For decades, athletes in every sport have gone by a career timeline indirectly written by players that came before them. It’s what’s expected.
According to the Roosevelts, on average, MLB careers last 5.6 years, NHL careers last 5.5 years, NBA careers last 4.8 and NFL careers last 3.5 years.
In recent history, players have defied normal playing expectation. More specifically, the greatest players of this generation have been breaking and creating new career barriers.
At 40, Tom Brady is coming off a Super Bowl victory. 36-year-old Roger Federer and 35-year-old Serena Williams are forcing their competitors to rethink their position in world rankings.
The “Greats” always seem to break down traditional constructs to reconstruct their own, recreating their sport altogether.
But are veteran athletes evolving their game and body to keep up with the acceleration of their sport? Or are some of them just “once in a generation” type of talent?
Thirty-seven year old Drew Brees has kept himself and his team relevant far longer than expected. At the time of the 2010 Super Bowl victory, Brees was three years removed from his San Diego Chargers trade.
Head coach Sean Payton began his era at the exact same time. Each man’s success was subpar until they emerged together.
Last season marked the 10th year of the Payton/Brees era in New Orleans. Statistically speaking, no setbacks have been seen at all from these two. Brees, especially, is still in his prime. His talent is valued as one of the best QBs of this generation.
However, it’s hard not to draw exceptionality from the number of Super Bowl appearances.
Super Bowl victories, like the Saints’ 2010 championship, are monumental at the moment. But the glam and thrill can fade along with the team’s relevancy.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been the exception of this disappointment for years. They always make it pertinent to make it back to the Super Bowl, over and over.
Drew Brees does not sit under this umbrella. Following the championship, the Saints made it to the playoffs in 2010, 2011 and 2013, never getting past the divisional round.
Now in 2017, another NFC South team takes the cake, the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta has found their niche while New Orleans and other fellow NFC South teams rebuild. Irrelevance has gleamed inevitable for the Saints. Brees has tried his best to keep it from happening, yet it has.
But undeniably, Brees has anchored his team afloat. As mentioned before, New Orleans was competitively still relevant a few years removed from the Super Bowl.
The big question: What are the signs that show an athlete is declining?
Peyton Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl in 2016. Tom Brady won last year’s Super Bowls. Drew Brees led the NFL 2016 season in passing with 673 attempts and a 70% completion rate.
All three QBs do/did not show dramatic forms of decline. All three exceled in accuracy in their late 30s, two of whom continue to.
Statistics show Drew Brees is not in decline. In fact, last season looked to be his most productive in his 16-year career.
At 37 years of age, 2-3 years of solid proficiency is foreseeable. Signs of decline, whatever they might look like, have yet to become an omen.
Drew Brees is New Orleans’ face, their crutch.
The Saints needs him.
The NFL needs him.
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