For 15 straight seasons, New Orleans Saints fans knew they could count on Drew Brees as their quarterback.
Brees, the 13-time Pro Bowler who brought a Super Bowl championship to New Orleans, announced his retirement Sunday. He has joined the broadcast team at NBC Sports, where his roles will include studio analyst on "Football Night in America" and game analyst for Notre Dame football.
Next up on the New Orleans depth chart: Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston.
“There’s going to be a pretty good quarterback competition,” Brees said Wednesday afternoon on a call organized by NBC Sports. “I can’t tell you how much fun we had together as a quarterback room. … It was highly competitive and at the same time we were all there to support one another and help one another.
“There were moments when Taysom obviously had to start and did a phenomenal job for four games. There was a moment where Jameis had to come off the bench in the second half of the 49ers game when I had the ribs and lung injury, and he came in and did a phenomenal job.
“I’ve seen so much growth and maturity from both of those guys.”
Drew Brees on future for Saints QBs Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill: “Sounds like there’s going to be a pretty good quarterback competition.”
The Saints first signed Hill in 2017, using the BYU product as a multipurpose weapon on offense and special teams. Hill has collected 1,145 yards from scrimmage and 18 rushing and receiving touchdowns on 181 touches. He won three of four starts at quarterback in 2020, completing 88 of 121 pass attempts for 928 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Winston joined New Orleans last season after five years with the Buccaneers, who drafted him first overall in 2015. He played just 54 regular-season snaps in New Orleans, completing 7 of 11 passes for no touchdowns or interceptions. In one playoff snap, Winston completed a 56-yard touchdown pass against his former team. In Winston’s last season in Tampa, he led the league with 5,109 passing yards – but his 33 touchdowns were marred by a league-high 30 interceptions.
“The challenge for us will be the offense will move in a direction around one of those guys,” Saints coach Sean Payton told USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Tuesday. “And it’ll move to the stuff that they do well. They don’t have to be Drew.”
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Drew Brees (left) sits with Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston during the game against the 49ers on Nov. 15, 2020. (Photo: Butch Dill, AP)
Brees retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards at 80,358 in 20 seasons. His 571 career passing touchdowns rank second in league history. Brees won 172 regular-season games in the NFL and led the Saints to the playoffs in nine seasons. Since 2017, Brees said, he has approached each season as his last. The 42-year-old retired Sunday on the 15th anniversary of signing with the Saints.
“I felt it was time,” Brees said. “Could I keep playing? Yeah, I’m sure I could.”
Instead, he’ll analyze Notre Dame and NFL football for NBC Sports. He’s also expected to dabble in NBC's Super Bowl and Olympics coverage. Throughout, Brees will keep an eye on the Saints’ quarterback room.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” Brees said. “It’s going to bring out the best in both of them.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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