On Friday evening, the NFL unveiled their list of the 10 best quarterbacks of the first 100 years of the league. I successfully predicted eight of the ten quarterbacks to make the list with Brett Favre and Steve Young missing the cut.
The two biggest surprises to me were Roger Staubach making the list over the next biggest surprise, Drew Brees.
It’s difficult to phantom how Brees, the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing, touchdowns, and completions, a guy who has five 5,000 yard passing seasons, made 13-pro bowls, won league MVP twice, a Super Bowl champion, and Super Bowl MVP, doesn’t make the cut.
I was all but sure he’d make the list, honestly, how could he not, however he didn’t, and there’s only one plausible reason as to why this happened.
For starters, according to NFL.com, a 26-person panel consisting of coaches, former players, front office executives, and members of the media chose the 100-greatest players, including 10 quarterbacks, one of which wasn’t Drew Brees.
So here’s what I think:
I’ve always felt the current league we are witnessing, is what I call the “fantasy football” era, where it’s all about the offense and scoring points- lots of points. Today’s quarterback is almost valued more or ranked on his fantasy football stats than his actual play, so a player like the Bills Josh Allen will rank lower than say the Cowboys Dak Prescott, despite both quarterbacks having thrown/scored the same amount of touchdowns (29) and having almost the same amount of turnovers (13 for Allen, 12 for Prescott). People will look at Dak’s 1,500 more passing yards and higher QB rating than Allen and instantly rank him higher, yet they’ll ignore that Buffalo has nothing on offense compared to Dallas and yet, it is the Bills, not the Cowboys, who are currently in the playoffs.
So how does this long rant apply to Drew Brees? Simple.
Drew Brees plays in this “fantasy football” era that I mentioned above. In the NFL’s first 65 years, only one quarterback passed the 5,000 yard mark- Dan Marino in 1984. Since 2008, that mark has been passed 10 times, including five alone by Drew Brees. During this period, Brees has thrown 410 touchdown passes since 2008 (12 seasons) or roughly 34 a season.
Since 2008, the first year he threw for 5,000 yards, Brees has had a QB rating of 100 or higher eight times in the last 12 seasons. When he retired, Steve Young was the highest rated QB of all-time with a passer rating of 96.8- Young currently is ranked 6th overall, tied with Kirk Cousins. The other five ahead of Young? Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Drew Brees- all quarterbacks during this “fantasy football” era.
It’s not Brees’ fault either, the game has changed over time. The blame for this era actually lies on the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts in what later became known as the “Ty Law Rule”. Thanks to the Patriots suffocating Peyton Manning’s receivers in the playoffs, a rule change was made that enforced a strict 5-yard buffer for contact on receivers. The result, is the inflated passing stats you see today.
And that is the end game you see, and the only plausible reason why Brees didn’t make the list. It’s not so much punishment, but more of the panel looking at the stats and recognizing the era we are currently in, and again, it’s not the fault of Drew Brees.
I still think he should be on the list, but also recognize in some way, that these stats and the era he is playing in, is a far cry from the one that Dan Marino played in when he set his own passing records.
People will look at Drew Brees stats and rank him as one of the very best passers of all-time, however, in it’s complete context, it also makes people appreciate what passers of yesteryear accomplished. Brees will get his due later on as one of the all-time greats, but for now, he’ll have to sit out as being one of the 10-greatest passers in the leagues first 100 years. It won’t sit well with Saints fans and will draw a puzzled look from football fans, but there’s a good debate to be had. So let it begin!