Brees knows the feeling

Saints quarterback Drew Brees found out the hard way last season how difficult it is to repeat as...

Saints quarterback Drew Brees found out the hard way last season how difficult it is to repeat as Super Bowl champion. (Getty Images)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:30 AM ET

GREEN BAY - Drew Brees’ team couldn’t pull off the feat last year and neither could Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers the year before.

Same goes for Eli Manning and the Giants in 2008 or Peyton Manning — remember him — in 2007. Repeat Super Bowl winners are rare birds indeed and the last to pull off the trick was Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005.

It’s a tough enough task to get right once let alone in back-to-back campaigns.

Back in 1992, Washington coach Joe Gibbs had a theory as to why and it sounds pretty good. “Winning,” he said, “often makes average players think they’re great.”

Isn’t that the truth.

In Thursday’s season opener featuring the defending champion Green Bay Packers, that will be one of the major challenges facing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his teammates as they attempt to put together back-to-backs.

A year ago Brees gave it his all but the magic that the Saints seemed to own in 2009 had evaporated.

The defence wasn’t making the big, game-changing plays, the running game became nonexistent and Brees, though he racked up 4,620 yards through the air, also tossed 22 interceptions, partly the result of operating on a gimpy knee.

Fans, here, of course, believe that the Packers can again come through. A year ago they survived despite losing 16 players to injuries and survived in the playoffs despite playing all of their games on the road.

They survived even though the lost Rodgers for a time due to concussion problems.

Given that they have their pieces back and intact and given that every pundit agrees that Rodgers has yet to reach his peak, the Packers have to be given a tremendous shot to win it all again.

First up, though, are the Saints who still made the playoffs last season but then had the 41-36 debacle against Seattle of all teams when their entire defence refused to make a tackle.

So there is as much on the line for the Saints this game as their green and yellow hosts.

It wasn’t so much that Rodgers got it done against all odds but how he got it done. Each game in the post-season he seemed to improve, gain confidence and have that confidence rub off on his teammates.

With the Super Bowl victory, Rodgers received much more than a championship ring. Like a golfer who wins the Masters, he has now entered an exclusive club, he is now considered to be among the top three quarterbacks in the game.

With Manning on the sidelines for the opening game and who knows how many others with his neck injury, the top three in the game are Rodgers, Brees and Brady.

“He’s been one of the most productive players in the league. But now that the team is having some success, he certainly is in the conversation of who the best quarterback is in the league,” Packers quarterback coach Tom Clements said recently.

“It’s always said, especially from the quarterback position, the object of the game is to win championships. And once you win one people may look at you a little differently. But as I said, he has always been a good player, and that’s what he has been working to do the whole time — winning a championship.”

Clements no doubt is biased but what he said is true.

Although the praise has piled high since the Packs Super Bowl run, Rodgers still gives the sense that he’s uncomfortable when asked to react to it.

“I don’t really pay a whole lot of attention to that,” Rodgers said. “When I hear the term ‘elite quarterback,’ I think of Peyton and Tom, first of all. I think they’re talking of a standard of play that sets the standard for the rest of the league.”

But now he is the one setting the standards.

Brees, who proved he knows something about winning, can see it in Rodgers too.

“I think you see the amount of confidence the rest of the team has in him and that’s to be admired by other quarterbacks,” Brees said recently. “I always look for that when I look at other quarterbacks. How does the rest of the team treat him? Obviously, he has some leadership ability and he’s proven he can win games with them and win championships with them.”

Thursday’s game will be a big event for the entire city what with the concerts, the coverage and of course the unveiling of the Super Bowl banner.

“The emotions are high, obviously,” Brees said of the build-up. “The NFL does a lot in and around the game with media and the entertainment and all the stuff. It’s the kickoff to the season, so the fans and everybody are excited to start the season.

“If you’re the defending Super Bowl champs, they’re going to unveil the flag saying they’re the champs. It’s a special feeling.”

And one the Packers believe they will experience more than once.


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