate No. 3: Aaron Rodgers
Titletown U.S.A. is the home now of the former California-Berkeley Golden Bear. While at Cal, he showed the accuracy and grit that he would eventually bring to the Green Bay Packers. What this guy does is put up statistics. Last year, he finally got an offensive line, and the production increased. There is no reason to think it will go down this season. He is the candidate who has the most upside on this list.
He also gets favored in his following Brett Favre at the quarterback position. That always keeps him in the limelight for good and bad. Fortunately for him, it has been mostly good.
What keeps him from ultimately challenging the other MVP quarterbacks is he just isn't as good as Brees, Peyton Manning, or Brady yet.
Candidate No. 4: Brett Favre
The old gunslinger from Mississippi. He's 40 years old and looking at entering his 20th season in what he says is his final year. We'll just have to wait and see if that happens.
No. 4 vastly improved a mediocre Minnesota team last year. He did it by playing smart ball and only throwing seven interceptions in the regular season.
Even if Brett doesn't play as well as others (although he does pretty well still), he's going to get the benefit of the doubt from the media. That must be factored into Favre's MVP chances. He still took second in 2007 after Brady's record-breaking year to go with a high finish in last year's race. The media will build him up so much that what he ate for breakfast can be scrutinized.
His downfall this year is the injuries at the wide receiver position (Sidney Rice), which should limit his effectiveness.
Candidate No. 5: Peyton Manning
Last year's MVP and always leading candidate returns after having surgery on his neck in the offseason. What can you say? He's Peyton Manning. He's probably the best player of this generation, and he continues going strong year after year. A new coaching staff comes in this past season, and it's just like clockwork—leading the Colts to the Super Bowl and making it look effortless.
This would be Drew Brees' leading competitor for MVP. He is consistent every week and plays in every game just like Brett Favre. Manning is actually No. 2 on the all-time list to Favre with 210 consecutive starts.
Manning is well liked by the media, whether it is through his commercials, interviews, or just through his ability to win. He is a handful to take on for supremacy. He does not have a downfall that I can credit. It is more of a belief that Brees will just have to earn the title from him.
Candidate No. 6: Drew Brees
Now we come to Brees. This past season, Brees went under the radar and set the NFL record for pass completion percentage at 70.6 percent. He led his team like Manning along the lines of an undefeated season, but unlike the Colts, they played every game like they had to win even when things were locked up for the division.
Brees has continued to improve his game and has some incredible accuracy. He helped lead the Saints with a porous defense to an 8-8 record two seasons ago while almost breaking Dan Marino's passing record. He's doing all he can to lead his team, whether that comes from his team chants or rallying the offense from stagnation.
The reason Brees should be the leader is a variety of choices. The Saints have become America's team, and within that Brees has become a golden child in his own way. When Brees won the Super Bowl and was looking out among the crowd with his son in hand, it made Brees more than a football player. He became a symbol or icon.
Having the intangibles that can break from merely sport is a vital part of what helps convey excellence. Michael Jordan had that appeal at the highest of levels, Lance Armstrong appealed to people in that regard, and now Drew Brees holds that distinction. All these factors add up to Brees being the logical front runner for MVP.