Let us begin with one seemingly simple, yet frequently argued truth: the Chargers made the right decision when they let Drew Brees get away.
Those with 20/20 hindsight see how great Brees became and know that he won a ring with New Orleans. They look at his accomplishments after leaving San Diego and compare them to the success, or lack thereof, of the Chargers under Rivers, and envy the fans of the Saints.
That being said, be honest with yourself, Drew Brees was seriously injured in his last game in San Diego and, quite frankly, his performance with the Chargers was average at best.
Please allow me to refresh your memory.
During the Brees’ tenure in San Diego, he was very hit-or-miss. In his first season, he sat the bench and learned behind fan-favorite Doug Flutie. In his sophomore year, 2002, he won the starting role, but was only able to throw for a little over 3200 yards with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, adding two fumbles. Not bad for a first-year starter, but he lead the team to a middling 8-8 record.
Brees came back as the starter in 2003 and only amassed 2100 yards with 11 touchdowns, 15 picks, and four fumbles. He was benched by then head coach Marty Schottenheimer and replaced by Flutie. Despite the efforts of Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the team ended up just 4-12 that season. With Brees seemingly heading in the wrong direction, the Chargers’ brain trust decided that it was time to draft a quarterback.
Enter Philip Rivers.
In 2004, Brees could see the writing on the wall. The Chargers traded for Philip Rivers on draft day and he was the heir apparent to the starting QB job.
Brees’ days were numbered indeed.
Fortunately for Drew, Philip decided to hold out for more money and missed most of training camp. Coach Schottenheimer decided that he could not afford to start their new $40 MIL rookie and put Brees back in his familiar role.
Well, one thing we all know about Drew Brees in current times is that when his back is against the wall, he will come out fighting. He went on to throw for over 3100 yards with 27 touchdowns, against just 7 interceptions and four fumbles. This was by far his most productive season, as he lead his team to an amazing 12-4 record.
What do you do with a quarterback who just lead your team from worst to first in a single year? You start him the next year!
The 2005 campaign rolls around and Rivers is sent to the bench once more. That holdout is proving very costly to the sophomore QB. This was the last season on Brees’ contract. Something had to be decided by the end of the year. Two quarterbacks’ futures were on the line as the season wore on. Brees was quite inconsistent in 2005. He amassed just under 3600 yards and 24 touchdowns, but his interceptions ballooned back up to 15 and his fumbles up to eight!
The decision was going to be tough.
With the team going 9-7 and Brees showing signs of greatness along with signs of ineptitude, no one was sure whom the Chargers would keep.
Word was leaked out that general manager AJ Smith wanted to keep Rivers. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer liked Brees.
Who would win the job?
As it turned out, that difficult decision was made quite easy. Despite many who thought Brees should not play the meaningless final game of the season, Schottenheimer decided he should. Many speculated that Brees got the start because Schottenheimer did not want to showcase what Rivers could do and keep AJ Smith from offering Brees a contract extension.
Whatever the reason was, it backfired in a big way.
While attempting to recover a fumble, Brees suffered a severely torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. This injury is not considered an automatic career-ender, but many do not return with the same arm strength. Brees was not considered a strong-armed QB to begin with, so the thought of him coming back weaker was not attractive. Also, the thought of letting go of their $40 MIL bonus baby was eating away at AJ Smith.
Smith made the call. With Brees’ numbers declining and it being impossible to determine if and when he would recover from his injury, it was time to part ways; thus opening the door for Philip Rivers, who lead the Chargers to a 14-2 record the following season.
With Rivers and Tomlinson playing at an extremely high level, it was obvious that Smith made the right call. Hell, even the Dolphins, who brought Brees in for a workout, refused to sign him. They opted instead for aging veteran Daunte Culpepper. That proved to be an extremely poor decision.
Yet again, when you tell the undersized Drew Brees that he can’t do something, he gets determined to prove you wrong. Brees rehabbed his shoulder and came back stronger than ever before. The New Orleans Saints decided to take a shot and signed him as their new starting QB. Just four years later, Drew Brees was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy high in the air and celebrating his Super Bowl victory with the Saints. He was the king of New Orleans and the top passer in the NFL.
Sunday, October 2, 2016, Drew Brees returns to his roots. He will once again grace the field at Qualcomm stadium in front of thousands of adoring fans who think about what could have been.
