By MIKE HERNDON
He is the NFL’s all-time leading passer in yardage and touchdowns. He has taken a franchise that had won only one playoff game in its history to eight playoff appearances, three NFC championship games and one Super Bowl victory. He has led the league in passing seven times.
And yet, somehow, a panel of people described as “experts” decided that Drew Brees isn’t even in the top 10 quarterbacks in league history.
The NFL has now released all of its All-Time team, in commemoration of the league’s 100th anniversary, and inexplicably did not include its all-time leading passer. It was selected by a supposed “blue ribbon” panel of media members, former players, and league personnel.
And if they don’t think Drew Brees is one of the 10 best quarterbacks in league history, they need to be stripped of their ribbons and their votes.
Instead, they chose Roger Staubach, who threw for 22,700 yards in an 11-year career, winning two Super Bowls and throwing for more than 3,000 yards in a season twice. Yes, the ‘70s were a different era, but Brees has thrown for over three times as many yards in his 19-year career (77,163 entering Sunday’s games), and has thrown for more than 5,000 yards five times.
Staubach completed 57 percent of his passes over his career. Brees completed over 67 percent. Staubach’s career passer rating according to Pro Football Reference was 83.4. Brees’ is 98.3. Nine times in 19 years, Brees has finished the season with a passer rating of over 100.
The only ways one can justify selecting Staubach over Brees are that you A.) felt an arbitrary need to have someone from the ‘70s era represented, or B.) just liked the star on his helmet. And never mind that if it’s A, Terry Bradshaw threw for more yards and has two more Super Bowl rings.
The “experts” also chose Sammy Baugh, who threw more interceptions than touchdowns through his career. They chose Dan Marino, who never won a championship. They chose John Elway, who threw for more than 4,000 yards just once and had more than 200 fewer TD passes than Brees in a 16-year career.
But somehow, a guy who transformed his franchise from laughing stock to perennial Super Bowl contender, who has thrown for more yards and more touchdowns than anyone in league history, isn’t worthy. Why? Because he’s not 6-foot-5? Because his arm isn’t as strong as Marino’s?
What a joke.
He’s only one of the worthy players who were snubbed by the committee. Some others:
Safety: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers
An eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro whose freelancing ability allowed the Steelers to do things coverage-wise that few other teams would dare try. He and Ed Reed redefined how the position is played. Give me Polamalu over every safety on the NFL 100 list except Reed and Ronnie Lott.
Linebacker: Derrick Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs; Mike Singletary, Chicago Bears; Ray Nitschke, Green Bay Packers
Joe Schmidt and Derrick Brooks were great players, but Derrick Thomas averaged more than 10 sacks a season, holds the NFL record with seven in one game, and was one of the best edge rushers in history. Singletary and Nitschke were the anchors of two of the league’s all-time great defenses. Singletary was a two-time league Defensive Player of the Year and a nine-time All-Pro, while Nitschke was a seven-time All-Pro and the 1962 Championship Game MVP.
Defensive tackle: Aaron Donald, L.A. Rams
The man has 72 sacks in six seasons. As a defensive tackle. A 6-foot-1, 284-pound defensive tackle. Yes, he’s still establishing his legacy, but he is the best defensive player of his generation, and with J.J. Watt unable to stay healthy of late it’s not particularly close. John Randle was a great player, but was he as dominant as Donald? Debatable.
Running back: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings; LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers
I know there is some desire in these types of lists to make sure all eras are represented, but Dutch Clark only played five full seasons and compiled fewer than 3,000 career rushing yards. Marion Motley’s prime really only lasted five years and he led the league in rushing just once.
Peterson is a four-time All-Pro and 2012 league MVP who led the league in rushing three times and is currently fifth on the league’s all-time rushing list with 14,216 yards. Tomlinson was a three-time All-Pro and 2006 MVP who led the league in rushing twice and holds the NFL record for rushing TDs in a season. He’s seventh on the all-time list with 13,684 yards. Both of these guys were hands-down the best at their position for multiple years in the league.
Wide receiver: Don Maynard, New York Jets
It’s difficult to use numbers to compare receivers of different eras, but Maynard played at the same time as Paul Warfield and finished with over 3,000 more yards despite playing only three years longer. The man had five 1,000-yard seasons in the 1960s. Warfield had just one. I don’t care if Maynard’s best years were in the AFL, the numbers deserve consideration.
But what about Terrell Owens, you say? His numbers, his dominance during his prime, certainly qualifies him to make the receiver list ahead of guys like Warfield, Steve Largent and Lance Alworth, right? This one, I have no problem with, actually. For the number of times he threw his teammates under the bus and made everything all about him, I have no issue with leaving TO off the team, out of the Hall of Fame, out of mind. Give me Julio Jones or Calvin Johnson – two other greats who didn’ t make the team — over Owens all day, every day.
(Photo by Brook Ward/flickr)