Brees, 32, has already thrown for 7,000 more yards than Terry Bradshaw, completed one fewer touchdown pass than George Blanda and has one Super Bowl ring more than Jim Kelley and Fran Tarkenton combined.
The Saints quarterback has 35,266 passing yards, and he should pass Kelly in the first game of this season and should end the season pretty close to Johnny Unitas, who ranks No. 12 all-time at 40,238.
If Brees throws 33 touchdown passes this season, the same number he tossed last season, he'll have 268 for his career. That number would put him in the top 10, just behind Joe Montana at 273.
If you're putting up numbers like Unitas and Montana, shouldn't you be an automatic Hall of Famer? Yes, if you played in the same era as Unitas and Montana.
But times have changed, and if you don't believe it, remember these names: Vinny Testaverade, Drew Bledsoe and Kerry Collins? All three rank ahead of Brees in career passing yards, and Collins might not be finished yet. Bledsoe and Testaverde also rank ahead of Brees in career touchdown passes.
Bledsoe, Testaverde and Collins were good quarterbacks, and their stats were helped by longevity. Nobody is ever going to argue that they belong in Canton.
They represent the middle ground of the last generation. Brees has to cross that -- and then some -- to assure himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Testaverde has 46,233 career passing yards, which ranks seventh. Bledsoe is one spot behind him at 44,611 yards. Collins is No. 11 at 40,441 yards. Testaverde is No. 8 in career touchdowns with 275, and Bledsoe is No. 14 with 251.
As a member of this generation of quarterbacks, Brees has to go beyond the numbers of guys like that.
Assuming Brett Farve stays retired this time, he finished his career leading in passing yards (71,838) and touchdown passes (508). Then, you've got guys like Peyton Manning, who is 34, still going strong despite two neck surgeries, with 54,828 passing yards and 399 touchdowns, and Tom Brady, who is 33, and has 34,744 yards, 251 touchdowns and a handful of Super Bwol rings.
Manning and Brady are going to continue to increase their numbers ,and Brees isn't going to simply get in by putting up numbers close to Testaverde, Collins and Bledsoe.
Brees has to stay close to Manning and Brady, and it would help if Brees could avoid seasons like last year when he threw a career-high 22 interceptions and the Saints got bounced by Seattle in the first round of the playoffs.
I believe Brees will make it to Canton, but he has some work left to be done.
Brees had a knee problem last season, but still threw for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdowns. Those numbers are comparable to an average of the two seasons before that.
If Brees plays four more seasons with numbers like that and he should as long as Sean Payton's calling the plays. That would put Brees at 53,746 passing yards and 367 touchdown passes. That would put him in fourth place on the all-time passing yards list and fourth on the list of all-time touchdown passes as they stand now.
That would be an automatic pass into Canton. Brees is approaching the doors to Canton. He just needs to keep going straight up a few more steps.
(ESPN and columnist Pat Yasinskas provided the statistical information for this story).
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