Over the weekend, Jameis Winston’s commentary about realizing his passion “wasn’t football,” it was “playing football” seems to have resonated with Drew Brees. It was also more interesting than anything he’s ever said in the public sphere. Brees is going through a pseudo-mid-life crisis exacerbated by career changes that can best be described as somewhere between Ric Flair’s dusty ass deciding to make a wrestling comeback and Michael Keaton playing a washed-up actor clinging to fame in Birdman. You could bet that Brees has thought about buying a convertible and hair extensions as well.
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When Brees retired, networks weren’t hounding him for his voice on their broadcasts. Outside of New Orleans, he’s never been a prominent pitchman, and being a starting NFL quarterback was the heart and soul of who he is.
For nearly two decades, he was squished in between the colossal figures that were Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. For two decades, he was a mild-mannered quarterback with the personality of unseasoned tuna salad. He lacked the gregarious nature of Manning and the aura of infallibility of Teflon Tom. Brees barely had time to hold the passing yardage and passing touchdown record before Brady stole his thunder.
Even in retirement, Brady and Manning are tormenting his broadcasting career. Last week, Fox announced they were about to dump a large fortune of $300 million for Brady to deliver “aw shucks” analysis and vanilla commentary for a decade after he retires. The No.1 color analyst job has become a lucrative quarterback afterlife.
On Sunday, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported that Brees and NBC’s Football Night in America were parting ways. Reportedly, the network sized up Brees after one season and lost faith in him as a potential successor to Cris Collinsworth, after he flatlined in the booth during a spellbinding Bengals-Raiders playoff game. The outcry over his rookie year as an analyst was so overwhelmingly negative, NBC didn’t even have faith in him improving.
Brees is no stranger to failure. He was called too short at the NFL combine. He was chucked out of San Diego to make room for Phillip Rivers. The Dolphins’ team doctors determined he was too damaged to take a gamble on. However, he’s 43 now. This has to be an especially devastating ego blow considering how the ManningCast is flourishing at ESPN. NBC has no No. 2 job because they only air one game a week, so if he doesn’t catch on at another network, he will be spending his Sundays watching his chief rivals chop it up on primetime.
Faced with that prospect, Brees has done what most athletes facing a murky future does after broadcasting doesn’t work out. No, not podcasting. At some point, athletes miss the throngs of fans and the raucous pressure-filled atmosphere. Broadcasting and the pressure to perform live deliver a drop of that familiar adrenaline and dopamine rush. Brees teased the idea of returning to the field and made a passive-aggressive inquiry about rejoining the Saints.
We’ve seen this movie before. Jason Witten made a desperate return to the Cowboys after his color commentary was panned and Rob Gronkowski left the Fox studio after a brief stint to return and play with Brady in Tampa Bay. The Saints reportedly made inquiries about Brees temporarily starting in Week 15, when the only quarterbacks left on their roster tested positive for COVID prior to a Monday Night Football matchup.
Unfortunately, for Brees, Sean Payton has left the building and his arm strength abandoned him years before that, anyways. Current Saints’ head coach Dennis Allen told the media that he took Brees’ contemplation as a joke. However, if Brees is out there trolling about joining a pickleball tour, he’s still got to find something to do with his time for the next few decades.
He could go the conservative news route. Conservative audiences love athletes with strong opinions on culture war topics like the anthem, but Brees didn’t even have the spine to stand up for his bootlicking. There’s no shame in a Hall of Fame QB. starting in a smaller, local media market where he can hone his craft. There’s got to be an area high school in search of an offensive coordinator. He could remain in the pro football business by taking an entry-level position in a front office or spend more time expanding his investment portfolio. If he just wants to play football, the Fan Controlled Football League has become a haunting ground for washed ex-NFL stars like T.O. and Johnny Manziel.