If sunday NFC Division playoff loss 30-20 at home to Tom Brady and Buccaneers was Drew Brees’ last game as a Saints quarterback, and then he would end his Super Bowl Hall of Fame winning career with his worst playoff performance.
Brees (19 passes for 34, 134 yards, one TD, three INTs, 3.9 yards per attempt, 74.9 passers) touched just one game in terms of playoff efficiency, and his three turnovers were costly. The Saints’ best pass in the game was a first-half turn play, with the substitute and successor from afar Jameis Winston sent a 56 yard touchdown.
It was speculated that Brees, who turned 42 on Friday, would retire after the 2020 NFL Regular Season and the 2021 NFL Playoffs, even if New Orleans failed to make it to Super Bowl 55, what she did. But if anyone can inspire her to change her mind and come back, it would be Brady.
Brady’s team won, but it’s not like Brady has completely outshone Brees. Brady (18 for 33 passes, 199 yards, three total touchdowns, 5.9 yards per attempt, 92.2 passer scores) didn’t have much success connecting on downline shots against the Saints’ defense and was fortunate not to have a multiple intercept play either, barely avoiding a major disaster on a few of his throws.
When Brees’ Saints outscored the Brady Buccaneers twice in the regular season en route to NFC South, Brady made the big mistakes, starting with a returned interception for a touchdown in Week 1 and ending with three. other home interceptions during the week. 9. Just over a year ago, when Brady was 42 and playing in New England, he had a very different nightmare from Brady in a bad home loss to the Titans, his last playoff assist. Patriots playoff transforming into a pick-six.
At the time, there were questions, related to his arm strength and decision-making, if age had caught up with Brady. Instead of retiring, Brady broke with the Patriots, hit free agency and found the perfect new home in Tampa, as the advance to a 14th Conference Championship game confirmed.
Brady refused to let this performance at Foxborough be his swan song. He returned (again) to Father Time to come back to play as himself 30 years old. Will Brees do the same after Sunday, not wanting to come out that way?
For all he has meant to the Saints and the city of New Orleans, it must be hard to think of “Who Dat nation” not being able to give him a full farewell, with less than a full room in the room. Superdome. It was also the end of a difficult season beyond the limits of COVID-19 protocols, as Brees missed four games with battered ribs a year after missing five games with a thumb injury.
The Saints got a good look at their likely near future when they went 3-1 with Taysom Hill throwing and running in Brees’ last absence. They also made a contingency plan by signing Winston, the Buccaneers starter before Brady, late in free agency. Suddenly, a pass could give him a chance to fight for the starting position.
Just as coach Sean Payton and the rest of the Saints organization have decided to play without Brees permanently, it has undoubtedly crossed his mind on several occasions. No doubt he imagined a much better end than this.
Like all aging, highly competitive athletes facing the crossroads of retirement and the pursuit of a final championship, the mind is part of the decision, but the real conflict comes down to body versus heart.
Everyone might be thinking about how John Elway and Peyton Manning made it to sunset as Super Bowl winners for the Broncos. But it has been more the exception than the rule, seeing how it ended for Dan Marino and many other all-time great quarterbacks. With a disappointing fourth consecutive postseason after being a division-winning NFC powerhouse, that expectation may no longer be reasonable for Brees.
Brady blew everyone away with his anti-aging game, and Brees was there with him. Aaron Rodgers – Brady’s NFC Championship counterpart and likely NFL MVP at the age of 37 – is on the same path: redefining the passing bonus for an elite QB.
If Brees has any idea that he can come back healthier and play at a high level next season, then what Brady has done may serve as a strong suggestion to Brees that he should reconsider his retirement, assuming he leaned that way.
The difference between Brady’s situation last year and Brees this year is that Brees wouldn’t need to worry about a divorce from the Saints. If he wants to come back then they would be totally behind him and remain determined to help win big again.
There is nothing “Big Easy” about Brees’ decision. Just maybe seeing Brady and thinking he too can bounce back like that might help him come back.