UNPLUGG'D MAG
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UNPLUGG'D MAG

Top Ten Quarterbacks Heading Into 2018: Number Four

The Unplugg’d Staff voted on which signal callers they believed would rise above the rest in 2018. NGL brings you Number Four, an all-time great who was once told he’d never play again

(Tom Brady 2017 by Jeffrey Beall / Carson Wentz by Keith Allison / Aaron Rodgers by Mike Morbeck / CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo Illustration by Nathan Graber-Lipperman)

In determining the Top Ten quarterbacks heading into the 2018–2019 NFL Season, four members of the Unplugg’d Staff voted on their Top 15 passers. We averaged out all of the rankings to hammer out our final list; you can read all of the previous entries here. Let us know what you think about our rankings by leaving a comment below!

№4 Drew Bress, New Orleans Saints

2017 Stats: 72.0% CMP%, 4,334 YDS, 23TD, 8INT, 103.9 Passer Rating, 1,390 DYAR

(Drew Brees by Keith Allison / CC BY-SA 2.0)

2017 can be seen as a down year for Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

I mean, he didn’t even pass for 5,000 yards.

The 39-year-old took a backseat last season, as Mark Ingram and rookie phenom Alvin Kamara powered the offense and an improved defense kept shootouts to a minimum. Of course, by Brees’ illustrious standards, 4,344 yards and 23 touchdowns is a…disappointment?

Even if he’s not accumulating the grandiose numbers anymore — and his deep ball isn’t as good as it used to be — Brees is still one of the most accurate passers in the league, putting together a ridiculous 72% completion percentage and tossing only 8 interceptions. Kamara might pop off the screen, but it’s Brees’ control of the game that keeps defensive coordinators up at night.

Who would’ve thought that the former Boilermaker would exceed expectations for so long, particularly after doctors told him in 2006 that he might never play again?

Flashback to 2005, as Brees suits up in lightning bolts for the last time.

The former second-round draft pick was on the field in a meaningless Week 17 game. At 9–6, the Chargers had been eliminated from the playoffs, but due to a feud between head coach Marty Schottenheimer and general manager A.J. Smith, Brees started the game instead of talented backup Philip Rivers.

Late in the first half, Brees was sacked; when he jumped on the ball to recover the ensuing fumble, a defender slammed the QB’s shoulder to the ground, forcing him to leave the game in clear pain.

Here’s what an SI article had to say about the injury:

“More than 1,700 miles away in Birmingham, renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews watched a replay of Brees going down. “I thought, my God, what an injury,” says Andrews. Four days later he examined Brees and diagnosed a rare 360-degree tear of the labrum, the ring of cartilage around the entry to the shoulder joint. During surgery Andrews discovered a deep, partial rotator cuff tear. He says the damage in Brees’s shoulder joint represented “one of the most unique injuries of any athlete I’ve ever treated.”

Andrews and two other surgeons mended the labrum with the unheard-of total of 11 surgical anchors (three or four is common) and also repaired the rotator cuff… James Andrews handed Brees off to Kevin Wilk, a physical therapist and clinical director at Benchmark-Champion Sports Medicine in Birmingham who has been rehabbing Andrew’s patients for 18 years. “Dr. Andrews told me, ‘You’ve got your work cut out for you,’” Wilk says. “I had never seen an injury this severe in any elite-level throwing athlete. We were in uncharted waters.”

It was unfortunate, but the NFL is a business, and the Chargers decided to roll with Rivers instead of resigning Brees in the offseason. Doctors gave Brees a 25% chance of regaining full strength; therefore, it took a new head coach in Sean Payton and a Saints team coming off a 3–13 season for Brees to find work the next season.

(Drew Brees | New Orleans Saints by Football Schedule / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

And Brees hasn’t looked back since. Out of the nine 5,000-yard passing seasons, Brees holds five of them, the only quarterback to complete the feat more than once. Barring injury, by the end of this season, he should take Peyton Manning’s record for most passing yards ever. Brees will also leapfrog Favre in completions and touchdowns, and he boasts the best career completion percentage of all time at 66.9%.

Of course, who could forget the Super Bowl Brees delivered to the city of New Orleans in 2010, just four years after locals were living in the Superdome due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina? In terms of legacy-defining moments, Brees’ lone championship run stacks up with the best of ‘em.

But if there’s been any sort of pattern in the star quarterback’s career, it’s that he continues to wow us time and time again. And in 2018 — after years of horrendous defenses and whatever the hell a Rob Ryan is — Brees finally has the team necessary to make it back to the big one.

Start with Alvin Kamara, fresh off winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and already one of the most dynamic backs in the league. In his debut season, the hyper-efficient Kamara rushed for 728 yards and caught 81 passes for another 826. With Mark Ingram suspended to start the season, Sean Payton has promised that the ball will be in the hands of his young phenom at a greater clip. And when the ball in Kamara’s hands, good things, well, tend to happen.

Then there’s Michael Thomas, a third-year player who’s already ascended to an elite level. With a pair of 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, @Cantguardmike has more than lived up to his Twitter handle. The ever-reliable Ted Ginn Jr. and Cameron Meredith round out the squad, with slot threat Austin Carr a bubble player to watch.

No matter who he’s throwing to, though, Brees has put up numbers — which, looking back on it, has been incredible. I mean, his best receivers up until Thomas have been *spits water out of mouth* Marques Colston and Lance Moore.

And now, with a set of blue-chip talents, the Saints are riding the preseason hype as one of the NFC’s best teams. Should Brees end his career hoisting another Lombardi, a whole generation of athletes will be inspired by a man who beat the odds, working his way back to peak performance even after the unthinkable.

Join the discussion as we continue to roll out our Top Ten Quarterbacks Heading Into 2018! For more of our 2018 NFL Preview coverage, click here.

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Nathan Graber-Lipperman

Nathan Graber-Lipperman

building worlds in the creator economy @ powderbluemedia.com 🌏🏗️