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Drew Brees’ advantage over Tom Brady? Longevity trumps brevity.

The NFL’s oldest quarterbacks will square off for a third time this season. Brees has a leg up simply because of the chemistry built over years in New Orleans.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, left, and Bucs quarterback Tom Brady meet at the end of a Nov. 8 game at Raymond James Stadium. The veterans will play their third game of the season against each other Sunday.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, left, and Bucs quarterback Tom Brady meet at the end of a Nov. 8 game at Raymond James Stadium. The veterans will play their third game of the season against each other Sunday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jan. 14, 2021|Updated Jan. 14, 2021

TAMPA — Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees is must-see TV. But it seems more suited for the History Channel than the NFL on Fox.

At least that was the suggestion by former Major League Baseball third baseman Danny Valencia. Brady’s social media team expanded on the tweet to include the 43-year-old Brady and Brees, who turns 42 Friday, looking a lot more senior than they really are.

With a long gray beard, Brady resembled Moses or the former Dos Equis pitchman. But the Most Interesting Man in the World didn’t do Brees any favors.

“Unfortunately, they made me look like the dad from Family Ties,” Brees said. “I didn’t like the hairline. I’ll be honest. I would’ve liked a little thicker head of hair. I know I’m getting older and probably losing a little bit. I would have liked a little more hair up top. I’ve never been able to grow a beard, so that’s what I’ve got later on in my future. Maybe I’ll get a nice, good, thick beard going. But I thought it was hilarious.”

Ironically, it’s Brees’ long history with the Saints (since 2006) and coach Sean Payton that provides the biggest advantage over Brady and the Bucs.

Having spent 20 seasons with the Patriots, continuity was always one of Brady’s biggest strengths. But he needed most of the 2020 season to learn a new offense and get in synch with all his new teammates in Tampa Bay.

It’s resulted in some mistakes, including Brady throwing five of his 12 interceptions in losses to New Orleans. Brady has never lost three games to the same team in one season.

“I’ve always said continuity is the key in the NFL because there’s so many situations that come up on a weekly basis,” Brady said Thursday. “For you to have the years of experience with a play-caller to think, ‘Oh, this is exactly how we’re going to handle this particular situation on the fly.” You don’t have to wait until Monday to correct it. Situational football is really important and you can’t cover 1,000 situations every week because you’re just guessing at what the situation will be. At least in my past, I looked at those and say, ‘Hey, remember this in 2014? Those same things happened six years later.’ You can’t really do those things (in a new system).”

Brees and Brady have faced each other in seven regular-season NFL games, with Brees holding a 5-2 advantage. But two of the wins came while quarterbacking the Chargers. They also met once in college when Brady’s Michigan Wolverines beat Brees’ Purdue Boilermakers.

“He’s a lot younger than me. He’s 18 months younger than me,” Brady said. “Eighteen months ago, I felt pretty good, so I’ve got a little advanced age on him and experience. I’m hanging in there. He’s had a terrific year. He’s a great player. ... I’ve always had a great amount of respect for him going all the way back to his Purdue days.”

By all accounts, Brady has had a spectacular season with the Bucs. He has led them to a 12-5 record, snapped a 12-year playoff drought and won the first postseason game since Super Bowl 37 to cap the 2002 season. He also tossed a club-record 40 touchdowns while passing for 4,633 yards.

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Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said Brady’s attention to detail is the same preparing for the Saints on Sunday as it was for the regular-season opener Sept. 13.

“Very similar to the regular-season guy,” Leftwich said. “He approaches it the same way week in and week out, and that’s probably why he’s been so special for so long. The way he views the game of football and the way he prepares for the game of football. It doesn’t matter if it’s Week 2, Week 16 (or) playoffs.”

Upon learning Brady had signed with the Bucs, Brees felt a meeting in the playoffs was inevitable.

“When Tom Brady signed with the Bucs, and I knew that he was coming to our division, I envisioned this game,” Brees said. “What was that, nine months ago? Eight months ago? I envisioned this game happening, because I knew our aspirations as a team, to be in the playoffs and beyond, and I certainly knew what he was bringing to the Bucs and that talented roster.”

But thanks to his long, celebrated past with the Saints, Brees would still seem to hold the big advantage.

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