From Yahoo Sports SAN DIEGO – In one of the more poignant moments of Monday's practices, the San Diego Chargers shuttled their two marquee quarterbacks in and out with the first-team offense. At one point, starter Drew Brees wasn't sure if he was supposed to stay in for the next play, and he turned back toward coach Marty Schottenheimer. With his left index finger pointed at Philip Rivers, Brees asked Schottenheimer the long-term question that will dog this franchise throughout 2005. "Coach," Brees said, "You want him or me?" Ah, the dilemma. Drew or Philip? Philip or Drew? It's like asking a San Diegan if they would rather spend Saturday lying on their private beach or the deck of the family yacht. Of course, Brees' question hardly had grandiose implications. At the time, he just wanted to know who was supposed to run the next play, but there was some hidden meaning in there, too. For one of the league's youngest and most intriguing teams – all of last season's starters are back and only eight players on the entire roster are over 30 years old – the Chargers will spend one more year calculating which quarterback will serve as their franchise centerpiece for 2006 and beyond. "Both of us can't stay here forever," Rivers said. "And truthfully, neither of us wants to be here forever with both of us here. Don't get me wrong. Drew and I get along great. We have a good time and a good relationship. But the fact is, both of us can't stay here and start." Unlike the beginning of last season, the situation doesn't appear to be a budding controversy. Not with Brees coming off a Pro Bowl year and anointed the starter. And certainly not with Rivers' patient demeanor and mercurial practice performances. At this stage, one is clearly the starter and the other is clearly the talented and still-developing backup. But the odd twist is contractual: Brees is working on a one-year "franchise player" contract and Rivers has the long-term stability of a six-year pact. Those are financial realities that, given Brees' stellar season in 2004, make it seem as if Brees has been called back for a second round of auditioning for the team's leading role. "Absolutely, that's the case," said Brees, when asked if he feels his one-year contract means he's been asked to prove 2004 wasn't a fluke. "We're in a situation where they (management) want to see what happens this year. Then they'll look at Philip and myself and make a decision before next year." When that scenario was spelled out to Rivers, he simply nodded his head. "Yeah that's accurate," he said. "It's such a weird situation to be in." Weird, but not necessarily bad for the Chargers. While the quarterback question has become the elephant sitting in the corner of the locker room – "It's become this unspoken thing," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said – it doesn't come off as a team distraction. Part of that is because Rivers is so clearly still in the developmental stage. Another reason is that Brees arrived to training camp looking better than ever after maddening offseason workouts. After just watching a single practice, it's easy to see that Brees has added serious zip to his throws, which he credits to training that strengthened both his arm and midsection. But the lack of an open quarterback competition (and no, there really isn't one) goes deeper than just the physical aspects. As much as the front office and coaching staff love the potential of Rivers, there is an equal amount of reverence among the players for Brees. Overwhelmingly, he is seen as the player who helped pull together last season's astounding 12-4 squad – which is a big compliment considering San Diego's 3-4 defense had a huge role in the success, too. Last season, Brees made a gargantuan impact on his teammates, many of whom wondered how he'd take the Chargers' acquisition of Rivers, who was chosen fourth overall by the New York Giants in the 2004 draft, then packaged with picks and swapped for San Diego's No. 1 pick, Eli Manning. "I was so impressed," Tomlinson said. "I know Drew, and that confidence and calm is the way he's always been. Even when they were talking about drafting a quarterback, he was that same confident person every day. "He's kind of unbreakable. It's pretty awesome. It's great for us, because you need to have a guy like that. … It's important to have in the huddle. We know it. Really, everybody knows it from the way he carries himself. You even see it in rough times during the game. I've seen him take a big hit, get right back up, get into the huddle, and it's in his eyes. He's still right there, focused and confident." That attitude carried Brees to career-high numbers last season when he passed for 27 touchdowns, completed 65.5 percent of his passes and threw only seven interceptions in 400 attempts. Yet, he wasn't able to get the long-term contract he wanted, instead settling for a one-year deal for nearly $8.1 million this season. But as lucrative as that contract is, it comes with long-term uncertainty. As Brees acknowledged Monday, his status as San Diego's rock-solid No. 1 quarterback will continue to be questioned until he has a multiyear deal in place. "That doesn't bother me and I don't feel weird about it," he said. "I just look at it as me having to come out every year and prove myself. That's the way it is, and I'm not going to waste my time worrying about it. Because in my mind, I know what the end result is going to be. I'm going to be the starting quarterback. So why worry about it if you know how it's going to turn out?" While Brees can certainly preach confidence, he's betrayed by reality. Even now, the Chargers are a team with plenty of questions. They still don't know what immediate impacts will be made by first-round picks Shawne Merriman and Luis Castillo, nor when the contract issues will be resolved with tight end Antonio Gates. Moreover, the kicking game suddenly appears to be on shaky ground with Nate Kaeding, and the franchise is still waiting for the defensive secondary to break through. Even with all of those issues, though, the most difficult question to answer is what will happen with Brees and Rivers. "Those are the kind of decisions that, frankly, we don't have to worry about right now," said coach Marty Schottenheimer, retreating back to the same line he used when talking about the situation last season. "I don't know that it is out of reason that they won't both be here next year. That possibility certainly exists. I'm not handicapping it." While that possibility exists, it remains the most unlikely scenario of all. Especially with what will be a thin quarterback pool in the draft (beyond Matt Leinart) and free agency next offseason. If Brees can prove he deserves a long-term contract, then the value of Rivers on the trading block should be robust. "Drew's made it known (that) he wants to play here forever," Rivers said. "Me? I'm a Charger right now. Is this where I would love to stay the rest of my career? Sure. But I'm not going to be blind to the fact that it may not happen." One way or another, this should be the season that provides the ultimate answer. That's the best news for 2006 and the years beyond – that two talented quarterbacks won't have to look at each other and wonder "Coach, you want him or me?"