Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: email@example.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports
NEW ORLEANS ― Drew Brees stood at the podium late Monday night, describing how he’ll watch games with his 2-year-old son Baylen and how he answers his boy’s questions about how he’s a football player.
But when father asks son who the boy is, Baylen excitedly responds, “I’m Jimmy Graham!”
With all due respect to Brees’ oldest son, he may be the only one in the city of New Orleans this morning who would rather be someone other than Drew Brees.
New Orleans’ Saint delivered on Monday night what no other man has been able to do in NFL history and he did it just about the way he would have drawn it up – a 45-16 pasting of division-rival Atlanta to clinch the NFC South and a home game in the playoffs.
Brees, with one game to go, broke Dan Marino’s 27-year-old record for passing yards in a season, finishing the night with 307 yards, giving him 5,087 yards for the season, three more than the Hall of Famer.
For much of the past month, Brees has deflected attention from the record, saying he only cares about wins, about securing the division title and about playing the best football he can play.
After the game, he finally admitted the record was important, but not if the cost was forcing it to happen and forsaking the bigger picture.
“We all want this very badly,” Brees said, “but it’s all about winning and if we can just focus on that, all that other stuff will take care of itself.”
But Brees' teammates realize Brees isn't necessarily thinking about the record.
“He’ll be happy he broke the record, but he’ll probably be even happier we won a division title,” Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said.
Shanle is right. It didn’t even take Brees an hour to push his focus onto what’s next.
“I’m sure at the end of the season I’ll be able to reflect quite a bit,” Brees said. “For now, I just feel like there’s still so much left to be done.”
Indeed, there are more records to be broken.
The Saints are 219 yards short of breaking the NFL record for total yards in a season.
New Orleans is 16 first downs short of setting the NFL record for first downs in a season.
Tight end Jimmy Graham is 77 yards of breaking the NFL record for yards receiving by a tight end in a season.
Oh, and yeah, the Saints are four wins short of their second Super Bowl in three seasons – three wins if they somehow manage to get the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
“I think really the most important thing is winning Super Bowls,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “And I think Drew and every other player in that locker room would say the same thing. The most important thing we can do is play for an opportunity to win the Lombardi Trophy.”
Yet, that’s the essence of who Brees is, a man who goes to extraordinary measures to put everything and everyone else ahead of himself.
The respect he has garnered from teammates, who understand this, goes beyond astonishing.
There’s nothing that hasn’t been written or said about Brees, and yet, nobody can get enough of him.
“Watching how hard Brees has worked from Tulane to now, I felt like no other person deserved it more than him,” Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. “You’re talking about a guy who has given more than himself for this team and it shows. He definitely deserved it. I’m definitely happy for him. I’m thinking back to everything he has put in on the field and off the field so that we can be successful.”
“If they made a movie, Tom Cruise, I don’t know if he could play him,” left guard Carl Nicks said. “He’s out of this world. Probably one of the best guys I know, period. If I could have put him on my shoulder and paraded him around the whole stadium, I would have done that. He deserves that.”
And finally, Shanle said, “I think you’ll find this response from a lot of people – as good a football player he is, he’s a better teammate, a better person. That’s what makes it exciting. To see a record get broken by a person like Drew is awesome.”
Afterward, Brees said he was emotional before the game when he heard a boy yell out to him that he was at the game to watch him break the record.
That took Brees back to when he was a boy, maybe a few years older than Baylen, and his dreams of becoming an NFL player, let alone a record-breaking one.
“So few get the opportunity,” Brees said. “Hearing him say that brought me back down to thinking about how lucky are we to get to play this game, get to have this opportunity, get to do what we do and what joy it brings other people.
“It makes me feel good that I think we made a lot of people happy tonight.
Only, it hasn’t been just one night. Brees has been making New Orleanians feel good since 2006.
That’s a fact, even if Baylen would rather be Jimmy Graham instead of his dad.