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Top 10 quarterbacks going into 2016: No. 7

Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) walks off of the field following their win against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) walks off of the field following their win against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
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This weekly series analyzes the top quarterbacks in the NFL from a Chargers fan’s perspective.

As a Chargers fan, there is an argument to not be a fan of Drew Brees, since he left San Diego only to bring a championship to New Orleans. 

Then, as a Chargers fan, you remember that the Chargers gave up on Brees over injury concerns, and because they had a talented young quarterback named Philip Rivers waiting in the wings. Finally, you realize your hate for Brees stems from nothing more than petty jealousy of his hardware, and you go back to your regularly-scheduled program of watching LT highlights on YouTube.

Jun 14, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the first day of minicamp sessions at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Just kidding–but seriously, we’ve all been there before, haven’t we?

It’s hard to fault Brees for much of anything. Besides the Saints’ infamous Bountygate scandal, Brees has piloted a controversy-free career to become one of the greatest statistical quarterbacks, if not one of the greatest quarterbacks, of all time. Just one season ago, Brees’ critics doubted him; in turn, he ended the season with fire, leading a Saints’ roster deplete of talent that finished as the second-best offense in the NFL.

Does Brees deserve to be way higher on this list? Well…maybe. But, like I said about Carson Palmer just two weeks ago, the age of the quarterbacks on this list has to be taken into account, and at 37, there’s no telling whether Brees keeps at a high level of play or falls off a cliff in terms of production.

No. 7: Drew Brees, New Orleans

2015 Stats: 428 CMP/627 ATT, 68.3% CMP%, 4,870 YDS, 32TD, 11 INT, 101 Passer Rating

Dec 13, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) changes the play at the line during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The New Orleans Saints won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no way around it–looking at Drew Brees’ statistical brilliance in the last 11 years made me question his No. 7 spot quite a lot. Since 2004, Brees has only had two seasons with a passer rating under 90, and those two seasons garnered a 89.2 and 89.4 rating, respectively. You have to go back to 2005 to find the last season Brees threw for under 4,000 yards, and 2007 for the last year he tossed less than 30 touchdowns. In a league where one injury-ridden season can completely change the media’s take on your career, Brees has been the perfect example of consistent play at a high level.

Now, this is where subjectivity and hypotheticals come into play. In my book, talent-wise, Brees is still up there with the best. Most quarterbacks in the league would be quite happy being tagged as the seventh-best quarterback going into 2016, but for a Hall of Famer like Brees, the ranking can definitely be seen as a slight.

Nevertheless, Brees has logged 217 games and thrown 8,085 passes. He’s 37, and the Saints offense is still depending on his right arm to get through games. And when a team without much talent in the first place, a team that somehow mustered seven wins in a weak division, depends on a 37-year-old’s arm, you know that Brees will be throwing a lot of passes in meaningless attempt-to-stage-a-comeback games.

When I dished out my whole Top 10 list to a friend recently, he asked, “How can you factor Brees’ age into play and put him at seven when Brady is just as old and you ranked him much higher?”

I thought about this question for a while. Eventually, I gave him this response: “Because Tom Brady is an anomaly, the greatest quarterback of all time playing with the greatest coach of all time, and he always has the roster and system set up around him to succeed. Call ’em the “Cheatriots” or “Deflatriots” if you want, Belichick and his fellow hoody-clad assassin-warlocks just know how to whip out a winning season in the NFL using anything from Randy Moss and Teddy Bruschi to an overripe tomato and some laundry lint as starters.”

I wish I had said that all when talking to my friend. I probably gave him something boring, something along the lines of, “Because Tom Brady is really good,”.

Jan 6, 2016; Metairie, LA, USA; Sean Payton talks to the media after announcing he will remain as the head coach for the New Orleans Saints during a press conference at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees does have a Super-Bowl-winning-yet-divisive-coach in Sean Payton, who the Saints were rumored to fire this offseason and ended up  slapping with a five-year, $45 million contract. Some credit Payton as being one of the best coaches in the game, a Super-Bowl winner who helped lead the team out of the horrors of Katrina. Others look at the years since they won the Super Bowl in 2009, in which the Saints have had just three winning seasons and have not advanced past the divisional round, and scratch their heads when they see Payton rewarded for doing just as much as Tom Coughlin in his post-Super Bowl-winning years.

Honestly, my opinion stays right in the middle when questioning if Payton is a talented coach or not, and whether he really helps out Brees much. What I know is that when Payton was rumored to be interested in joining a potential L.A. Chargers team, I decided I would argue against the signing; I would never be okay with having a dude who paid players to deal vicious blows to the opposition be my team’s coach. And that’s where my opinion on Payton will rest.

Looking at the Saints’ roster gives me nothing more than a slight “eh.” PFF ranks the Saints’ offensive line as the third-best unit in the league, making their deal to ship Jimmy Graham off to Seattle last year look incredibly smart. Contrast that with their putrid defense–probably the worst in the league–and you figure that a lot of the team’s success this season will depend on the Saints’ offense.

Jun 2, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Indoor Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The team’s running backs don’t do much for me. In the last couple of years, Mark Ingram has started to show a semblance of the guy many projected him to be coming out of ‘Bama. However, he has to stay healthy and continue to build on his game to be a true bell-cow that Brees and the rest of the offense can rely on. Toss around names like C.J. Spiller, Daniel Lasco and Tim Hightower, and there’s not much to get excited about.

However, the Saints’ wide receivers corps stacks up with the best of them. Brandin Cooks is entering his third year in the league and is already a top-20 receiver, if not higher. His speed is legit, and the 22-year-old aims to lead a group consisting of himself, rookie Michael Thomas, and Saints vets Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman. Thomas is a guy who I held in high regard coming into the draft process, and reports out of New Orleans say the former Buckeye has been the most impressive guy in camp.

It must be nice, seeing your early-round pick out of Ohio State compete in camp at a high level.

Anyway, Snead is an interesting guy to watch, a 2014 UDFA coming off a near 1,000-yard season last year with the Saints. And Coleman is, well, completely mediocre. As your fourth guy on the depth chart, there’s not much fault with that, right?

I’ll conclude by stating that I do not in any way, shape, or form think that this is the year Drew Brees stops performing at a top-10 level. He has the offense around him to put up huge numbers for yet another season, and there’s no apparent injuries to suggest Brees will drop off. However, it’s hard to rank Brees much higher on this list when the possibility of Father Time rearing his ugly head lurks around the corner. It’s unfortunate, but I guess you can call it the Peyton Manning effect after the former Bronco’s horrendous 2015 season.

For now, Brees lands at the No. 7 spot on our list. Go figure that his former backup QB takes the No. 6 spot, with official analysis coming at you all next week.

I’ll be returning next week to reveal my No. 6 QB heading into the 2016 NFL Season!

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