Drew Brees Breaks Passing Record but Needs Another Super Bowl to Cement Legacy

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 9, 2018

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

All of the pomp and circumstance surrounding Drew Brees' ascension into legendary status during Monday's 43-19 victory over the Washington Redskins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome overlooked the most important aspect of the New Orleans Saints season: Brees and Co. are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and the quarterback's legacy might be considered slightly inferior to others' unless he wins another title.

The "best ever" conversation is premature. Too many become prisoners of the moment. Even in the face of greatness, plenty more can be achieved. 

Yes, Brees became the NFL's all-time leading passer Monday by blowing past Peyton Manning's 71,940 career yards—with many more to come. 

But New Orleans' favorite adopted son still isn't quite worthy of the NFL's Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks since the position's standards aren't based purely on production. 

Tom Brady is in a class by himself when it comes to consistently leading a winning franchise through the game's most turbulent era. Joe Montana is still revered for his efficiency, accuracy and four Super Bowl rings during a far more difficult time for offenses. Peyton Manning's work ethic and mental preparedness had no equal. And Brett Favre's fabled toughness and childlike fervor made everyone want to play the game like him. 

Brees' status among or even replacing these titans can be cemented with a second Super Bowl victory, and the 39-year-old signal-caller has the team around him to accomplish the goal.

All of the records are simply amazing, as ESPN Stats & Information noted: 

Brees is the best pure passer to ever play. His level of accuracy may never be seen again. Yet, the ultimate goal remains the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of each season. Like Favre's, Brees' career may feel incomplete with only one ring.

But that's looking too far ahead after an especially impressive victory. The Saints offense shredded the league's best defense. OK, shredded may be too kind of a word. 

Washington entered the contest with the NFL's best defense. Jay Gruden's squad ranked first overall by allowing only 278.0 total yards and 187.3 passing yards per game. The unit still had no answer whatsoever for the Saints offense. Brees threw 363 yards and three touchdowns. 

On the play when the quarterback broke the record, the call, Brees' manipulation of the defense and a talented surrounding cast all become factors.  

Brees immediately looked off the safety after receiving the snap. The Saints had vertical and swing routes to the wide side of the field. The veteran quarterback provided a slight shoulder fake toward the swing pass and Washington cornerback Josh Norman bit. Rookie Tre'Quan Smith came wide-open, and Brees delivered the ball before the single-high safety, Montae Nicholson, could establish a proper angle. Smith completed the 62-yard touchdown to become an interesting footnote in NFL history. 

One play speaks to a bigger truth: Brees is the ultimate facilitator, and he understands the moment is bigger than just one person breaking a record.

The current Saints squad is loaded at the skill positions.

Smith scored twice and racked up 111 yards after the first-year wide receiver entered the contest with one reception for 18 yards. His speed on the outside adds yet another dimension for Brees to exploit. 

Cameron Meredith also broke through with a 71-yard performance after only four receptions during his first two appearances. 

Michael Thomas, meanwhile, is already one of the league's most prolific pass-catchers. Brees has the utmost confidence in the 25-year-old target since he can line up in the slot or wide and out-physical every cornerback. 

Running back is even more stacked with Mark Ingram II's return to the lineup after serving a four-game suspension. Ingram scored a pair of touchdowns in his 2018 debut. Surprisingly, the Saints didn't need the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Alvin Kamara, to do much of anything. 

Bill Feig/Associated Press

Head coach Sean Payton likes to sprinkle backup quarterback Taysom Hill into the mix as well to keep defenses on their heels. 

All of these weapons are beholden to the New Orleans' impressive front five. Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk may be the league's best offensive tackle tandem. Max Unger is always sturdy at center. Andrus Peat and Larry Warford are physical guards who help set the pocket's depth, which is crucial with a shorter quarterback. 

Defensively, the Saints aren't spectacular. In fact, the unit ranked 23rd overall before facing Washington, but the group played well by allowing only 283 total yards and forcing multiple miscues. 

Difference-makers can be found up front and along the secondary. Cameron Jordan is a force along the defensive line, and the 29-year-old end registered two tackles for loss and a sack against Washington's usually impressive offensive line. Unfortunately, last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year, Marshon Lattimore, suffered a concussion during the contest, per the New Orleans Advocate's Nick Underhill. How the cornerback progresses in the coming days will impact the team's defensive approach. 

All of this talent helps highlight Brees' greatest asset: his leadership. 

"The one thing right away is his competitive spirit," former Saints running back Deuce McAllister told The Athletic's Larry Holder. "He's creating these games, that are now the QB challenge and filmed, he's been doing these things since 2006. He's always wanting to compete and be the best." 

McAllister's former backfield mate, Reggie Bush, called Brees the "greatest competitor" he's ever played with. 

Competitors want one thing: to win. Brees won't be entirely happy knowing he set records without another opportunity to achieve true greatnesswhich is often defined by what happens in championship, not regular-season, moments. 

Brees may have toppled one of the NFL's fabled records, but he has plenty more to accomplish before his career is complete. 

   

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.

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