After an inconsistent 3-year start to his career, a light seemed to go on for Drew Brees in 2004, and he’s been one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the NFL ever since. He may not overwhelm with his physical attributes, but he’s a crafty quarterback, who uses everything at his disposal to get the job done.
Brees is one of those quarterbacks who makes the players around him better. He makes his line better because he gets rid of the ball quickly. He’s quick at reading coverage too, which means he can read through his progressions, get to his 4th receiver, and the pass rush still hasn’t had a chance to get to him by that time. He makes his receivers better by understanding coverage, recognizing the soft spots and throwing with great anticipation. This makes his receivers open for completions when they would be considered covered had a different quarterback been under center.
When you watch Drew Brees on tape, two things that stand out the most. One is his accuracy. He can make every type of throw necessary. He doesn’t just complete passes, but he puts the ball in places that lead his receivers away from defenders, which not only translates to more completions, but also yards after the catch.
The other thing that stands out is his ability to move and hold defenders. Brees uses pump fakes and shoulder rolls regularly. He holds safeties, or looks them off, knowing that he has an open receiver to the side he isn’t looking to. There’s only one way to be able to do this, and that’s by completely understanding coverage. Brees often gets to the line and knows what he has before the snap. As he drops back and looks at the safeties to confirm the coverage, he know which receivers should be open without having to look at them. This is clear from the way he drops back, looking in one direction, then snaps his head to the other side of the field at the top of his drop and instantly gets rid of the ball.
Brees does everything right as a quarterback, and while he isn’t defined by his physical traits, he certainly has a strong enough arm to make all of the throws an NFL quarterback needs to. His greatness over the last 10 seasons has come from his ability to master the cerebral aspects of the position. This is something that has translated to consistency and also means that even as his physical skills diminish, he’ll still be able to play the position at a high level.