In The Breakdown series, former college coach Brian Letscher interviews long-time NFL coordinator, Cam Cameron, about the traits and training habits that make today’s NFL stars so spectacular. Today’s subject: Drew Brees.
BRIAN: You coached Drew for a few years in SD, including his first Pro Bowl in year 4 of his career. What stood out about him as a young QB?
CAM: He was special from Day 1. I actually saw him start as a true freshmen at Purdue when I was the head coach at Indiana. The thing that people don’t recognize is that he’s not just an elite quarterback, he’s an elite athlete. He was an elite tennis player as a kid, coulda been a pro, he’s an elite golfer. I mean, how many guys his age, at 6’, can dunk a basketball? He’s not short, he’s just not tall. He’s got big hands and he’s got good arm length and he’s an elite athlete.
BRIAN: And, besides physically, what was different about him back then?
CAM: He was the hardest worker at the Chargers times ten. He was probably over-training. But he found out what was too much and then pulled it back to the ideal level. He still works harder than anyone but also learned to work smarter. He’s has the mentality of a heart surgeon – he wants to be the absolute best but also strives to be the most efficient at being the best. Be the best with the smallest margin of error.
BRIAN: You said he’s not short but he’s also not tall. And yet he’s shattering his own Completion % record. How? How does he set it in the first place and then how is he playing at an even higher level at nearly 40 yrs old?
CAM: 1. His technique – footwork – is flawless. From the ground up, it’s perfect. He has the most precise drops in the league so his line always knows exactly where he is and then his ability to make slight movements in the pocket but stay ready to throw is incredible.
2. His decision-making is exceptional. Based on his preparation. An elite QB grades out in the 90-95% range, but, this year, I’m seeing multiple games where Drew is grading out at 100%. He prepares as well as anyone and doesn’t overthink things.
3. He throws a great ball. A firm ball with a slight arc and a very catchable amount of spin. Gotta be firm to get it there on-time but also need a little arc so the WR’s can see the ball better and therefore get their bodies and hands in the right position to catch it.
4. He’s unbelievably accurate. That is attributed to footwork and technique but he also works on that accuracy – and I’m talking throwing it the outside of the shoulder versus the inside. He’s that accurate. He’ll take his top 25 throws every week – particularly RZ throws – and rep them with his eyes closed. And hit ‘em all, dead on.
BRIAN: He’s also has the highest Comp % – by far – of any QB in the league when it comes to throwing to WR’s that have a defender within a step of them. That’s accuracy but that’s also something else.
CAM: Just because there is a defender close to the WR doesn’t mean the WR is covered. Drew has always understood this as well as anyone. If the defender’s back is turned to you, that means the WR is open. He’ s been doing that since the Chargers. There were countless times he completed balls to a double-covered Antonio Gates. Only in Drew’s mind, he wasn’t double-covered. He knew when and where to put the ball and he knew Antonio would make the catch.
BRIAN: I would think his ability to handle pressure would make a difference as well as how he responds to the few mistakes he does make?
CAM: Like a lotta greats, there are no mistakes. There’s success or there’s a chance to learn. And Drew learns as quickly as anyone I’ve ever seen. I don’t remember seeing him ever repeat a mistake. That’s a coaches dream.
In terms of the pressure, some of that poise is natural, no doubt. But some of it is learned and practiced. For example – and the same is true for the heart surgeon or, say, special ops military guys – you practice keeping your heart rate low during times of intense stress. If you can learn to regulate your breathing and keep your heart rate normal then you are giving your brain and body a stable, calm environment in which to do their job. Drew has worked with Todd Durkin and Tom House, respectively, for years now and this is the level of detail they go into in all aspects of playing the game. Now, you add on the fact that he’s worked with Pete Carmichael (New Orleans’ OC) for 17 of his 18 years in the league – that’s a helluva consistent team for the majority of his career.
BRIAN: He seems to have it all together – physically, mentally and emotionally.
CAM: That’s how you become the NFL’s all-time leader in a lot of categories.