Congratulations to Drew Brees for just setting the all-time NFL record for passing yardage in a single season. The former record, held by Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins, had stood for 27 years.
It couldn't happen to a nicer, more deserving guy.
Sure, in today's, let alone tomorrow's, mostly pass-happy NFL, along with recent rule changes heavily weighted in favor of the offense, particularly the QB position, his record may very well be eclipsed someday as well, whatever it turns out to be. He's still got one game left, at home again, no less, against the not-so-good Carolina Panthers, to possibly tack on a few hundred more yards. Cam Newton, QB of the Panthers, a phenomenal talent, might be deserving of Rookie of the Year honors, but I suspect even Newton would admit he has miles to go before he reaches the level of play Brees has shown for the last several years.
Brees surpassed Marino's mark against the Atlanta Falcons, a very good team, and playoff-bound themselves. Some might think it was "piling on", because the Saints were leading by 18 points in the 4th quarter, the final outcome of the game was hardly in doubt, and the Saints needed basically only to "kill the clock". Game over.
I would disagree, and further suspect even the Falcons and head coach Mike Smith understood the situation. At the time, Brees was about 30 yards away from breaking the record. He was playing at home, and certainly not only the players on both teams, but everyone in the stadium was well aware of what was happening. On top of that, it was being nationally televised on the last go-round of Monday Night Football this season. Many millions of NFL fans at home were watching. What better time and place to go "over the top"? Conversely, can you imagine how the fans in attendance would have reacted if Brees never threw another pass, instead just handing the ball off to running backs, much less if head coach Sean Payton had removed him from the game at that time? All the cheering would have changed to boos, and the media would have eaten them alive for days. That was not an option.
No doubt, Brees is amongst the best QBs to ever play the game, and a lock for the Hall of Fame somewhere down the road, but there's something about him that stands out even more.
Yeah, he's won the Super Bowl, been the MVP, and might win another one, or two, or three. Who knows? Now he's in the process of setting an all-time passing record. Nobody knows what that number will be until after the Saints play their last regular season game next weekend.
Let's not forget he was voted Man of the Year not long ago. That's not so much about being a prolific passing QB in the NFL. It's more about what the man accomplished away from football. In the aftermath of the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area a few years back, Brees could have walked away and ignored it. After all, he was making millions of dollars and no doubt could have went and done pretty much whatever he wanted to.
But he stayed in THAT game too. New Orleans had adopted him as their favorite son, and he adopted them right back in their time of need. I have no idea how much money and how many charitable hours he donated to that cause, but I'm quite sure it was a whole lot of both. Much of New Orleans was in ruins. Various governmental bodies gave it a lot of lip service, while promising this and that, but didn't seem to accomplish much.
Brees couldn't have even begun to provide food, shelter, and the basic necessities for that entire area to restore it to it's original condition, but he could give them something else. Hope. A cause to rally around. And that he did, eventually culminating in a Super Bowl victory.
Again, I suspect if Brees was asked which was more important to him -- being the MVP of the Super Bowl, or named Man of the Year -- he might smile and say something like, "I think you know", and leave it at that.
Contrary to what the late Leo Durocher once said, sometimes nice guys finish first.