Drew Brees bonds with Jared Goff, but not ready to pass torch

METAIRIE, La. -- Drew Brees and Jared Goff were at the Pro Bowl together last year -- a fate both would like to avoid this time around.

But it provided a special bonding opportunity for the quarterbacks, who will now square off when the New Orleans Saints play host to the Los Angeles Rams in Sunday's NFC Championship Game (3:05 p.m. ET, Fox).

Goff, 24, said he appreciated that Brees was willing to share insight on things like his warm-up routine and approach.

Brees, who turned 40 on Tuesday, said he was glad to have the chance to "pay it forward" after so many veteran quarterbacks helped him out early in his career -- even though his Saints and Goff's Rams seemed destined for this type of showdown for NFC supremacy.

"Listen, I was a first-, second-, third-year player in this league at one point. And I had an incredible mentor in Doug Flutie in San Diego," said Brees, who then went on a brief tangent on how Flutie "never got the respect he deserved" as "one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play professional football" across the NFL, USFL and CFL.

"And I've had other guys, too. I remember the Super Bowl run in '09, having Trent Dilfer reach out to me, having Kurt Warner reach out to me -- and throughout my career, especially early on in my career, I had a ton of guys that I would speak to. And I always appreciated that, I always felt like that made a difference.

"And I told myself at that time that hopefully I could play long enough to where there's guys that start asking advice from me. And I want to make sure that I pay it forward just like those guys did."

As for Goff, specifically, Brees said: "Oh man, he's tremendous."

"There's not many guys that are just better pure passers/throwers," Brees said. "You watch what they do with their offense, there's a lot of moving parts, and I think he handles it very, very well. He creates great timing and rhythm in the passing game. And obviously he had a phenomenal season last year, but he's had an even better one this year. The future is really bright for him."

But Brees' kindness goes only so far.

On Sunday, he wants to make sure Goff has to wait his turn because Brees has been waiting far longer than expected to get this opportunity again himself.

It has been nine years since Brees and the Saints reached the only Super Bowl in franchise history and beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to bring home the Lombardi trophy. This is the first time they've been back to the NFC title game since.

"Time kinda flies by," Brees said. He admitted that the team had just shown the replay of that 2009 NFC Championship Game win against the Minnesota Vikings in the Saints' cafeteria on Friday and, "Everybody was saying I had a lot more hair back then."

"So it doesn't feel like that long ago, but I guess it was," said Brees, who has turned back the clock in his 18th year with one of the best seasons of his career (an NFL-record completion percentage of 74.4, a personal-best passer rating of 115.7, 3,992 yards, 32 TD passes and just five interceptions).

Brees became the NFL's career passing yardage leader along the way (now 74,437 and counting). And he spent much of the season as the front-runner to win his first regular-season MVP award before he and the Saints' offense slumped a bit in December and Kansas City Chiefs wunderkind quarterback Patrick Mahomes appeared to overtake him.

There have been a lot of reasons for this extended nine-year drought for Brees and the Saints: two gut-wrenching divisional-round losses on the road at San Francisco in the 2011 playoffs and Minnesota last season; the bounty scandal that robbed them of coach Sean Payton for a year and two second-round draft picks; several personnel misses; and some historically bad defenses.

So if Brees didn't appreciate how hard it was to reach this point back in that 2009 season, he certainly does now.

"I've had the chance to be part of a lot of great teams here, a lot of playoff games. But yeah, three championship games in 13 years, it's a hard game to get to, that's for sure. So we won't take that for granted," said Brees, who reflected back on the mindset of the 2006 Saints team that stunningly reached the NFC Championship Game before losing at Chicago in the first season for him and Payton in New Orleans.

"I think we way overachieved that year. We had the spirit of the city behind us [after returning from Hurricane Katrina] and were kind of a ragtag group of castaways. So I think after that season we were like, 'Oh man, we're just gonna come back in '07 and take the next step and go to the Super Bowl,'" Brees said. "Then we missed the playoffs that year, missed the playoffs in '08. And I think that's when we realized just how hard it is.

"And we went out and started getting some more pieces to the puzzle and put it all together in '09 -- but still realizing that it takes a lot of work, you gotta have breaks go your way, with the right people, the right culture, the right locker room, the right set of circumstances."

Brees said he believes the Saints have all of those things now -- a team with the right amount of "character and intelligence," a team with the right "mindset coming off of that tough loss at Minnesota last year to bounce back and come back stronger" and a team with an influx of young talent.

When asked if he thinks this could be his last chance at a trip to the Super Bowl, Brees said, "No, I don't think like that. Just another game."

But he certainly has an appreciation for the journey -- and getting to experience it with his growing family.

Brees famously lifted his first child, then-1-year-old son Baylen, into the swirling confetti after leading the Saints to their Super Bowl win nine years ago.

Baylen just turned 10 on Tuesday (he shares a birthday with his dad). And now Brees and his wife, Brittany, have four kids -- Baylen, Bowen, Callen and Rylen -- whom he described as "football-crazed."

"That's what makes it so much fun," said Brees, who said he was touched the other day when he asked Bowen what is his favorite thing to do and Bowen said, "go to the Saints facility with my dad."

"So that stuff is what memories are made of," Brees said. "You want them to enjoy those moments as much as possible and give them those moments as much as possible. They love football, they love the Saints, they love our team, they love this season. And we're just trying to stay in the moment and enjoy it as much as we can."

-- ESPN reporter Alden Gonzalez contributed.