You see, Drew Brees didn’t leave San Diego in an ugly fashion. There may have been no love lost between Brees and the Chargers’ front office, but with the community, all was well. In fact, Brees still lives in San Diego in the offseason and is a pillar of the community.
There is no question that the success that Brees has seen in his brilliant career in New Orleans has helped revisionist historians question the decision to let him go. That being said, what choice did the Chargers have? Keep an ailing, undersized, average quarterback? Or, give the young stud who they had invested so heavily his opportunity to shine?
In reality, the decision worked out for both teams. Brees found the perfect situation, team, city and coach to allow his skills to flourish. Rivers stepped in and quickly made fans believers. In fact, they are both considered to be future Hall of Fame QBs by many experts.
My question is, if Brees did not get injured, would he ever have had the chip on his shoulder that allowed him to build up his strength and become a far stronger and more deadly quarterback than he was in his first five years?
We will never know the answer to that question, so the debate goes on.
Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Go Bolts! #VoteYesOnC
Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like there is a path between Chicago and San Diego when it comes to football and I don’t just mean head-to-head match-ups.
Consider this: Since 2000, there have been three quarterbacks who played for the Bears before coming to the Chargers (Jim Harbaugh and Moses Moreno (1999-2000) followed by Doug Flutie (2001-2004). There was also a defensive tackle in 2011 named Tommie Harris. The year 2000 brought a wide receiver named Curtis Conway, now a studio analyst for the Bolts, who was catching what they threw at him until his 2002 release. Don’t forget that the Chargers had Ron Rivera as their linebackers coach/defensive coordinator during the 2007-2010 seasons. (Yes, that would be the same Rivera who is going to the Super Bowl as head coach of the Carolina Panthers). Ah, what could have been!
The Bears and Chargers have met five times since 1999, with the Monsters of the Midway leading the match-ups 4-1. That sole win, a 14-7 final score, was played in September 2007 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Chicago’s defense sacked Philip Rivers three times and racked up 70 tackles in that game. Do you remember who was the defensive coordinator for Da Bears that day? None other than the Bolts’ new linebackers coach, Bob Babich.
Babich has 33 years of coaching experience, with his first eight having been at the college level. He entered the professional ranks in 2003 as linebackers coach for the St. Louis Rams. The next year, Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith was named head coach of the Chicago Bears and took Babich with him. After coaching linebackers during his first three years, he took over the role of defensive coordinator in February 2007, when the Bears decided not to renew the contract of Ron Rivera. Babich spent three seasons in that capacity, until he was returned to his prior position of linebackers coach from 2010-2012. He then moved on to serve as the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator from 2013 until earlier this month.
Chris Harris recently joined the Bolts defensive staff as an assistant defensive backs coach. Harris is a former safety who played most notably for the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. In Chicago, Harris was coached by Babich for three seasons (’05-06 and 2010). Chargers coach Mike McCoy was on the offensive side of the ball while Harris was in Carolina.
Harris played for eight years as a safety in the NFL after being selected in the second round (#181) of the 2005 draft by the Bears. His career statistics: 439 tackles (352 solo), 13 forced fumbles, 16 interceptions and one sack. Also known as “Hitman” during his playing days, Harris will most likely be coaching the Bolts’ own “hitman”, Jahleel Adddae.
Harris was an integral part of the Chicago Bears defense which participated in the 2007 Super Bowl against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. He intercepted a deep, third-down pass from Manning, and returned it 6 yards to the Bears’ 35-yard line. Unfortunately Chicago could not convert the pick into points. The campaign saw the Bears defense collect 87 tackles, a sack, defended 14 passes, two fumble recoveries and forcing one. That defense was pretty stout that year with guys like Harris, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Jerry Azumah and Nathan Vasher implementing Babich’s playbook.
I like these two hires on the defensive side of the ball. I like the experience Babich and Harris both bring. With the teaching that will take place when OTA’s and mini-camp arrive, the Chargers 2016 defense can be what we would all like to see: getting after the passer, stuffing the run, making picks, forcing fumbles – you know, stuff we have seen them do in the past.
I can’t wait to see how the DB’s progress! Bring it on!
Thank you for reading!
