Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For All the Doubts, Brees Carried Weight on His Shoulders

If he weren’t one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks, which his tactical style on the field is designed as a military scheme, he’d probably be a general in the military to provide structure and discipline. Drew Brees is from Dallas, Texas, a visible advocate of the military and takes great pride in U.S. service men and women.

To him, it’s an honor, a tribute to reminisce about the stories that both his grandparents fought in World War II, with Brees paying his overall respect for the armed forces each time he energizes his teammates during his military-style pregame warm-ups and takes the huddle on the field. His affinity for the military inspired millions of believers around the NFL – including his teammates after he had proven that he was an elite quarterback and propelled the Saints to their first NFC title game, and then eventually to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

And now, in the mardi gras-jiving, Cajun-eating, cool-jazzing, voodoo-practicing culture, if not the most festive city in America, Brees is a symbol for a once disheartened community, a remedy in a town that was devastated by the tragedy of destructive tropical storm. While he continues to bring such joy to New Orleans, as we really should rank him among the elites – a gracious public figure for his craft, a humanitarian who has had a major impact on rebuilding a severely damaged city in the time of catastrophic floods, the jazzy, celebratory folks are waiting for Mardi Gras to wave proudly at Brees on one of those festive floats. For those folks, it’s understandable to honor the acclaimed passer when he broke the NFL record set in 1984 for passing yards in a single season on Monday night, surpassing the great Dan Marino.

But he doesn’t care about individual achievements, so he feels it’s trivial to worry about honors – and instead of accepting the credit – he’s more concerned about taking care of business as a team effort and winning games. The doubt toward Brees was publicly argued across the country when he underwent surgery on his shoulder as to whether he’d ever play again, but if disbelievers truly had faith, they would have visualized one of the touching comebacks, and then they’d have had supported the humbled role model.

There was a sense, a great sense – once he visited Dr. James Andrews (Dr. Doom), that he wasn’t ever going to return to usual form and be healthy enough following his recovery of arthroscopic surgery, but he rehabbed and returned almost in good condition. Any evidence this offered the kind of quandary as precisely as bitter fans, sitting in the stands wearing paper bag mask over their heads, bullied and protested angrily when the Saints were known as the Aints is now laughably irrelevant. When he became a free agent, as the San Diego Chargers thought he’d be done and promised the future to Philip Rivers, the franchise chose not to re-sign him – an unwise decision as Brees tested the market.

This was partly because of Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, and as of right now, his job security remains in limbo. So now he’s in seclusion and blamed for awful draft picks, and jettisoning veteran stars, like linebacker Shawne Merriman and star running back LaDainian Tomlinson, then he stunningly fired former coach Marty Schottenheimer after an NFL-best 14-2 season that sadly ended in a playoff loss to New England. It wasn’t long after, despite that he’s never been a consistent coach but efficient as an assistant, that he and Chargers team president Dean Spanos hired Norv Turner, one of the worst coaches in the NFL.

The Saints, in desperate need of someone with charisma and leadership, knew it was a gamble but signed and named Brees their franchise quarterback. Dr. Andrews, who performed his surgery, wasn’t sure he’d ever play again but had hope. There was Brees, standing in the Orthopaedic center in Birmingham, Alabama where he visited the doctor, fighting back tears, wondering if he’d ever resume his career in the National Football League. Sure enough, he played again and his injury was not career-threatening.

What? Yes, now I see. The Chargers also dispatched Brees, and doubted a miraculous comeback, assuming that his injury was career-threatening. It comes to our attention, after bringing life to a franchise that experienced 43 years of misery, he’s better than ever, shattering NFL-passing records and growing into a legend before our very eyes as one of the gifted quarterbacks to deliver a Super Bowl in a city once devoid of tasting greatness.

The great ones, meanwhile, normally establish a home and indeed he found home sweet home in New Orleans. The folks even made him feel welcomed, a little Southern hospitality, not knowing what to expect from a sore-armed quarterback healing from surgery. No one ever thought he’d break Marino’s record of 5,084 yards with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, right? No one ever thought he’d pass for 300 yards or more 12 times this season for an NFL-record, right?

This is not a phantasm. This is not imagination. This is real.

He has accomplished more than the average quarterback, although he had to recover from a shoulder operation for the most heartfelt story in football. Now in his prime, Brees earns his place in history, when with all the adversity, he was unwanted after the injury as one damaged shoulder nearly ended a bright career. But he’s helped the resurgence, valued as the viable player in town where he’s a godsend, by leading his troops like he really is a military sergeant and becoming the likable athlete. Nobody in general knew he’d be accurate as a quarterback. Nobody truly knew he’d emerge into a big-game player. More to the point, he was not recognized, and apparently he’d never be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

The day eventually came when Brees had a team again.