Drew Brees blazed a new trail for modern quarterbacks

As legacy goes, Drew Brees added many thing to the story that is the NFL. Beyond his unique significance to the resurrection of New Orleans, Brees became a human JUGS machine during his tenure with the Saints.

Before Brees, only one quarterback threw for 5,000 yards in a season: Dan Marino, in 1984. Brees became the second to do it, 24 years later, with 5,069 in 2008. Three years later, Brees obliterated Marino’s record, with 5,476.

Although Peyton Manning eventually set the single-season record by a single yard, Brees finishes with five seasons — a full 25 percent of his entire career — with 5,000 or more passing yards: 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016. No one else has more than one.

Brees also broke a record that had stood for decades when he caught and passed the Johnny Unitas streak of 47 straight games with at least one touchdown pass. Brees eventually pushed it all the way to 54.

Brees did it all in a body that was hardly prototypical. Most NFL quarterbacks, when encountered away from the football field, prompt a visual search for the nearest beanstalk. Brees was one of the first (and only) great quarterbacks to be a “normal” six feet.

He lasted until the top of round two in 2001 due in large part to the fact that he isn’t large. Eighteen years later, an even shorter quarterback, Kyler Murray, became the first overall pick. It’s hard not to wonder how much higher Brees would have gone if he were being drafted now, even without knowing what he’d do.

It’s also hard not to wonder whether the gap between Brees and Mike Vick would have been fewer than a full round.

Regardless, Brees exits as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Reasonable minds will differ on whether he’s No. 5 or No. 10 or somewhere in between, and some will argue he falls somewhere between No. 10 and No. 20. The truth is that Brees leaves in a category of his own, one that he crafted and one that blazed a trail for plenty of quarterbacks whose catch phrase is something other than, “Fee fi fo fum.”