One of the hot-button issues all over social media these days is whether or not
the Chargers should keep Philip Rivers. “You can’t win with that guy.” What has
he ever done?” Even when he had a great offensive line and LT at running back he
couldn’t win in the post-season!” Yes, you see it all on social media.
Personally, I do not believe that the Chargers cannot win with Rivers at the
helm. In my humble opinion, he needs a better line in front of him so that he
has time to throw and the help of a running game to keep the defense honest.
That, however, is not the angle I want to take with this article. I want to go
back in Chargers history and see how well transitioning at the quarterback
position has gone. After looking at the stats, I think Chargers fans need to be
careful what they wish for.
Remember a San Diego quarterback by the name of Dan Fouts? I’m sure you do. He
was the Hall of Fame QB that led the Chargers from obscurity in the early ‘70’s
to one of the most exciting teams in the NFL by the late ‘70’s. He never made it
to a Super Bowl, but he sure was fun to watch. Most Chargers fans give Fouts a
hall pass on his lack of championship rings because of the weak defense the team
had during those years.
When Fouts retired, it was time to replace him. Shouldn’t be a problem to draft
an exciting, young QB and take up right where we left off. In fact, it took four
years and six quarterbacks before the Bolts landed Stan Humphries. Not only
that, but the Bolts recorded a less than stellar 22-42 record over that time.
Here is a list of starting QB’s over the four year stretch without a true field
Billie Joe Tolliver
Are you ready for a string of guys like that to take over the Chargers next
season? Okay, Malone and McMahon had decent careers. The problem was that their
careers had peaked before joining San Diego.
Think that was a fluke? Sorry. Let’s look at what happened when Humphries had to
hang up the old cleats. You guessed it! The Chargers went on a four year, eight
quarterback losing streak. Just a few short years after appearing in their first
Super Bowl, Humphries was gone and it was time to replace him. Again, shouldn’t
be a problem… WRONG!
Over the next seven years, the Chargers tallied an embarrassing 35-77 record.
They could not get out of their own way. Even receiving the second pick in the
draft didn’t help them find the answer. Here is the list of QB’s that tried to
get the Chargers train headed in the right direction:
Jim Harbaugh (yes, that Jim Harbaugh)
Ryan Leaf (yes, that Ryan Leaf)
I know what you are thinking. “Why did he add Brees to the list? He was a stud!”
Fair question. The answer that I will give you is that it took a couple of years
before Brees looked like he may be the answer. In fact, his first two seasons
were so unimpressive that the Chargers decided to draft a QB in the first round
of the 2004 draft! Eli Manning to the rescue! Oh wait, after further review, the
Chargers decide to trade Manning and in return they receive several players with
one Philip Rivers as the cornerstone of the trade.
Fortunately for Brees, Rivers holds out for the first few weeks of camp. By the
time he arrived, it was too late for him to learn the offense in time to start.
Brees would be the starting quarterback for the 2004 season. This result was not
considered to be a lock, or even probable, after the draft. One positive that
came out of Rivers’ decision to hold out was that Drew Brees played inspired
football that season. He played with a chip on his shoulder and led the team to
a 12-4 record. Now he was almost sure to start in 2005 as you can’t bench a QB
who just took you to the playoffs.
Well, the next season wasn’t as impressive and it ended with Brees getting
injured in the final game. Exit Brees and enter Philip Rivers. Ever since then,
it has been Rivers and Rivers alone. His body of work has not been the most
consistent, but he does not miss games and he wins more than he loses (88-56).
That is a lot more than most of his predecessors can say.
So, Charger fan, do you really want to start what history says will be a four to
seven year search for a quarterback and take your lumps until one pans out? Or,
do you agree with me that Rivers has a few years left in him and just needs to
protection and maybe a couple more weapons to get the ball too? Give me your
answer in the comment section below.
Thanks for the read and Go Chargers!
After returning a missed field goal to beat Alabama in the 2013 Iron Bowl, most people know who Chris Davis is. An incredible play, that led his team to a win over undefeated Alabama and helped push them closer to the Championship Game. It somewhat reminded me of another 5’10” athlete that won a game against a defending national champion on a historic play. (See: Doug Flutie Hail Mary)
Many people had concerns about Flutie and his height coming out of college even though he had won the Heisman. Davis and his measurables had scouts and GMs around the league concerned as well. The Seahawks have created a blueprint for the copycat league that is the NFL for having big corners. Combine Davis’ height with a 4.55 40 yard dash time at his Pro Day and his stock was dropping from the original 4th – 5th round grade.
