Over the last several years, it's been accepted conventional wisdom that Tom Brady(notes) and Peyton Manning(notes) are the NFL's best quarterbacks. Oh, you'll have the odd Big Ben, or Philip Rivers(notes), or Kurt Warner(notes) (Cardinals version) in the argument, but since Kurt Warner (Rams NFL MVP version) became Kurt Warner (New York Giants version), it's been Tom Terrific and Manning the Elder at the top, with a nice list of second-tier signal callers.
At this point, I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that if Brady's "1A" and Manning's "1B", Drew Brees(notes) is at least "1C" and climbing. Last season was the warning shot, when he came within a couple plays of Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record (5.069 yards to Marino's 5,084) in an offense with no consistent running game, and tied to a defense that assured his constant passing just to stay in games. In other words, everyone knew what Brees was going to do, and nobody has been able to stop it.
Here's the scary thought: that may have been just a warmup for 2009. Against the Lions last week, Brees set an opening day record with six touchdowns, and it could have been worse if the Saints hadn't called off the dogs late. "Sure, but that's against the Lions!", you say? Well, how about 25 of 34 for 311 yards and three more touchdowns in a 48-22 win against an Eagles defense that's been a nightmare for enemy quarterbacks for years? Brees has shown this year exactly what he displayed in 2008 - a dizzying array of arm angles, fearsome accuracy from 25 yards and in, pocket presence as good as any in the league, and a nose for the end zone that puts him in the top of any NFL quarterback discussion. This guy is treating the pros like Madden on the "Rookie" setting, and he's done so long enough to be taken very, very seriously.
Welcome to the top shelf, Mr. Brees. Nobody can deny that you've earned it.