Drew Brees celebrated his 40th birthday earlier this year, during the playoffs.
But as Brees and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots have shown, 40 isn’t quite the death knell it once was for quarterbacks: Brees led the NFL in passer rating last season, both Brady and Brees were named Pro Bowlers, and Brady led the Patriots to another Super Bowl title.
There’s no way of knowing how long either will play, but Saints general manager Mickey Loomis implied on Monday that as long as Brees is playing well and wants to keep playing, he will be New Orleans’ quarterback.
‘He’s exceeded whatever number was anticipated’
Loomis was a guest on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio with host Adam Schein and was asked how long Brees will keep playing.
“It’s a good question,” Loomis said. “I would say that for most people he’s already exceeded whatever number was anticipated. Certainly that’s true with Tom Brady as well.”
Brees, the 32nd pick in 2001, has been with New Orleans since 2006, after he was traded there by the San Diego Chargers. In that time, he and coach Sean Payton have made a franchise that was a laughingstock into a perennial playoff contender. In the 39 seasons before Payton and Brees arrived, New Orleans had just seven winning years and five playoffs appearances; in the 13 years since the duo arrived, they’ve had seven winning seasons, seven playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win.
‘We expect a great season this year’
Loomis implied that it will be up to Brees how long he plays, but that as long as he’s playing well, he’ll be playing in New Orleans.
“You know, I don’t think we look at it that way anymore. I think we look at it in terms of, ‘Hey, this year...’, you know? And man, he had a great season last year, and we expect a great season this year,” Loomis said. “And so for as long as he wants to play and can play, he’s going to have that opportunity.”
By many measures, Brees had a career year in 2018: his passer rating of 115.7 was a career and league best; his completion percentage, an absurdly impressive 74.4, also were career and league bests; and his 32 touchdowns against five interceptions was also the best ratio of his career.
At a recent event, Brees told the crowd that he’s approached each of the last two seasons like they’d be his last, and that taking the short view made those seasons more enjoyable, despite tough playoff losses that ended both.
“I realized [before the 2017 season] that I'm closer to the end than I am at the beginning ... it's gone by so fast. And I don't want to let a second pass me by. I don't want to take it for granted for one moment," Brees said at event held by The Advocate newspaper last month. “So I'm just going to enjoy the moment, just going to stay in the moment and play the season like it's my last. I'm going to play it with the mentality like it's my last.”
Michael Thomas’ contract
Loomis was also asked about receiver Michael Thomas, the Saints’ 2016 second-round pick who has been a Pro Bowler each of the last two years and a first-team All-Pro in 2018.
As a second-rounder, Thomas is headed into the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. Loomis acknowledged that the Saints have talked extension, and want to get an extension done.
“We’ve had some conversations, and I like keeping that close to the vest until there’s something to report, but look, we love what Mike’s done for us,” Loomis said. “He’s a fantastic player, one of the best at his position in the league, and hopefully we can keep him a Saint for a long time as well.”
Thomas started every game for New Orleans last year, with an NFL-best 125 receptions, which totaled 1,405 yards. He scored nine touchdowns.
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