Saints quarterback Drew Brees announces NFL retirement

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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday after a prolific 20-year career that included one Super Bowl triumph.

Brees retires as the league's all-time leader in passing yards with 80,358.

His decision, announced on social media, came almost two months after the Saints were eliminated in the playoffs by Tom Brady and the eventual 2021 Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football," Brees said in a post on his Instagram account.

"Each day, I poured my heart & soul into being your Quarterback. Til the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints organization, my team, and the great city of New Orleans.

"We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us. You have molded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories."

Reports had swirled throughout the playoffs that Brees, 42, would call it a career when the Saints season ended, even if that came without a Super Bowl shot.

After the loss to the Bucs -- who went on to win the Super Bowl in Brady's first season with the club -- Brees said he would give himself time to mull the decision, although he added that he had "no regrets" about returning for a final campaign.

The 2020 season was Brees's 15th with the Saints. In 12 regular-season games, he completed more than 70 percent of his passing attempts for 2.942 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions.

He missed four games after suffering multiple broken ribs and a collapsed lung last November.

Brees said battling through injury and the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic made the season especially rewarding.

His Instagram post included a video featuring his four children, who said: "After 15 years with the Saints and 20 years in the NFL, our dad is finally going to retire. So he can spend more time with us! Yay!!"

Added Brees: "This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. Now my real life's work begins!"

- Super Bowl MVP -

Brees's NFL journey began in 2001, when he was taken in the second round of the draft and launched his career with the San Diego Chargers.

In his last game with the Chargers in 2005, Brees suffered a severe shoulder injury that required surgical repair, but he was on the field for the Saints for the opening game of the 2006 campaign, when the city was still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Saints coach Sean Payton, who arrived at the same time, said Brees, "with a burning desire to win" was vital in building a winning culture at the club.

Brees led the Saints to the NFC Championship game that season and three years later was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player after piloting the Saints to victory.

Although he never returned to the NFL's championship showcase, Brees retires not only as the league's all-time leader in passing yardage but ranking second in touchdown passes with 571 and second in completion percentage at 67.7%.

"He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field," Payton said. "His attention to detail and competitive spirit were infectious. For all of us that have had the chance to coach him, it has been our privilege, we are better for it."

Brees finished his career with a record of 172-114 as a starting quarterback in the regular season and 9-9 in the playoffs.

He threw for more than 5,000 yards in a season five different times, something no other quarterback has done more than once.

"Congrats my friend on an incredible career," Brady tweeted. "Thank you for the inspiration and dedication on and off the field! Look forward to seeing what's next Drew Brees."

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