Drew Brees vs Tom Brady: Comparing leadership, passing, clutch and arm strength

Drew Brees and Tom Brady 2020
Brady vs Brees - which quarterback comes out on top this weekend? Photo from USA Today.

Two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time will take the field this weekend when the New Orleans Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of the NFL play-offs.

Drew Brees versus Tom Brady.

As legendary as these two figures are, and for as long as they’ve been gracing our screens with their quality, this will actually be the first time the two have ever met in the play-offs, and I am super excited to see it.

First of all, I have to say that, as a Patriots fan, I of course have a vested interest in seeing Tom Brady play a close, high-stakes game in the post season without the overbearing feeling of nervousness I’ve suffered for what feels like time immemorial (I know, woe is me, right?). I can watch and enjoy as two quarterback masters go toe-to-toe to face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

“Whoa, hold up a minute, Wright-Johnson! They’ve gotta get past the Rams first, buddy!”

Yeah, I know, but let’s be honest right now; unless you’re a Rams fan, do you really want to see one of these legends pass this amazing test in order to face Jared Goff?

No, you want to see one of them pass through to face another all-time legend in Aaron Rodgers, and then possibly to face the biggest boss of all in Patrick Mahomes (although I secretly want the Bills to win…).

Okay, let’s backtrack because I’m romanticising this as a Street Fighter-esque QB challenge right now, but that’s what happens when you get excited by such a match-up!


Legacy comparison

Okay, let’s start with Drew Brees.

Drew Brees was drafted with the first pick of the second round in the 2001 Draft by the then-named San Diego Chargers, but he will always be remembered in the white, black, and gold of the New Orleans Saints whom he left for in 2006.

Since joining the Saints he has become Mr New Orleans – he’s done wonders for the community, committing to it in a way not many sports stars do. He and his wife, Brittany, have personally committed five million dollars in Covid relief, and that’s only the most recent of his philanthropic endeavours. Most notably, his work to help rebuild Louisiana right after he joined the Saints (which happened to be right after Hurricane Katrina) has given him an iconic status. He’s notably a great teammate, very coachable, has a superb rapport with the fans, and is liked across the league.

Obviously a Super Bowl winner, Brees has broken multiple passing records along the way through his incredible career including most passing yards in a career (just north of 80,000), most 5,000 passing yard seasons (5), highest completion percentage (74.4, 2018), and most consecutive seasons with at least thirty TD passes (9). He has also been named to thirteen Pro Bowls.

Let’s look at Tom Brady.

Tom Brady was famously drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, and went on to dominate the AFC East with them for twenty years, arguably earning the moniker of Greatest of All Time. He has won an astounding nine AFC Championships and six Super Bowls.

Brady is a polarising figure outside of football; people either seem to love him or hate him. Off the field whilst at the Patriots, he largely kept himself quiet, has never been outspoken, and has always remained committed to football and the job at hand. I mean, come on, the guy only joined Twitter fairly recently.

His career has been marred by the odd controversy through the years, namely the Deflategate scandal regarding the Colts and semi-deflated footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship game, but regardless; he is dominant on the field.

Intangibles 

Both Brady and Brees boast incredible immeasurables, leading the other quarterbacks by some distance.

Neither have a rival in the leadership and mental toughness departments. Brees is loved throughout the Saints organisation, respected for his patience and calm presence in the backfield, and lauded for his belief in his teammates who seem to blossom under his direction and faith. Brees has always had the utmost faith in his own ability and always remains competitive. Even during a difficult time with the Chargers and being benched three times, he stood firm in his belief in himself, never wavering, as LaDainian Tomlinson alluded to when speaking about him:

“I just think of his competitiveness and his ability to, I guess, always bounce back and never take no for an answer. Even those early years when it was tough on him and he was going through the Doug Flutie situation for a while [the three benchings], then it became the Philip Rivers situation, he always remained the same. He was consistent with the way he thought of himself, like, ‘I’m a top quarterback in this league, I’m a starting quarterback, I’m a Pro Bowl guy, I’m an All-Pro guy.’ He always thought of himself like that. So that’s what comes to my mind when I think of Drew Brees.”

