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Drew Brees has called it a career after 20 seasons in the NFL, the last 15 of which he spent with the New Orleans Saints. A 13-time Pro Bowler, one-time Super Bowl champion and perennial record-holder, the 42-year-old quarterback announced on Sunday that he has played his down down of competitive football. Brees announced his retirement on the 15th anniversary of his signing with the Saints.

While many assumed the Saints' loss to the Buccaneers in the divisional round of the playoffs was the final game of his career, Brees waited two more months before officially announcing his retirement. Brees announced his retirement via a post on his Instagram account

The post included a video of his children celebrating the news. 

"After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football. 

"Each day, I poured my heart and soul into being your quarterback. Till the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints' organization, my team and the great city of New Orleans. We shared some mazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us. You have molded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories. My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give you everything you had given to me and more. 

"I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. New my real life's work begins!" 

Brees alluded to the possibility of retiring following January's playoff loss to Tampa Bay. The loss marked the fourth consecutive playoff defeat for the Saints and the third straight playoff loss at home. 

"I've always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it," Brees told reporters after that loss. "I appreciate all that this game has given to me. There are obviously so many incredible memories, so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game. And you find out so much about yourself and you have to fight so much when you play this game. And I'd say this season, I've probably had to fight through more than I've ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff to crazy circumstances. (But) it was worth every moment of it."

Brees departs the NFL as one of the most accomplished signal-callers in league history. A second-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in 2001, the Purdue product hangs up the cleats as the NFL's all-time leader in career passing yards, completions and completion percentage, not to mention five All-Pro honors, two Offensive Player of the Year awards and the Super Bowl XLIV MVP. 

"When I was hired by the Saints as a head coach in 2006, the very first goal was to establish a functional and winning culture," Saints coach Sean Payton wrote in a statement, via Nick Underhill. "In doing so, it was vital to know what we were looking for in a player, talent, work ethic, makeup, intelligence and leadership are all qualities we found in Drew Brees. We also found a player with a burning desire to win. Within a year, he helped lead our team to the club's first NFC championship appearance. 

"Throughout his career, his consistency and dedication and excellence were unparalleled. In a very short period of time, he would help lead a region to recovery and a team to a Super Bowl championship. He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field. 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 has done for our team, our community and for me personally." 

Brees flashed with the Chargers during the first five seasons of his career, peaking in 2004 with a 27-touchdown campaign to help lead San Diego to a 12-4 finish. He'll be remembered most, however, for redefining his legacy in New Orleans, which signed him in 2006 following a season lost to a torn labrum and got 15 years of arguably the steadiest QB production of the entire NFL. From 2006-2018, Brees missed just two starts for the Saints, seven times leading the league in passing yards, five times eclipsing the 5,000-yard mark and 10 times throwing at least 30 touchdowns.

Injuries hampered Brees during his final two seasons with New Orleans, as the veteran missed five games in 2019 and another four in 2020, but his numbers hardly ever slipped from the time he debuted with the Saints until the time he said goodbye to the Superdome. In nine of his final 12 NFL seasons, Brees posted a passer rating above 100, logging a career-high 116.3 in 2019. He was arguably the chief reason for New Orleans' postseason consistency under coach Sean Payton, helping guide the Saints to nine different playoff appearances and captained the franchise to its first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2009, defeating Peyton Manning and the Colts.