NEW YORK – In a year of prolific offenses, Drew Brees stood out like, well, Dan Marino.
This Dec. 21, 2008 file photo shows New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees during the first quarter of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit. Brees won The Associated Press 2008 NFL Offensive Player of the Year award, Tuesday Jan. 6, 2009, after nearly setting a passing record for yards.
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Brees came so close to Marino's NFL record for yards passing that the New Orleans Saints quarterback won The Associated Press 2008 NFL Offensive Player of the Year award Tuesday.
Brees threw for 5,069 yards, 15 fewer than Dan Marino's 1984 mark and only the second time someone has eclipsed 5,000 yards passing in a season.
"I don't come out from week to week and say I have to throw for 300 (yards)," Brees said. "I don't think about that. It's really about what I can do to help this team win.
"Certainly in this offense, being the quarterback, you're in the driver's seat. You have the opportunity to control every play and have it in your hands. Every play is about me making good decisions and putting it in a guy's hands who is open or our playmakers working to their strengths. That's my job."
Although the Saints were 8-8 and didn't make the playoffs, Brees performed so well he earned 22 votes in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. That easily beat Peyton Manning, the NFL Most Valuable Player for the third time for Indianapolis, and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. They tied for second with nine votes each.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers received six votes, and Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams (2), Atlanta running back Michael Turner (1) and Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith (1) also got votes.
Brees tied with Rivers, his former teammate with the Chargers, with a league-leading 34 touchdown passes. Brees was fourth in passer rating (96.2) and led the league in attempts (635) and completions (413).
He also spent much of the season without key weapons such as receiver Marques Colston, running back Reggie Bush and tight end Jerome Shockey, who were plagued by injuries.
Yet Brees kept throwing — and connecting.
"Each year I've gotten better, especially over the last five years," he said. "When I go back to 2004 in San Diego, every year I feel so much more comfortable. I really feel like I've refined my routine and continued to find what works for me. It changes a little bit every year. I tweak it every year to make it a little better, but by doing so, I make myself a better player."
He is the perfect player for coach Sean Payton's system.
"When you look at the body of work for him and you look at what he's been able to do with the number of guys being hurt," Payton said, "you look at his efficiency down the field with throws over 20 yards, over 30 yards. His completion percentage, his red zone, his third-down scoring offense, he's first in every one of those categories. He's worked extremely hard, and when you see what he does in preparation during the work week, it's amazing."
Brees is the first Saint to win the award.