Three-Peat: Can Drew Brees Lead the NFL in Passing Touchdowns Yet Again?

Paul Augustin, Jr.Senior Analyst ISeptember 7, 2010

Three-Peat: Can Drew Brees Lead The NFL In Passing Touchdowns Yet Again?

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates after his team defeated the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Drew Brees has led the NFL in touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, and is attempting to become the first player to lead the league three years in a row since Brett Favre did it from 1995-97.

    Brees is in the prime of career, and has more than enough offensive weapons to throw 30 or more touchdowns.

    To lead the league in touchdowns for a third straight year, he'll have to fend off a lot of stiff competition. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, and even the aged Brett Favre are primed to make a run at Brees.

    How good are Brees' chances? Let's take a look at the passing touchdown leaders of the past decade, and how they did the following season.

2000: Peyton Manning and Daunte Culpepper

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    22 Oct 2000:  Daunte Culpepper #11 of the Minnesota Vikings runs with the ball as he looks to pass for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings won 31-27. DIGITAL CAMERA IMAGE. Mandat
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Each signal caller tossed 33 touchdowns in 2000. Manning and Culpepper had nearly identical numbers, except that Manning had about 500 more passing yards. Both of their teams made the playoffs, but combined for just one postseason win.

    The 2001 season was a disaster for Manning's Colts and Culpepper's Vikings. Manning's individual numbers were okay except that the Colts went 6-10. Culpepper threw for just 14 touchdowns, while going 4-7 as as starter before missing the final five games due to injury.

2001: Kurt Warner

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    3 Feb 2002:  Kurt Warner #13 of the St. Louis Rams sets up to pass during Super Bowl XXXVI between the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. DIGITAL IMAGE.  Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Kurt Warner led the St. Louis Rams back to the Super Bowl after winning it all two years prior. Warner earned NFL MVP honors by throwing for more than 4,800 yards, 36 touchdowns, and a rating of 101.4.

    2002 was a different story for the recently retired quarterback. Warner never won another game as a starter for the Rams. He lost his first three starts before a broken hand forced him to miss most of the season. He finished with just three touchdowns,11 interceptions, and an 0-6 record as a starter.

2002: Tom Brady

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    FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 26:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates the touchdown by teammate Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter against the St. Louis Rams on August 26, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Gett
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Tom Brady burst onto the scene in 2001 when he replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe, and led his Patriots to the Super Bowl title.

    In 2002, his first full season on the field, Brady led the league with 28 touchdown passes. Despite his improvement statistically, the Patriots sunk to 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

    Brady passed for similar numbers in 2003 (3,620 yards, 23 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) but the Patriots improved to 14-2, and reclaimed the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

2003: Brett Favre

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    GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 20:  Quarterback Brett Favre #4 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after a Packers touchdown during the NFC championship game against the New York Giants on January 20, 2008 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Giants defeate
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Brett Favre threw 32 touchdowns in 2003. His 3,361 yards are the fewest in the decade by any touchdown leader. Favre's Packers went 10-6 in 2003 and 1-1 in the postseason. They won in overtime in the wild-card round over the Seahawks and lost in overtime the next week to the Eagles.

    Farve tosses another 30 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards in 2004. The Packers again went 10-6, but this time they lost to the Vikings in the opening round.

2004: Peyton Manning

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    GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 26: Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks for a receiver against the Green Bay Packers during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Colts 59-24. (Photo b
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2004 was statistically Peyton Manning's best season. He threw a then-record 49 touchdowns, more than 4,500 yards, and a record passer rating of 121.1. The Colts went 12-4 as Manning won his second MVP award.

    The postseason was another disappointment, however, as the Colts lost to the Patriots in the divisional round.

    In 2005, Manning came back down a bit. He threw 800 fewer yards and 21 fewer touchdowns than the year before. Despite his team's 14-2 record, the Colts went one and done in the postseason.

2005: Carson Palmer

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    CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 15: Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to pass during the preseason game against the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium on August 15, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    In 2005, Carson Palmer tossed 32 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as he led the Bengals to their first winning season in 15 years. Palmer, on just the second play of the first playoff game, suffered a devastating knee injury, and was knocked out of the game.

    Palmer threw for similar numbers in 2006, but the Bengals went just 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Cincinnati has yet to win a playoff game since the 1988 AFC Championship game.

2006: Peyton Manning

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    INDIANAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 02:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts watches from the sidelines during the NFL preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Ge
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Manning, the first quarterback to appear twice on this list, is also the only quarterback to lead the league in passing touchdowns three times in the 2000s.

    Though not as prolific as his 2004 season, Manning still threw for 31 touchdowns, nearly 4,400 yards, and just nine interceptions. While Manning didn't win the regular season MVP, he finally won the elusive Super Bowl title and Super Bowl MVP honors.

    In 2007, Manning passed for similar numbers (4,040 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions), but was upstaged in the regular season by a bitter rival.

2007: Tom Brady

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a first quarter pass against the New York Giants on September 2, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2007 had the makings of the greatest season of all-time for the New England Patriots. They scored a record 589 points and out-scored their opponents by nearly 20 points per game. Tom Brady broke Manning's 2004 record with 50 touchdowns, and led the Patriots to the first 16-0 regular season record in league history.

    Brady, who laughed at Plaxico Burress' prediction that the Patriots would only score 17 points in Super Bowl XLII, only managed 14 in one of the most shocking losses in Super Bowl history.

    Brady threw just 11 passes in 2008 as he tore up his knee in a Week One win against Kansas City.

2008: Drew Brees and Philip Rivers

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers looks to throw a pass against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on August 27, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Chargers 36-21.  (Photo by Chris G
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    In 2008, there was a share for the touchdown lead and, ironically, it was between two former teammates.

    Philip Rivers was drafted in 2004 to replace Drew Brees, and they both threw 34 touchdowns in 2008. Brees became the second quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards, and Rivers led the league with a quarterback rating of 105.3.

    However, both of their teams finished just 8-8. The Saints finished last in the NFC South, while 8-8 was good enough for the Chargers to win the the AFC West.

    Brees led the league in touchdown passes again in 2009, and this time struck gold. Or sterling silver, rather. Brees led his Saints to the Super Bowl title and won game MVP honors.

    Rivers also had an impressive season by winning 13 games, but his Chargers lost to the Jets in a home playoff game.

2009: Drew Brees

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the San Diego Chargers at the Louisiana Superdome on August 27, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    We already knew that Brees led the league in touchdowns last year, but he also set an NFL record for completion percentage by completing 70.6 percent of his throws. Some people wanted to put an asterisk next to the record because he didn't play at all in the final game, but Ken Anderson, whose 1982 record of 70.3 percent stood until Brees broke it, played only nine games in the strike-shortened season.

    As mentioned earlier, Brees had the weapons to lead the league in passing touchdowns again.

    The Saints kept six wide receivers this year because the sixth receiver, Adrian Arrington, was too good to waive. There's also the regular cast of characters such as Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Jeremy Shockey, David Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Pierre Thomas.

    While it remains to be seen if Brees will top the touchdown charts again, he's almost a lock to throw 30 or more touchdowns for the third straight year.