Meeting special people and occasionally witnessing history as it's made are two of the great things about this job. When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees -- one of the classiest, most competitive and exciting players I've covered in the NFL -- eclipsed Dan Marino's single-season passing record on Monday, I was able to experience both.
It was a great achievement, breaking a record that stood for 27 years. Yet, the moment -- a nine-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles -- didn't move me as much as Brees' incredible play during the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl run. His leadership skills, his ability to seize games and frustrate defenses and his talent for making magic against opponents that seem to have him smothered are why he's so special.
He's simply taken things to a new level.
The yards and record are a byproduct of his greatness. Brees is not a prototypical quarterback like Marino was, but what he's doing to and for the position is transcendent. Sure, other quarterbacks will beat Marino's mark, but no one is likely to put a team -- and a region -- on his back in quite the same way Brees has.
Long after Tom Brady has retired, fans in New England will have the Red Sox and Celtics to cheer on. The Packers are the only show in Green Bay, but that team's backers have enjoyed multiple championships, not to mention Bart Starr and Brett Favre. The Dolphins went undefeated before Marino ever donned the aqua and orange. I covered Marino when I was with The Miami Herald; though he was a better quarterback than Brees and is arguably the biggest sports icon to date in South Florida, that undefeated Super Bowl season will be better remembered than his passing record.