On Monday Night Football this week, Drew Brees became the NFL’s all-time passing leader by passing Peyton Manning and claiming the record as his own. He did it in true Brees fashion too, as he completed 26-of-29 throws for 363 yards and three touchdowns in a 43-19 victory over the Washington Redskins. Looking back now, the entire landscape of the NFL may have been vastly different had Brees not signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2006.
In his last ever game with the San Diego Chargers, Brees suffered an injury which was said to have been a one-in-500 freak event. He dislocated his shoulder through the bottom of the joint, endured a 360-degree tear of his labrum, and a 50 percent tear of his rotator cuff.
Many expected him to never be able to play at his top capacity ever again. The Chargers had drafted Philip Rivers, and it appeared as if Drew Brees’ career was potentially over, particularly as far as professional level football was concerned. It was obvious that his time in San Diego was over — but Brees was given another chance by the New Orleans Saints.
As reported by ESPN, Drew Brees signed a six-year deal for $60 million with the Saints back on March 15, 2006. That deal paved the way for two NFC Championship appearances, one Super Bowl victory, and a lot of records that now belong to the New Orleans Saints with Brees on the roster.
Had things shaken out differently, though, history and hindsight may both have have looked significantly different.
On that same day in March of 2006, the Miami Dolphins decided to stop waiting on lower contract demands from Drew Brees — and traded for Daunte Culpepper. They sent a second-round draft pick to the Minnesota Vikings and had landed their quarterback of the future.
Then-Dolphins coach Nick Saban and the contemporary franchise believed that Culpepper would recover better from a knee injury than Brees would from a shoulder injury. A little over one year later, the Dolphins released their chosen quarterback — and the Daunte Culpepper experiment in Miami was over.
It was obvious early on in his only season with the Dolphins that his mobility was truly hampered by his knee injury. In Brees’ first season with the Saints, by contrast, he passed for a then-career-high of 4,418 yards and 26 touchdowns.
At the end of the single season of Culpepper’s career in Miami, the Dolphins were also looking for a new head coach. The New York Times reported that Nick Saban had continuously said that he was not leaving the team. Then he quit the NFL and joined the Alabama Crimson Tide at the NCAA level of play.
Since he took over as the head coach of the Tide, five national championships have come to Alabama — and many more are likely to come. The thing is, would Saban have actually gone against his word — and left Miami — if Drew Brees had been his quarterback?
There have been a lot of other things that have taken place in the NFL and the NCAA over the last 12 years, and it’s hard to pin such drastic events on just one man. Had the Miami Dolphins just taken a chance on Drew Brees, though, it may have been them in the news right now — with the quarterback hugging Nick Saban instead of Sean Payton.
It’s hard to imagine how the league would look right now if:
- Drew Brees had signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2006.
- Daunte Culpepper had been traded to the New Orleans Saints in 2006.
- Nick Saban had stayed on as head coach of the Dolphins.
- Joe Kines had remained coach of Alabama after Mike Shula’s firing.
Looking at that list of possible changes to how things went back in 2006 and 2007, it’s simply anyone’s best guess as to how things may have shaken out. The New Orleans Saints have had six winning seasons since Drew Brees arrived — while the Miami Dolphins have had two. Daunte Culpepper has long been out of the league. Nick Saban left the NFL to bring Alabama into the highest level of college football.
Meanwhile, Drew Brees is continuing to get better with age. He is breaking records, and seems to be very happy exactly where he was meant to be — New Orleans.