But in this case, a Super Bowl title – and the manner in which he won it – puts Brees into that class of quarterbacks whose careers are typically accompanied by a bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Media adoration is a fickle thing. At various points in this postseason, the Dallas Cowboys have been unstoppable, the New York Jets have been a team of destiny, and Manning has been ready to cement himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
But that is the thing about the Super Bowl. To the winner goes adulation unabridged. There are no more games to temper the memory of the last master class, and in 2010, that distinction goes to Brees.
Super Bowl XLIV was a statue in celluloid – the image of everything that Brees has come to represent recorded on the reels of Super Bowl history: efficiency, accuracy, athleticism, and command. He was named the Super Bowl's Most Valuable player, completing 32 of 39 passes for 281 yards.
Patience and ruthlessness
In the second half, the Colts had no answer for the way he marshaled the Saints offense. He was a man seated before an offensive buffet, choosing Reggie Bush in the flats on this play, Marques Colston along the sideline on the next, and Lance Moore for the cherry-on-top two-pointer at the end.
It was a lesson in the art of dissection, and the Colts played the part of the high school science class frog. With their defensive scheme and speed, the Colts took away two of the Saints' best offensive weapons – the long pass and the run.
But Brees merely adapted, taking what the Colts gave him in a display that was equal parts patience and ruthlessness.
The Colts should have some familiarity with that. It is how Manning has taken apart defenses for the past five years. But on Sunday night, Brees out-Manninged Manning.
By almost every statistical measure, Brees was the best quarterback in football this year. Yet praise for him was tempered by the fact that those quarterbacks with whom he is most often compared – Manning, Tom Brady, or Ben Roethlisberger – have all won Super Bowls. Brees had only won one playoff game.
Make that one Super Bowl.
With that title, Brees has not suddenly overtaken Manning as the best quarterback in football. Both are at the height of their powers, and Manning could still add a second Super Bowl title to his résumé.
But Brees is now unquestionably a part of the conversation, and at the moment when many thought pro football would be celebrating the crowning of one quarterback’s legend, it is instead seeing another begin to establish his own.
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