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Drew Brees is About to Be the Best That’s Ever Been

Is there an all-time NFL passing record you like? Well, Drew Brees is about to break it.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Our own Drew Brees, my hetero man crush and the greatest thing to happen to Purdue football in 50 years, is about to throw for 5,000 yards for the fifth time in his NFL career.

It will be only the ninth 5,000 yard season in NFL history.

When you think about that, it is absurd. Even in this era of high flying passing offenses (eight of the nine 5,000 yard passing seasons have happened since 2008) Brees has been remarkably consistent. He has broken the old record, which was held by Dan Marino for 29 years, three times already and will likely pass that 1984 season a fourth time this coming Sunday. His personal best was 5,476 yards in 2011, which was broken two years later by Peyton Manning. Manning beat him by a single yard, which is extremely close when you consider the inexact science of every spot after every completion.

My point is, Brees is going to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He is going to the Hall of Fame, he has a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP, and soon, he will have some all-time records to hold on to. Now that Manning is retired, we can get an idea of what it will take for Brees to go past Manning, especially since he is showing no signs of slowing down at age 37. It is interesting to see Brees’ numbers because he has played at the same time as Manning and Tom Brady, who is also gunning for the all-time marks. All three missed all or most of a full season in their careers (Brady and Manning due to injury, Brees played in one game as a rookie) so their regular seasons (along with Brett Favre’s numbers) are all pretty comparable.

Here are the records Brees is going for:

NFL All-Time Passing Yards

1. Manning 71,940

2. Favre 71,838

3. Brees 65,761

4. Marino 61,361

5. Brady 61,306

For a long time it seemed like Manning would shatter this record, but he barely got past it last season in his final year. That was his age 39 season, the worst of his career, but he still started 9 games and limped to a Super Bowl title. In his age 38 year Manning put up 4,727 yards and 39 TDs.

Brees still has one more game this season and is officially under contract through the 2020 season when he will be 41 years old. Will he play that long? Well, he has been well protected and durable aside from that nasty shoulder injury in his last game in San Diego. I think we can safely say he has at least two more years in him. Entering Sunday he is 6,179 yards behind Manning. If he gets to 5,000 yards again (he needs 142 on Sunday for that) he will enter the 2017 season about 6,000 yards away. To break it next year he would need to have the greatest passing season in NFL history, so he will very likely need to play in 2018, where he could break the record in the first few weeks of the season.

Brady will pass Marino this weekend in Miami no less. He is two years older than Brees and, after the suspension earlier this year, more than 4,000 yards behind him. Brady would have to play at least one more full year after Brees retires to catch him. The next active player is Eli Manning at 48,034, and he is 35. The player with the best chance of catching Brees if he gets the record might be 28-year-old Matthew Stafford, who has 29,956 yards going into Sunday and he is 45th on the all-time list. Ben Roethlisberger trails Brees by 19,000 yards and is 34. Phillip Rivers trails him by about 20,000 yards and is 35.

Status: If Brees wants it and stays healthy, he will get it and hold it a while.

NFL All-Time Passing Touchdowns

1. Manning 539

2. Favre 508

3. Brees 463

4. Brady 452

5. Marino 420

This is another record that Marino held for a long time, then all four guys went flying past him. Manning is in the clubhouse here and it will take a little more work to catch him. This season Brees has thrown 35 touchdowns. He has never put up some of the monster numbers that Brady and Manning have, however. His best season was 46 in 2011. Brady had 50 in 2007, while Manning had 49 in 2004 and 55 in 2013.

We can probably give him 1-2 more TDs on Sunday (We’ll get to it later, but Brees has the longest streak of consecutive games with at least one TD pass). Brees needs 76 TDs to tie Manning right now, so that is at least two full seasons beyond this one, and (assuming he gets two this weekend) he would have to throw 37 in each season just to tie. He has been over 37 only three times in his career (2011, 2012, 2013). It seems like a safer bet Brees would need three seasons.

Brady is a much closer factor here, and if not for his four game suspension earlier this season he would probably be ahead of Brees. Brady has 25 this year to Brees’ 35.

Status: Depends on when Brady retires and how Brees does next year since he would probably need a third season after this one.