After going undrafted, he signed as a free agent with a team that needed corner help after the failed Derek Cox experiment in San Diego. Then the Chargers signed Brandon Flowers. The path to an NFL roster spot got tougher again. That didn’t stop Davis from working hard and doing all he could to make an impression.
I watch the Chargers videos all throughout camp, both the top plays and daily recaps. Soon I started to notice #42. I’d see him breaking up passes and flashing good closing speed and say to myself, “was that #42 again?!”.
Then came the games. He was tried at punt returner, averaging 7.8 yards per return (he averaged 18.7 last year). He played defense with 6 tackles (he had 74 last year) 0.5 a sack and a couple pass breakups (he had 14 last year). The numbers weren’t off the charts, but what you saw on tape was a guy playing fast. I loved how they brought him off the corner in the preseason and that seemed to be a strength.
The question is whether or not he sticks and how much of a role he has on the team. That I don’t know, but he did change his number according to the Chargers today from 42 to 20. I would imagine a guy wouldn’t change his number if he wasn’t sticking around for a bit.
I’ll leave you with this…mostly because I love sports and science and this show is awesome. It’s an analysis of the game winning return for Davis against Alabama. Go Bolts and thanks for reading!
When questioning a group of Charger fans regarding who their favorite San Diego quarterback of all-time is you receive varied responses. Depending on which era you began watching the Bolts play, there are about 5 or 6 names that continually seem to pop up and dominate the conversation.
Below is a chart from footballdb.com.
|Billy Joe Tolliver||1989-1990||2||595||305||51.3||3,671||6.17||21||24||49||65.5|
Needless to say that the last four names are not going to be a part of the poll. I am going to throw in Jack Kemp for some of our more “seasoned” Charger fans. Despite not totaling 6,000 yards passing, Kemp did finish with a 22-6 record. Doug Flutie was one of my favorite quarterbacks but he didn’t really spend enough time as a starter to be in the running. John Friesz, Jim Harbaugh and Billy Joe Tolliver, well, they are just here to complete the list of the top-ten statistical signal callers.
Although Drew Brees has gone on to win a Super bowl, and have a fantastic career, with the New Orleans Saints, his time with the Chargers is a bit overrated. Some like to talk about the decision to move on from Brees to Philip Rivers was a huge mistake. Those that believed that only did so in hindsight. San Diego, Miami and New Orleans were the only teams interested in signing Brees. The shoulder injury he suffered in the last week of the regular season in a meaningless game made the decision a bit easier for the Bolts. Having Rivers waiting in the wings contributed to the ease of that decision as well.
Stan “The Man” Humphries is the only quarterback on this list to lead San Diego to a Super bowl. Many fans claim him as their favorite signal caller. Humphries was ultra-tough and he kind of seemed like of the fans. He didn’t exactly look like a great athlete. His leadership and toughness make him a fan favorite.
Though John Hadl’s days were before my time, I have the utmost respect for what he did while slinging the ball in the powder blues. As you can see from the chart above, he put up some very impressive numbers. My issue with Hadl is that he finished his career with more interceptions than touchdowns.
That brings us to my favorite, Philip Rivers. His time as a Charger has made him one of my favorite players of all-time, not just a favorite quarterback. Rivers has at least 4 more years to build on his impressive stats. Everyone remembers him playing through a torn ACL during the playoffs. His passer rating is higher than that of Dan Fouts; who we’ll get to in a moment. Philip has over twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. Despite consecutive seasons of poor numbers in 2011 and 2012, he has been a steady force since taking over the starting job in America’s finest city. Rivers will be getting my vote without a doubt.
Last, but not least, is Dan Fouts. The bearded-Hall of Famer was a part of one of the most prolific offenses of all-time. And like Rivers, he was incredibly tough. The stats that Fouts has under his belt earned him the nod to Canton. I already mentioned that Rivers will get my vote, but it was a terribly hard decision. Fouts finished with 254 touchdown passes and the former Oregon Duck never played for another NFL franchise other than the Chargers. He was the real deal.
Now its your turn. Place your vote on the poll below and then justify your choice by leaving a comment as well.
Thanks a lot for reading and voting.