Drew Brees' arrival in New Orleans was arguably the most significant free-agent signing in the Saints' franchise history. Perhaps, the most influential in NFL history. Why? It changed the New Orleans Saints from being NFL basement dwellers into perennial playoff contenders and winners.
On March 14, 2006, Drew Brees signed his contract in Tom Benson's New Orleans Saints headquarters' office. Benson, Mickey Loomis, and Sean Payton were in dark suits and ties and ecstatic as the babyfaced Brees and his muted leisure shirt signed a contract to become the New Orleans Saints' franchise quarterback. The six-year, $60 million deal loaded with an $8 million signing bonus and $20 million guaranteed was one of the richest deals Tom Benson set before a player.
Brees' signing was a coup for the Saints who quickly swooped-in to collect him from Miami as the Dolphins physicians could not approve his signing. Alabama's Dr. James Andrews did a phenomenal job on Drew's damaged shoulder, and Sean Payton knew Brees was the guy he needed to build the foundation of success in New Orleans. Benson agreed, sent his jet, and Brees and wife Brittany were headed to the Big Easy.
The Saints press conference to announce Brees as their new quarterback was a joyful. The Saints' front office was happy, and fans were eager to embrace the young quarterback and bride.
However, some fans were "pessimists." The Who Dat Nation had cause for pessimism after enduring Katrina and witnessing a promising team under Jim Haslett horribly crash in his final season. I recall some calling Drew and his arm "hot garbage" and the "worst signing ever." I wonder where are these guys today?
Payton and Brees guided New Orleans to the playoffs and NFC Championship game in their first season. The following two seasons were dismal underachievements for a talented New Orleans team.
Then in the 2009 offseason, the trade for Jonathan Vilma and Gregg Williams' hiring to field a defense to complement the potent Saints' offense was all they needed.
New Orleans won Super Bowl 44 against one of their native sons, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Brees was the game's MVP and went on the set numerous NFL records in passing. Yet, since that Miami evening, as he held his son and the Lombardi Trophy, New Orleans came within minutes of another Super Bowl appearance. Still, a questionable "NOLA Neaux Call" by two dubious NFL officials had Drew and the Saints' longing for a second Lombardi Gras celebration.
Drew and Brittany Brees also had another goal in mind when they decided to accept Saints' offer - to rebuild a city, New Orleans. "When we came here, it was such a warmth and community feel, that they really embraced us; it kinda helped us make our minds up [on being in New Orleans]," said Brittany Brees. Never will be forgotten is the Drew Brees Foundation's generosity and the couple's philanthropy to help the people of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana, and Gulf Coast residents.
The Athletics Jeff Duncan said it best, "would be fitting---and very much on brand --if Drew Brees announced his retirement today, on the 15-year anniversary of his signing with the New Orleans Saints." At the time of me writing this article, there hasn't been an announcement yet.
Through all of the trials, tribulations, and historical moments Drew Brees gave the New Orleans Saints and Saints fans, he will always be the best Saints player in the club's history.
Thank you Drew Brees.