I’m a Chargers supporter. It began in 2001, coincidentally, the year Drew Brees was drafted by the team.
It started in the spring of 2001, when Doug Flutie signed in SoCal after some time with the Buffalo Bills organization. Being 14, and not knowing much about the National Football League, it was easier for me to follow a player that used to play in, and dominate the CFL. Very quickly, I fell in love with the intensity that Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison brought on the defensive side of the ball(I would play “Quarterback Club ’98” on Nintento 64 and hunt with #55), and the electrifying rookie Running-back, LaDainian Tomlinson. There was one player I did not like, and that was Drew Brees. I was a Flutie guy, and I didn’t want to see this rookie from Purdue take away his playing time. His first 3 years in the league were not good. He threw 29 touchdowns, and 31 interceptions. His completion percentage was in the high 50’s, and most importantly, the team wasn’t winning. In the two years where he was the starter, the club finished 8-8, and then 4-12. That record in 2003, led them to the first overall pick in the 2004 draft, where we all assumed the team would likely be drafting Eli Manning out of Ole Miss.
As a Charger fan, I was thrilled. The Chargers had the #1 Overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. The pick was a no-brainer. You take Peyton’s little brother, Eli, and the rings will come. That was until his father, Archie, announced to the world that Eli Manning would not play for the San Diego Chargers franchise. To this day, we don’t know the exact reason, but for Eli, it worked out well. The Chargers would select Manning, and then trade him to the Giants for their 4th Overall pick, Philip Rivers from UNC. Rivers was not Manning, but the writing was on the wall. Drew Brees was no longer the Quarterback of the future in San Diego.
Times were different in 2004 in the NFL. Rookie hold outs were very common, and rookie players were getting huge deals, and that was the case for Philip Rivers. He signed his 6 year deal, worth 40 million dollars. This was quite possibly the best thing that could have happened for Drew Brees. As the only option at camp, Brees developed chemistry with with some Basketball player from Kent State, and never looked back. He would throw 27 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions, earn his first ever Pro Bowl selection, win the Comeback player of the Year award, and get the Chargers back into the Playoffs for the first time since 1995. Heading into the 2005 season, while playing under the franchise tag, he was the undisputed starter at Quarterback and continued his strong play, completing 65% of his passes and throwing another 24 touchdown passes. That all changed week 17 against the Denver Broncos, while jumping for a lose ball, Brees was hit by Defensive Tackle Gerard Warren, tearing his right labrum in his shoulder and forcing the Chargers to make a decision going forward.
After the 2005 season, the San Diego Chargers offered Brees a 5 year deal worth 50 Million dollars, but it only paid Brees 2 Million dollars in the first season, with the rest heavily relying on performance based incentives. As you would expect, The Brees camp wasn’t thrilled by the offer and decided to move on to free agency. It was wildly speculated that Brees would be taking his talents to Miami, and join NCAA phenom, Coach Nick Saban, but after a failed physical, the Phins decided to go with Former Vikings Quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Ask any Dolphins fan, and they’ll tell you about what could’ve been. All this lead to Drew Brees signing with the New Orleans Saints, where his impact was not only felt on the field, but off as well.
From August 23rd-31st 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the United States, Canada, Cuba, and the Bahamas, taking 1,833 lives and causing 125 Billion dollars worth of damages. The city of New Orleans was destroyed, leaving the citizens looking for a distraction. Something to make life feel normal again, and the 2006 New Orleans Saints were exactly that. Lead by Brees, the team went 10-6 and won the NFC South. They went to the NFC Championship game, where they eventually lost to the Chicago Bears. The combination of Drew Brees, and rookie head coach Sean Payton was magic. The two would change the identity of the Saints, and in the process, turn them into one of the most dangerous passing attacks in NFL History. In 2009, Brees would lead the Saints to a 13-3 record and the Saints first ever Super Bowl title, and proving himself as one of the best to ever play the Quarterback position.
Despite not playing for the team I support anymore, Brees has always been someone I have respected, and followed throughout his career. He went from someone I counted out, and thought would never be a starting Quarterback in the league, to someone who is without a doubt one of the greatest Quarterbacks of all time. His resume is amazing:
Super Bowl champion (XLIV)
Super Bowl MVP (XLIV)
11× Pro Bowl (2004, 2006, 2008–2014, 2016, 2017)
3× First-team All-Pro (2006, 2008, 2009)
Second-team All-Pro (2011)
2× NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2008, 2011)
Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (2010)
Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year (2010)
Bert Bell Award (2009)
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (2006)
NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2004)
7× NFL passing yards leader (2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014–2016)
4× NFL passing touchdowns leader (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012)
NFL passer rating leader (2009)
Add NFL Career Passing Yards leader to that list, and five years after he decides to hang them up, we’ll add Hall of Famer. Congratulations, Drew. You earned it.