Sunday evening, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees confirmed he was retiring and will no longer play professional football. The news sparked comments from the NFL community, including his head coach. Sean Payton released a statement on Sunday and talked about all of Brees' accomplishments in the Big Easy.
"When I was hired by the Saints as head coach in 2006 the very first goal was to establish a functional and winning culture," Payton said in his statement on Sunday. "In doing so it was vital to know what we were looking for in a player: talent, work ethic, makeup, intelligence, and leadership - all qualities we found in Drew Brees."
Payton continued and explained that the Saints also found a player with a "burning desire" to win. Brees led the Saints to the NFC Championship in only his second season and then later led the team to Super Bowl XLIV. Payton cited these postseason accomplishments while praising Brees' consistency and dedication to excellence.
"He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field," Payton added. "His attention to detail and competitive spirit were infectious. For all of us that have had the chance to coach him, it has been our privilege, we are better for it. I am forever grateful for what he has done for our team, our community, and me personally."
Payton was not the only NFL figure paying tribute to Brees on Sunday afternoon and into the evening. A multitude chimed and expressed appreciation for the longtime quarterback. The list included NFL running back Adrian Peterson, Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, and a seven-time Super Bowl champion.
We thank you, @drewbrees.
But, we won't miss you. pic.twitter.com/MkA0W9ak9o— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) March 14, 2021
"Congrats my friend on an incredible career. Thank you for the inspiration and dedication on and off the field! Look forward to seeing what's next [Drew Brees]" Tom Brady tweeted on Sunday. The two quarterbacks currently sit atop the record books with the most passing yards and touchdowns in NFL history. Brady has thrown the most touchdown passes (581), but Brees currently holds the advantage in yards (80,358). Though Brady (79,204) should quickly pass his peer during the 2021 season.
With Brees walking away from the league, the Saints will once again have to identify the quarterback that will lead them back to the postseason. The team awarded backup quarterback Taysom Hill with a unique four-year extension, but that was only the first step. According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the team is also working on a deal with Jameis Winston ahead of free agency.