NFL All-Time Passing Completions

1. Favre 6,300

2. Manning 6,125

3. Brees 5,807

4. Brady 5,219

5. Marino 4,967

The big four have not only passed Marino, they have destroyed his old record. Before this era no one had ever completed 5,000 passes in a career. Within 2-3 years we might have four guys with not only 5,000, but 6,000 completions.

This is the one record Favre outlasted Manning on, and Manning probably gets it if he plays in all 16 games last year. Now that both are in the clubhouse it is time for Brees to chase them down. Brady is about a season and a half behind him. Brees is leading the NFL this year with 442 completions and if he completes 27 on Sunday it will be his best season ever there. He already owns the two best seasons for completions in NFL history with 468 in 2011 and 456 in 2014. He is averaging 27 completions per game this year, so his own record is in danger.

Entering Sunday Brees needs 493 completions to tie Favre. If he gets about 30 to set the new record at 472 he could conceivably get the record next year in week 17. Brady’s best season is a mere 402, set last year. As it stands, Brady would have to wait for Brees to retire, then play at least two more years to catch him. Eli Manning, Roethlisberger, and Rivers are all 1,750 or more completions behind him as active players. Matt Ryan at 3,261 might have a chance, but we would be waiting a decade to find out.

Status: This seems to be the most likely one he will break and he would hang on to it for a while.

NFL All-Time Passing Attempts

1. Favre 10,169

2. Manning 9,380

3. Brees 8,708

4. Marino 8,358

5. Brady 8,191

Would this really be a record to be proud of? Drew has been over 600 attempts in a season for 9 of the past 10 years. He is 1,461 behind Favre entering Sunday, so it would still take more than two years beyond this one to get there. Also, these are only attempts. Any fool can stand back there and throw the ball a lot. Completions are much more important.

NFL All-Time Passing Yards Per Game

Brees is currently No. 1 all-time here at 283.5 yards per game, more than six yards ahead of second place Matthew Stafford.

NFL All-Time Passing Completion Percentage

To me, this is a very underrated record. It shows his insane accuracy over the course of his career. The minimum requirement for this is 1,500 attempts, so clearly Brees has met it. He is at 66.7%, meaning two out of every three attempts he makes are completed. That is not just a testament to his accuracy, but to the receivers around him for not dropping well thrown balls. Even then, drops are incompletions. Brees has the highest career completion percentage in NFL history and he has already played a really long time.

You might ask who is No. 2 here? Surprisingly, it is Chad Pennington at 66% flat. The most likely to pass Brees? Kirk Cousins! Cousins is at 65.9% in his young career. Because this is an average over time it is much, much harder to improve or lose your accuracy as you play, too. Some of the bigger names are pretty far behind Brees, such as Brady (14th place at 63.7%), Manning (5th place at 65.3%) or Favre (23rd place at 62%).

It says a lot that Brees will end up at least second in passing attempts, but he will still likely be leading this category. This year is his third individual season over 70% and depending on what Sam Bradford does on Sunday (He is at 71.3%) Brees can still have the three best seasons ever percentage-wise.

Consecutive Games With at Least One Touchdown Pass

This record was once considered unattainable like Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak. Johnny Unitas held it for 52 years at 47 before Brees broke it with a 54 game streak in 2012. Once again though, if not for one thing, Brees would have seriously put this mark out of reach.

On November 29, 2012 Brees had an AWFUL game at Atlanta. It officially broke the streak when he threw for 341 yards and five interceptions, but no touchdowns. The Saints lost 23-13, but late in the second quarter Brees seemingly kept the streak alive when he completed a short 7-yard pass to Darren Sproles. Sproles scored on the play, but it was called back because of an offensive pass interference penalty on Jimmy Graham. Twice New Orleans would get inside the 5 but fail to score a touchdown, but this was the killer because without the penalty, the streak stays alive.

After that game Brees threw TD pass against the Giants in the next New Orleans game on December 9th. He then nearly broke Untias’ record AGAIN because it was the first of 45 straight games with at least one TD pass. So if not for a penalty on one play, Brees would have thrown at least one touchdown pass in an astounding 110 consecutive games. The next best? Tom Brady at 52.