New Orleans – New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees announced his retirement on Sunday.
The 42-year-old Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader with 80,358 career passing yards and 7,142 completions. His 571 touchdowns rank second to Tom Brady’s 581.
Brees spent the past 15 seasons with the Saints after spending his first five with the San Diego Chargers. He was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection.
“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,” Brees said in his announcement on Instagram. “We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us.
“I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning.”
Brees led New Orleans to its lone Super Bowl championship following the 2009 season. He also became revered for his leadership after Hurricane Katrina ravaged in the city in 2005.
“You came to us at our lowest point, you led us to our highest,” the Saints said in a statement on Twitter. “You represented our state, city, and team with incredible professionalism, class, and toughness.
“We are forever grateful for the immeasurable impact you and your family had on this city.#ThankYouDrew”
Brees found his way to New Orleans after badly injury his throwing shoulder in the final game of the 2005 season with the Chargers.
The Miami Dolphins were also interested, but Brees ended up with the Saints — signing a six-year, $60 million deal — and his career took off.
He passed for 4,418 yards in his first season, leading the NFL, and was named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
He ended up exceeding 5,000 yards on five occasions, including three straight seasons from 2011 to 2013.
He was named Super Bowl MVP in the 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Feb. 7, 2010. He completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
He threw for a career-best 46 touchdowns in 2011, which came during a nine-year run in which he finished with at least 30 from 2008 to 2016.
Brees led the NFL in passing yards five out of six years from 2011 to 2016.
“When I was hired by the Saints as head coach in 2006, the very first goal was to establish a functional and winning culture,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said in a statement. “In doing so it was vital to know what we were looking for in a player: talent, work ethic, makeup, intelligence and leadership — all qualities we found in Drew Brees.
“We also found a player with a burning desire to win. Within a year, he helped lead our team to the club’s first NFC championship appearance. Throughout his career, his consistency and dedication to excellence was unparalleled. In a very short period of time, he would help lead a region to recovery and a team to a Super Bowl Championship.”
Brees was hindered by injuries over the past two seasons, playing in 11 games in 2019 and 12 last season. He passed for 2,942 yards and 24 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 2020.
Brees played his final game in the NFC divisional round loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 17. He completed 19 of 34 passes for 134 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Brees will begin a television career as last April he reportedly agreed to work for NBC once he retired.
New Orleans will now be searching for a quarterback for the first time in 16 years. Last season’s backups, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston, are options as is picking one up in free agency or the draft. The Saints also restructured Hill’s contract on Sunday.
Either way, Payton is aware there is no way to fully replace Brees.
“He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field,” Payton said. “His attention to detail and competitive spirit were infectious. For all of us that have had the chance to coach him, it has been our privilege, we are better for it.
“I am forever grateful for what he has done for our team, our community, and for me personally.”
Brees was a college star at Purdue and passed for 11,792 yards and 90 touchdowns but was downgraded by NFL talent evaluators due to his height. He was chosen by the Chargers in the second round with the 32nd overall selection.
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