Brees, Brady prepare for QB duel on MNF
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees doesn't see himself in quite the same class as Tom Brady.
Not yet, anyway.
Brees subscribes to the philosophy that quarterbacks are remembered more for victories than passing numbers. So while the Saints' prolific quarterback is one of only two players in NFL history — Dan Marino being the other — to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season, Brees judges Brady by his three Super Bowl wins.
"It's an honor to be put anywhere near the same category as him," Brees said of the Patriots quarterback, with whom he'll share the Louisiana Superdome stage tonight when New England visits the unbeaten Saints. "He will go down as one of the best of all time."
Brady and Brees have some obvious differences, starting with their height. Brady stands tall in the pocket at 6-foot-4, exuding that California cool as he slides up to avoid pressure and dissect defenses with an array of precision throws. Brees is 4 inches shorter and a little scrappier. The blue-collar Texas native doesn't share Brady's cover-boy image.
"If you just stood the two of us next to each other, we wouldn't look anything alike, so maybe you'd say that our styles are a little different," Brees said. "But in the end you want the result to be the same: you win football games and you win championships. Obviously he has three (NFL titles), and I'm still trying to get that first."
Despite the disparity in titles, the respect is mutual. Brady, who played at Michigan, remembers Brees' success at Big Ten foe Purdue. They've faced each other twice in the pros, both victories by San Diego when Brees was with the Chargers.
Brady sees Brees as a player who "really loves the game, throws a great ball, is really good mechanically, has good footwork, is a great worker."
While superficial differences abound, the quarterbacks share some of the same intangibles typically associated with greatness, according to those who've been able to catch passes from both.
"You see the success they have on Sundays, and when you're around them during the week you see why," said Saints tight end David Thomas, who was traded from New England to New Orleans just before the start of the regular season. "They're such hard-working guys, taking care of their bodies, getting their mind ready for the game and just the meticulous way that they prepare every week."
Saints coach Sean Payton sees similarities in each quarterback's accuracy and decision-making.
"They're obviously built differently; guys are wired differently and there are a lot of different characteristics, but generally if you're getting good quarterback play, you're getting a guy that is accurate throwing the ball," Payton said. "They're generally good decision-makers and they generally can decide fairly quickly where they want to go with the football based on the looks they're getting. Those are certainly traits that you would see with both of these quarterbacks."
Brady and Brees will be among the first to say that their highly anticipated showdown is not so much about them as their playoff-contending teams. The Patriots are trying to solidify their hold on the AFC East and perhaps preserve their status as the only franchise to go 16-0 in a regular season.
The Saints remain in pursuit of perfection and want to stay ahead of Minnesota for the top playoff seed in the NFC.
Yet Brady and Brees know much of the focus will be on them. They are playing as well as any two quarterbacks in the NFL.
Each has thrown for more than 300 yards at least five times this season. New Orleans' offense leads the NFL, while New England's is second.
Brady has surpassed 300 yards in five straight games. If he makes it a sixth in New Orleans, he'll tie an NFL record shared by Steve Young, Kurt Warner and Rich Gannon.
Meanwhile, Brees and the Saints are on pace to score 590 points this year, threatening the record 589 Brady and the 16-0 Patriots put up in 2007.
Brady said he wouldn't be surprised to see the 2009 Saints go down as the highest-scoring team in regular-season history.
"There are always going to be great receivers and quarterbacks that finally come together under a coach that's been with them for a few years that really understands the strengths and weaknesses," Brady said. "The schedule aligns right and the scores of the games come out a certain way, so (offensive records are) always going to be broken."
Brees won't deny he enjoys the sense of accomplishment that comes with setting records. He was only 16 yards short of eclipsing Marino's single-season passing mark of 5,084 yards last year.
Yet Brees said records matter more when they come as a result of winning. Last year, the Saints went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. This season, Brees' average for yards passing is down from 317 to 275, yet the Saints, thanks to a stronger running game and a defense that produces more turnovers, are 10-0 for the first time in franchise history.
"I'm certainly not trying to make it quarterback against quarterback," Brees said. "My offense is trying to score more than his offense ... but it is exciting to share the field with guys like that."