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Brees has done more to be great than any QB in NFL history

Zach Strief
October 08, 2018 - 12:30 am
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Growing accustomed to success can be good or bad.  Some people learn to believe that success is a right, something you will have regardless of your personal actions.  For those people, becoming accustomed to success can have highly damaging consequences in their lives.  No one deserves anything they aren’t willing to put in the work to achieve.  

Then there are the people who spend their lives working for an end result that seemingly never will arrive.  A lifelong pursuit of greatness that is very rarely vindicated.  For some of these people, their pursuit of greatness can even be misconstrued as unhealthy.  

In most lines of work, this pursuit of success can often go unseen by many in society.  Occasionally, people who have this uncommon trait are thrust into the public eye.  One such person, is our own Drew Brees.  I was blessed to be a small part of Drew Brees’s career for 12 years.  I got to see him study, prepare, walk-through, stretch, practice and workout for a long period of time.  It’s an unusual blessing to be able to observe someone excel at the level Brees has.  

The overwhelming reality is that none of Drew’s success is an accident.  None of it happens by chance.  It is all painstakingly achieved through years of discipline and perseverance.  I thought I worked hard when I got to New Orleans, but quickly learned, I didn’t even know what hard work looked like. 

 There are a lot of talented athletes in the National Football League.  Many guys who have been given gifts that few others have been given.  Of that group, there are many who did their best to maximize the gifts that were bestowed upon them.  Of them, nearly none, were able to maintain perfection for decades. 

I observed perfection for 12 years.  Not perfection of play.  Not perfection of execution.  Neither of those is attainable.  What I did witness, was the perfection of preparation.  Drew Brees has perfected the art of what it means to be a professional.  Want some examples?  I’m happy to share.  

For many years, every Thursday, the Saints offensive line has gotten together to share a meal, comradery and fellowship.  The restaurant changed every week.  Whoever was paying for the meal that week chose the restaurant.  Every Thursday for 6 years, I would take a picture of the menu and send it to Drew.  You see, the offensive line got out of meetings on Thursday at 4.  Drew Brees… about 7:45.  We arrived at the restaurant at 6:30.  I would send the menu, but I could usually guess what he wanted to eat.  Drew wouldn’t want to eat gluten, or dairy on a Thursday and that really narrowed things down.  I asked him once if he was allergic to those things.  He responded that he wasn’t, but that things didn’t feel 100% to him after he ate them and thus, they weren’t worth it.  As one of the offensive lineman who was gorging himself every Thursday (which was 3 days before a game), it always seemed extreme to me.  Then again, everything Drew did seemed extreme.  

There were a lot of times in my career that I thought to myself, “If I was as disciplined as Drew, how good could I be?”  It’s hard to say.  Maybe it would have made a huge difference, or maybe my physical limitations would have proved too great to overcome, but the reality remained, I couldn’t maintain that level of preparation.  The other reality, no one I ever played with could.  

I have read numerous times over my years involved with the Saints organization, that Drew Brees’ success was a result of the situations around him.  The defense wasn’t good enough and caused Drew to have to score points; the head coach was an offensive genius that made it easy; that we took chances that other teams wouldn’t.  I’ve heard “experts” talk about his lack of arm strength, his short stature, his inability to win an MVP.  It all just proved to me time and time again, that no one, outside the building, understood anything about Drew Brees.  

It couldn’t be the defense, because Drew was as good in the 1st quarter as he was in the 4th.  Shoot, Drew was as good in the Wednesday walk-thru as he was in the 4th quarter.  It wasn’t Sean Payton, because we had the number one offense in football when Sean gave up play-calling duties in 2016.  

The thing people miss about Drew Brees is they don’t get to see him after the walk-thru on Saturday.  They don’t see him, all alone, no one else around, everyone else watching college football, running through the entire pass route plan for the week, all alone.  They don’t see Drew walk into the building at 5:30am every morning during the week.  They don’t see him leave on Thursdays at 7:45pm to find time to be with his offensive lineman.  They don’t get to see Brees show up to every teammate’s charity event.  They don’t get to see him do his workouts after every practice with 100% effort and efficiency.  They don’t get to see him make every minute of his day count.  Most get to see Drew Brees show up on Sunday and make things happen.  They don’t realize, his success didn’t come on Sunday, it came on Wednesday through Saturday.  

The NFL all-time passing record is not a football stat.  It reflects football ability, but that isn’t what it judges.  It measures one’s desire.  It reveals who is able to play the game of perfect preparation longer.  It is a litmus test of who in NFL history had the strongest desire to be the best.  This record means one thing, and one thing only.  Drew Brees simply wanted it more than others, for longer.  Drew Brees, in my humble opinion, has done more to be great, than any quarterback in NFL history.  

Tonight, he will show that.  The record isn’t about Monday night.  It's not about the Redskins, and it’s not about the Saints.  It’s also not about the hundreds of teammates who were a part of his record like he will say after the game.  It’s about seeing greatness manifested on a football field.  It’s the culmination of decades of perfection.  It’s a culmination that no one else is responsible for except Drew.  

Drew Brees is a friend of mine.  I love him as a person, and I loved him as a teammate.  More than anything, I admire him as a human.  We live in an imperfect world.  We are surrounded by flaws and issues.  For a brief moment on Monday, we can all celebrate perfection.  Drew Brees’ perfection of preparation.        

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