"Ring chasing". In the sport of Pro Football, the term is used to aptly describe any NFL player — most often an elite-caliber NFL quarterback nearing the age of eventual retirement — who is trying to win a Super Bowl before they hang up their helmet for the final time.
For 39-year old and soon-to-be 40 year old Saints QB Drew Brees, it's the ultimate goal left remaining to cap off his brilliant NFL career, that will see him break a handful of existing League records before he eventually leaves the sport; including the all-time NFL passing yardage record, which is currently held (ironically) by now-retired QB Peyton Manning (more on that irony, coming up in a minute).
Based on the 270 passing yards Brees averaged per game last season, he should break the record in the Saints’ 5th game of the 2018 season — an October 8th contest at the Superdome on ESPN Monday Night Football against the visiting Washington Redskins.
“There’s a reason they put Week 5 on Monday night, you know what I’m saying?” Brees said to reporters last week, after being asked if he actually ever thinks about breaking the record. “I don’t think any of us are dummies.”
“(But) I try not to think about that,” Brees said. “I just try to think about, obviously, taking care of business one day at a time. Then as the season rolls around, you take it one week and one game at a time; eventually those things add up and they stack up, and then you are in a position to do it.”
But before Brees can break that record during the upcoming 2018 NFL season, there's also another legendary NFL Hall of Fame QB that he'll pass on the way early in the season, to setting the record: former Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre.
Which is even more ironic, considering that Brees finds himself about to claim the passing yardage record over the notably most recent 2 elite-caliber QB's to reach retirement age, both of whom were "ring chasing" one last Super Bowl title before calling it 'quits'.
Unfortunately, not every one gets to "go out on top", and for Brees, he certainly will be hoping to end his career in a manner much similar to that of Manning, more so than Favre.
That's simply because Favre — who won Super Bowl XXXI following the 1996 season with Green Bay but whose attempt to win one last title 15 years later at age 41 with the Minnesota Vikings during the 2010 season — ended his remarkable career by sustaining a concussion after being sacked by Bears defensive end Corey Wootton in Week #16 of that year; which would be his final appearance in an NFL game.
On January 2, 2011, Favre was unable to play against the Detroit Lions in the final game of the regular NFL season due to his inability to pass NFL-mandated post-concussion tests.
In a press conference immediately following the game, Favre announced his intention to retire from the Vikings and professional football.
On January 17, 2011, Favre officially filed his retirement papers with the NFL; ending his pursuit of another Super Bowl ring and his desire to "go out on top", like so many elite-caliber NFL QB's throughout the League's history have tried to do, but failed.
Favre joined a notable list of QB's that tried "ring chasing" before their professional careers ended, joining legendary names such as Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, and Kenny "The Snake" Stabler, to name just a few; all of whom willingly played for another team besides the one that they're most famously associated with at the tail end of their careers, in an attempt to win another Super Bowl championship before finally retiring.
Only one elite-caliber NFL QB in recent memory has successfully gone "ring chasing" and went out a World Champion: which was Manning, who at age 39 won Super Bowl 50 in his final season back in 2015 with the Denver Broncos, after playing 13 seasons for the Indianapolis Colts (who he led to a title in Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season).
Sports Illustrated writer / NFL analyst Andrew Brandt says that Manning’s "going out on top" after a Super Bowl victory illustrates a true rarity in the business of sports: a player — let alone an elite-caliber player — leaving on his terms as a champion.
Brandt notes that if we have learned anything about the treatment of players in the management-tiled world of the NFL, then it is this:
Which is that even for the "best of the best", football careers rarely end the way players want them to end. The vast majority of players are “retired” before they can willingly retire, and even the best players sometimes retire unwillingly.
That's something that Brees undoubtedly is trying to avoid, and it's the whole reason why the Saints have gone above and beyond in these past 2 off-seasons, to surround him with enough young talent to help him achieve that one final goal of winning another Super Bowl before leaving the sport on a permanent basis.
No one wants to see a 41-year old Brees in a year and a half from now, leaving New Orleans after his current contract expires at the end of the 2019 season late next year; to join an up-and-coming team such as the Jacksonville Jaguars in the hope of winning a title.
The Saints are actively trying to give Brees all of the necessary tools to win one last World Championship in New Orleans, and not essentially forcing him to go elsewhere to achieve that goal as both Favre and Manning did, with varying results.
Now it's simply a matter of execution — and doing things like simply making a tackle at the end of a Divisional Playoff game — instead of making an error in judgement or a fundamental mistake.