In 2006, Brees signed a six-year deal with the Saints and forever changed professional sports in Louisiana.
“Drew is so much more valuable than all the records, awards and accolades that he amassed through a 15-year career with the New Orleans Saints and 20-year NFL playing career, one of the greatest in our league’s history,” Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “When Drew first joined the Saints in 2006, my late husband Tom was determined to deliver a team to New Orleans that would win a championship on the field and become a leader in the community following the setbacks that Hurricane Katrina dealt our region. Over and above his outstanding performance, Drew came to represent the resolve, passion and drive that resonates not only with Saints fans and football fans, but our entire community. He played the game and played the position at its highest level, but just as important, represented our organization and region in the highest fashion. We will forever be grateful to him for what he brought to our club and the entire Gulf South community, showing everybody what can be accomplished by putting our sleeves up and showing leadership, determination and hard work. As we grew as a region and as a football team, it was also a pleasure to watch him grow as a husband to Brittany and become a father to four incredible children.”
Brees’ final game will stand as a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Round, falling against longtime contemporary Tom Brady. It was a dismal performance marked by three interceptions and a 38.1 passer rating that were each career-lows in the postseason for Brees.
It was hardly a fitting end for such a phenomenal career, but Brees bided his time before announcing his retirement and that final subpar showing is already being lost amid the pomp and circumstance that rightfully accompanies the conclusion of such a heralded career.
Of all the sensational statistics that Brees’ career holds, perhaps the most significant historically is that which shows just how cosmically he altered the state of the Saints franchise. After his arrival in New Orleans in 2006, Brees captained the Saints to nine winning seasons, rescuing a franchise that had just seven winning campaigns in team chronicle prior to the QB arriving — a span that covered 1967-2005.
In all those seasons, the Saints mustered just five postseason berths, while Brees’ Saints went to the playoffs nine times in his 15 seasons.
It was an instant turn of fortune for the fleur de lis-clad franchise. In Brees’ first season with the Saints, New Orleans broke a five-year playoff drought, earned just its second postseason win in franchise history and advanced to the NFC Championship Game for the first time. It came a year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Saints went 10-6 with Brees debuting as the starter and giving a beleaguered region something to cheer about.
Thereafter, the Saints, who never finished with a record worse than 7-9 in Brees’ tenure, rebounded from two playoff-less seasons to win their first and only Super Bowl in their first and only appearance.