Drew Brees, who spent 15 of his 20 years in the NFL as quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, announced his retirement Sunday. His four children broke the news, riffing on the standard familial rationale for hanging it up: “Our dad is finally going to retire so he can spend more time with us!” Brees, 42, explained in the caption that he’s “only retiring from football. I am not retiring from New Orleans.” Among his many NFL achievements, Brees led the Saints to their only Super Bowl victory (and appearance) in 2009.
Brees was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2001 straight out of college at Purdue, then joined the Saints in 2006, as New Orleans was trying to recover from 2005’s devastating Hurricane Katrina. “No one has ever scored higher as far as their combination of athletic achievement and involvement in a community,” political strategist James Carville, who lives in New Orleans, tells The Associated Press. “In more ways than one, he’s arguably the most significant New Orleanian of the 21st century.”
Brees retires with the NFL record for all-time passing yards — 80,358 — though his record will be challenged next season by 44-year-old Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady, who ended the Saints’ 2020 season in a divisional playoff before going on to win the Super Bowl. Brees is No. 2 in career touchdown passes, 571, after Brady’s 581, and he hold the NFL’s single-season record for pass completion rate, 74.4 percent in 2018, as well as the No. 2 and No. 3 completion records.
Brees missed four games due to injury in the 2020 season and five games in the 2019 seasons, after missing just one game due to injury in his previous 13 seasons. But he still won nine of his 12 regular-seasons starts last year before leading New Orleans to a wild-card playoff round. “Til the very end I exhausted myself to give everything to the Saints organization, my team and the great city of New Orleans,” Brees wrote Sunday night.