Brees named AP offensive player of year

NEW YORK -- Drew Brees understood what breaking a record set by Dan Marino would mean to the New Orleans Saints.

So coming up 15 yards short was disappointing to the Saints quarterback, who on Tuesday was named The Associated Press 2008 NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Brees threw for 5,069 yards, 15 fewer than Marino's 1984 mark and only the second time someone has eclipsed 5,000 yards passing in a season.

"The only reason I still even think about it is because I know how much it would have meant to the offensive line and the skill position guys," Brees said. "Those guys were 10 times more upset than I was about not getting the record. I just feel like they really, especially down the stretch, looked at that as something that, for all the heartache and all the ups and downs we had this season, that was something they hang their hats on.

"So that's who I wanted to get it for, so that's why I'm still upset. I'm over it, for myself, but I guess I'm not over it for them."

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 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league. That easily beat Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, last week named the NFL Most Valuable Player for the third time, and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. They tied for second with nine votes each.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers received six votes, and Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (2); Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (1); and Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (1) also got votes.

"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."

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 Jeremy 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.