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A cool Brees guides the Chargers

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://media3.steelers.com/article/57661/" target="_blank">Steelers.com</a>

    By Bob Labriola

    It never was a question of whether the San Diego Chargers would spend the first overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft on a quarterback; the only real question was which quarterback were they planning to pick.

    Coming off a 4-12 season in which they were seen as a team with little hope for immediate improvement, the Chargers went through the scouting process on the top quarterback prospects in that draft – Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

    Then on the eve of the draft, it became known that the Manning family had warned the Chargers not to select Eli because he would not play for the organization. They had searched desperately for a quarterback to replace incumbent starter Drew Brees, and now the move by Manning was the kind of disrespect for an organization that hadn't been seen since John Elway told the Baltimore Colts he would play baseball if they picked him first overall in 1983.

    The Chargers selected Manning anyway, and then General Manager A.J. Smith struck a deal with the New York Giants that netted Rivers and a nice package of future draft picks. But even a good move such as that seemed to turn bad when Rivers held out and missed almost all of training camp.

    And so it was that the Chargers were stuck with Drew Brees as their starting quarterback in 2004. What seemed like another stroke of bad luck at the time turned out to be anything but.

    The Chargers went from 4-12 to 12-4, and Drew Brees was a major reason why.

    He started 15 games and completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 3,159 yards, with 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The guy who wasn't supposed to be good enough to be an NFL starter was voted to the Pro Bowl, was named Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press, and was voted Chargers MVP by his teammates.

    To paraphrase Chuck Noll, Phillip who?

    "Ours is a strange business," Brees told a reporter during this past training camp. "You can't go out and predict this, that or the other thing. A year ago, they said we wouldn't win a game. We won 12. This year, they say we're going to win the division, win 10 games. We didn't listen to them a year ago, and we're not going to listen now."

    Four games into their 2005 season, the issue of whether Brees is entrenched as the Chargers starting quarterback never comes up anymore. After an 0-2 start, the Chargers won two in a row with Brees completing 38-of-46 passes (82.6 percent) for 439 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in those games. His passer rating during the winning streak is 135.4; for the season, it's 99.2, which ranks him fourth in the NFL.

    Thanks in large part to Brees' performance in 2004 and how it contributed to the team's success, Smith and Coach Marty Schottenheimer both were rewarded with contract extensions prior to the 2005 season. Brees, however, is working on a one-year contract for $8.1 million, which is the amount of the tender he received for being designated the Chargers' franchise player.

    "It's a business," Brees has said. "You realize that very early on. Hey, they made a business decision. I'm not complaining [about my salary this season], trust me. Of course, for me, the big thing is the commitment: 'Hey, you're our guy. We want you long term.' And no, I haven't gotten that."

    It's generally believed that the Chargers are going to have to do something during the upcoming offseason to relieve the logjam at quarterback. Brees has played well enough to be the starter, and teams just don't use a top-five draft pick on a quarterback so he can be a backup.

    But if some people are surprised how this has worked out, Brees isn't.

    "Honestly, I planned on 2004 being the way it was even if Phillip Rivers was here or not," said Brees. "I don't think there was any extra motivation. I knew I was going to have to compete for my job, whether it was with Phillip or with a free agent. In my mind I didn't compete against Phillip Rivers; I competed against myself. It didn't matter who was there. I was competing against myself. I knew that if I was able to continue to get better and better and have a goal every day to accomplish then everything would work out."

    Things have been working out magnificently for a Chargers offense that once had to be carried totally by LaDainian Tomlinson. During that 4-12 season in 2003, Tomlinson rushed for 1,645 yards (with a 5.3 average), caught 100 passes and scored 17 total touchdowns.

    Now there are other weapons, and while Tomlinson deserves to be considered among the best backs in the NFL, he no longer has to be a one-man team.

    "Back in 2003, LT caught 100 balls at the running back position," said Brees. "That's an incredible feat, but it's not really something you want to be doing-throwing to your back 100 times because that means you're probably not doing a good job of throwing the ball down the field. Whether that's receivers not getting open, me not finding them, or protection. Now we're in a situation where we are very efficient."

    The Chargers have been very efficient offensively, and the team is winning, and Drew Brees has no doubts about his future with the team.

    "I'm a pretty confident guy," said Brees. "I knew that 2003 was just a fluke. In my mind I believe everything happens for a reason. That happened to make me a stronger person, a stronger player and us a stronger team. We wouldn't have been able to accomplish what we did in 2004 unless we went through what we did in 2003. That's the way I approached it the whole time. As I went through it, I wanted to weather the storm. Everything is going to work out in the end as long as you keep your nose to the grindstone."

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