Drew Brees announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday, making official what seemed likely since the Saints were bounced from the playoffs in January.
“After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football,” Brees wrote on Instagram Sunday.
“My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give to you everything you had given to me and more. I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans,” he said. “This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. Now my real life’s work begins!”
It was a rocky finish for Brees, but he’ll be a legend in New Orleans, where he is almost indisputably the best athlete in the history of the city. He delivered a Super Bowl in 2010 and helped turn a typically embarrassing franchise into a powerhouse.
He retires at 42 years old as the NFL’s all-time leader in yards, completions, and completion percentage, all records that he has a loose grip on with Tom Brady returning.
“Throughout his career, his consistency and dedication to excellence were unparalleled,” Saints coach Sean Payton said in a statement Sunday. “In a very short period of time, he would help lead a region to recovery and a team to a Super Bowl Championship,” he said, referring to the near-mythical status the Saints took on locally after Hurricane Katrina.
Before Brees’ arrival in free agency, the Saints had won a single playoff game in their nearly 40 years of existence. Brees took the team on several deep playoff runs, including three NFC title games and the Super Bowl.
The late-era Brees Saints were dominant in the regular season but always found some way to melt down in the playoffs, including the Minneapolis Miracle, the Beast Quake, and not one but two game-deciding disputed pass interference calls.
Brees limped across the finish line in 2020, bumbling through comments about kneeling before the season started and then suffering a series of injuries that clearly diminished him. Brees missed four games with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung, and his wife said after the season that he also had a torn rotator cuff and a torn fascia in his foot.
Curiously, though it seemed like Payton was itching to start Taysom Hill this past year — and played him when Brees was out — reports Sunday indicated that Jameis Winston would take over for Brees as the Saints’ starter in 2021.