If you felt the frustration of a brutal missed pass interference call that likely cost the Saints a chance at a Super Bowl, just imagine if you were the Hall of Fame quarterback who was never able to get back to the big game.
But it was less about the NFC Championship, and more about a second ring. If the Saints had made it to the Super Bowl that year and won, the allure of going out on top might've been too much to pass up.
"I think it would have been hard not to retire," Brees said this week on SportsTalk with Kristian Garic and Mike Detillier. "In other words, you know, man, how many people get to go out on top like that, right? It's pretty rare and the way that season had come together in 2018. You know, I think that that might have been a situation to retire."
Listen to Drew Brees' full interview on SportsTalk in the player above. Can't see the embed? Click here.
Brees ultimately decided to come back for 2019, a season marred by a thumb injury suffered in Week 2. Teddy Bridgewater kept the season afloat with 5 wins in relief, but the Saints fell in the Wild Card round in an OT loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
After another long offseason of thought, Brees came back for one final run in 2020, another season marred by injury (cracked ribs). That time it was Taysom Hill going 3-1 in relief with the Saints winning the division before falling in the Divisional Round to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Bucs.
If the obvious pass interference had been called, those two seasons might have never happened -- at least not with Brees at the helm. Might Bridgewater have stuck around in the starting job? Where might things be today?
Still, even the alternate universe debate isn't simple with Brees ... because he might have come back anyway, even as a two-time Super Bowl champion.
I know, the way I'm wired," he continued. "I also could have made the the argument to myself: 'Ah, we got a pretty good team coming back. Let's go win another one.' You know what I'm saying? ... And then we won in 19 and gone back to back, I might have said, 'man, nobody's won three in a row. Let's go do it.' So look, I say I might have retired, but chances are, I always had that number 20 In my mind as far as playing 20 years. So I think I was set on that."
THOUGHTS ON SAINTS 1-2 START
"I think it's disappointing just because these three divisional games to kick off the season, you know, that's a bit unusual, right? By no means are we the team now that we're going to be midseason or end of season. I think we're just going to progressively get better.
"We got some new pieces offensively and defensively, that, you know, if you're talking about just executing at the very highest level, you know, just takes time. It takes time for all of that to come together. I'm not deterred, I don't think anybody else should be. I think we've got a great team of leaders and I think we've got guys that are going to continue to get better and better and we'll be in midseason form quickly. But it is one of those things too, where you don't want to start off in in too big of a hole. You want to fast start you want to win. You want to get out ahead. I mean, you certainly don't want to be in a position where you feel like you're just kind of scratching and clawing to stay in the hunt. But I'm not deterred at all. I think I think we've got a great team. And I think it's only a matter of time."