There’s an impulse when a player retires to celebrate his accomplishments, no matter how much you may have despised him. Already the Falcons have tipped their cap to Brees in a video that’s at least full of big hits and mistakes for Drew Brees, who announced his retirement today, and countless teams, fans, and analysts will follow suit.
Me, I’ll celebrate. It has been a very long time since I had a thought about Brees that wasn’t “man I wish this guy would retire” or “good, he lost in a big game again.” There are no shortage of people who will give Brees his due, including Canton when he’s eligible for the Hall of Fame in a few years. You won’t find anyone making a good faith argument that he doesn’t belong there, after all, so there’s no need for me to do more than acknowledge that he’ll be there at some point.
Let’s be clear: I loathe Drew Brees. For Falcons fans, Brees was a nemesis. He was the guy picking apart Falcons secondaries held together by stale Cheez-Whiz for years, the guy who would figure out a way to beat them even if he threw a bunch of awful picks, which he did more than a couple of times over the years. He was a bland, laser-accurate foe, rarely saying anything of consequence the way Cameron Jordan did to make the rivalry more fun, or the way Sean Payton did to make him a cartoon villain. He had all the personality of a sledgehammer and similar effects on the Falcons, which made him incredibly easy to hate in a consistent, passionless way, especially when his arm was a wet bag of cotton candy and he was still beating Atlanta.
The Falcons picked him off 27 times in his career, tied for the most he threw against any team, but he retires 19-10 against them and one of the primary reasons Falcons-Saints was so intensely frustrating all these years. With him out of the picture and the Saints sinking the hooks into the franchise to get under the cap, this team will still be a thorn in the side of Atlanta but is unlikely to be the flavorless juggernaut Falcons fans grew so sick of over the past decade. A new chapter in the rivalry is welcome, and I doubt any Falcons fans are going to get misty-eyed over the past 10+ years now that Brees is gone. He’ll retire to chuckle mirthlessly in a pregame show somewhere and wait for all the post-career accolades to roll in, and for my part, I can’t wait to turn the channel out of spite whenever I see him. A football life that doesn’t have to consider or contend with Drew Brees will be a better football life for me.
When I do think of him, I’ll choose to remember the times when Brees gave me some form of happiness, as few and far between as those were. May your children always pick off your backyard passes, #9.