Drew Brees has brought an end to one of the most successful careers in NFL history with his retirement from the New Orleans Saints.
The 42-year-old quarterback made the announcement 15 years to the day he signed with the Saints, starting a career in New Orleans that brought the team a Super Bowl title in the 2009 season. Along the way he set NFL records for career passing yards and completions as well as being named to the Pro Bowl 13 times.
Brees let his children, Baylen, Bowen, Callen and Rylen, make the announcement in a video posted to social media. “After 15 years with the Saints and 20 years in the NFL, our dad is finally gonna retire. So he can spend more time with us,” they said.
Brees added his own thoughts in a message below the video. “After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football. Each day, I poured my heart & soul into being your Quarterback. Til the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints organization, my team, and the great city of New Orleans. We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us.
“You have molded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories. My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give to you everything you had given to me and more. I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. Now my real life’s work begins!”
Brees was the leader of a team that became a symbol of hope for New Orleans after the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the Saints’ stadium was used as a refuge for those made homeless by the catastrophe.
However, the quarterback did not look destined for a hall of fame career when he was picked by the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the 2001 draft, with many believing that, at 6ft, he was too small to excel in the NFL.
He spent the first five seasons of his career with the Chargers before joining the Saints as a free agent in 2006. The Miami Dolphins were also interested in signing Brees but had concerns over a shoulder injury. It was a move that would change the fortunes of both Brees and the Saints: he led New Orleans to nine playoff appearances, something the team had managed only four times in their previous 39 years of existence.
While his arm strength deserted him as his career progressed, he never lost his accuracy and completed 67.7% of his passes over his regular season career. His 571 career touchdowns are second only to Tom Brady.
His one career blemish came in the aftermath of the police killing of Goerge Floyd in the summer of 2020, when Brees reiterated his long-held opposition to anyone kneeling during the national anthem, saying he would never approve of anyone disrespecting the flag. He later apologized for the statement and described the backlash as “crushing”.
However, he was generally beloved in New Orleans where he was known as “Breesus” and was heavily involved in charity work in the city, particularly in the aftermath of Katrina.
The search for Brees’s successor now starts for the Saints, who have had to release several of their veterans after finding themselves over the salary cap. His back-ups at quarterback, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, are wildly erratic and unproven respectively, although the spine of the team is still talented.