Drew Brees Says Rookie QB 'Can Be a Lot Better Than Me'

Combined Shape

If there is any quarterback who knows how to succeed in the NFL despite being undersized and not having the biggest arm, it’s Drew Brees. The New Orleans Saints star is an 11-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer.

The same red flags that he had as a rookie are also being attributed to Cleveland Browns rookie Baker Mayfield.

However, the 6-foot-tall Brees has high hopes for the top overall draft pick and doesn’t think the bar is too high for what Mayfield, who stands 6 feet 1, can be.

“I think he can be a lot better than me,” Brees said on a conference call Wednesday as the Saints prepare to face Cleveland in Week 2.

Like Mayfield, Brees didn’t start right after being drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2001. He sat for a year behind an even smaller quarterback, 5-foot-10 Doug Flutie.

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Brees attempted just 27 passes as a rookie before becoming the Chargers starter in his second season. But he said Mayfield’s learning curve isn’t as steep as his was because the Browns rookie has more physical ability than he had.

“Man, he’s got all the tools,” Brees said. “He’s more athletic. He probably can run around better. He’s got a stronger arm.

“I followed his college career. Couldn’t have been more impressed with what he was able to accomplish, especially last year. Really impressed with the way he plays the game. I think he’s a great competitor.”

The two quarterbacks have never met even though both men grew up in Austin, Texas. But both had questions coming out of college about their ability to succeed outside of spread offenses and, of course, their lack of prototypical size.

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“We call it the 6-Foot-and-Under Club,” Brees said. “All the 6-foot guys kind of … we kind of know what it’s like. We kind of have the chip on our shoulder because we’ve heard it our whole life.”

Since the 1970 merger, Brees, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and the Redskins’ Joe Theismann are the only quarterbacks 6 feet tall or shorter to win a Super Bowl.

But before Mayfield can win a Super Bowl, or a game, he needs to ascend to the starting position. Hue Jackson hasn’t said when that will be, but he certainly hopes Mayfield can perform like Brees when given the opportunity.

“I hate to compare,” Jackson said. “Obviously I can see people saying that. Until Baker, someday, gets his opportunity to play that way, then we’ll see.

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“Obviously being compared to Drew Brees, anybody would be excited about that, but this guy is one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League, and we hope that’s what Baker will be in the future. That’s the goal.”

Brees is ranked No. 3 all time in passing yards (70,884) and touchdowns (491) and No. 1 in completion percentage (67) in NFL history.

Mayfield, meanwhile, is still second on the depth chart behind veteran Tyrod Taylor. He suited up in Cleveland’s tie with Pittsburgh but was one of three Browns who dressed for the game but did not play.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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