Brady is a different type of leader; he is a fierce general whose desire to win is almost insurmountable, and often times he has dragged the Patriots through the play-offs with seemingly just willpower. He’s viewed with awe across the league simply because of his never-dying desire, and ability, to win. Brady brings out the best in the people around him, elevating them to unheard of levels simply because of his dominating work-ethic and commitment.

Passing instincts

Again, they’re two of the best in this department, possessing the ability to sense pressure and weaknesses in the defence just by sheer feeling. They can throw a receiver open seemingly at will, relying on their innate instinct to find the spaces.

There are few quarterbacks near to this level of instinct when passing. This instinct also allows them to build an almost telepathic link with their receivers, as Brees had with Marques Colston, has with Thomas, and as Brady had in New England with Julian Edelman, retains in Tampa with Gronkowski, and is rapidly developing with Chris Godwin.

Mobility 

Let’s say right now – mobility is not their strong suit when it comes to running.

Brees edges this one though considering the other is Brady, but neither of these guys is going to win you first downs consistently with their feet. That’s not to say they can’t move if they need to, but considering the high level of athletic ability on an NFL field, it isn’t enough.

But, movement in the pocket and keeping the play alive? Brady and Brees have that skill of just being able to take a single step to create an opening to get a pass off or avoid an on-coming pass-rusher.

Seeing them slide through the gaps with their eyes downfield, avoiding a sack, is nothing short of mesmerising. They’ve never been movers and shakers like dynamic passers such as Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes, but then neither of them has to; they get the job done their way.

Brady vs Brees: Arm strength

Brees has a pretty special arm. Never the strongest arm like Mahomes or Rodgers (those two again…), but strong enough to launch it long several times per game for big gains. His arm has endured a lot, including an almost career-ending injury to it, which makes it all the more impressive.

The wear of years of slinging it deep has definitely affected it as Father Time catches up to him, but what he now lacks in strength, he more than makes up with his finesse, touch, and range of passing styles that he’s mastered throughout the years.

Brady is a different kettle of fish altogether and is often criticised for a distinct lack of arm which I’ve never quite understood considering he’s 43 and slinging it deep more than ever.

I understand it isn’t a big arm capable of hauling Hail Marys a few times a game but to say he doesn’t possess one is a stretch. Brady was part of a system in New England that took advantage of his and Bill Belichick’s ability to dismantle a defence methodically with a thousand cuts approach as opposed to a swift thrust, meaning lots of throws over the middle, fades, and screens. The big rip down the field was rarely ever wheeled out, but now with a change of scenery, and with the likes of Antonio Brown and Mike Evans in his arsenal, we are seeing it.

Coping with pressure

Brees is wonderful across the board; his calm and analytical mind allows him to read the field almost in slow motion, giving him the time to find the weak spot in a defence and get the ball there.

His execution, though, is exquisite; his throwing technique and his touch on the ball means there isn’t a single spot too small for Brees to fit the ball through – he can zip them along a line or float them lazily through the air never in doubt as to where it’ll end up (likely in Michael Thomas‘ hands).

Brady may not be able to make the delicate passes that Brees is capable of, but the laser-guided balls come firing when necessary.

He’s no slouch when slinging it, and is an expert of the back-shoulder throw making it easier for his receivers in the corners of the end-zone. But this man thrives under pressure – when you need him, he’s there, accurately reading defences at lightning speed and forcing his team down the field.

Brady vs Brees: First and last playoff battle – who wins this weekend?

This is a tough question. Not because I don’t have an opinion, but because I’m tainted by the idea that this game will (I believe) be Drew Brees’ last game as a professional football player, and there’s a sadness seeing someone go out of the game on a loss. If anyone deserves another title before retirement it’s Drew Brees, but I just can’t see it. That’s tough because they’re both so good and they both have such great weapons, but I’ve put my faith in Tom Brady for twenty years and he very rarely let me down.

I can’t see anyone stopping Brady when he’s loaded with a receiving corps consisting of Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin, can you?

Well, whoever wins it’s going to be a cracker, and I’ve already got my snacks ready.

Let us know who you think is going to make it to the NFC Championship game in the comments below!

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About Adam Wright-Johnson 28 Articles
Birmingham based history-loving sartorial nightmare. Perennial fantasy football champion and all-round comedian. Birmingham Bulls - #14 - WR

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