Setting the Stage
Drew Brees was a three sport athlete at Westlake high school in Austin, Texas, playing baseball, basketball and football. Although he had an ACL tear as a junior, his team won 28 games with him as the starting quarterback. He completed 64% of his passes, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. Possibly due to his junior year knee injury or maybe his lack of height, he was not highly recruited and only received offers only from Kentucky and Purdue.
He played very little as a Purdue freshman, but took over in his sophomore season. In his final three years, he started 37 games, completed 61.6% of his passes for 11,560 yards and 90 touchdowns. He also ran for 891 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished 4th as a junior and 3rd as a senior in the Heisman Trophy voting. Even with his outstanding college production, he fell out of the first round and was drafted at #32 overall in 2001 by the San Diego Chargers. He was the second quarterback selected behind only Michael Vick who was taken #1 overall by the Falcons.
He played in only one game as a rookie, but became the Chargers starting quarterback in 2002 winning the job in pre-season over Doug Flutie. He lost the starter’s role briefly to Flutie the next year, but again earned it back. Then in 2004, the Chargers acquired Philip Rivers during the draft and Brees’ job was in serious jeopardy. However, Rivers missed a lot of camp while in contract negotiations and Brees won the job in pre-season. Brees then completed a career high 65.5% of his passes for 3,159 yards (7.90 ypa) and 27 touchdowns. He led the Chargers to win the AFC West and was named to the Pro Bowl and NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Since Brees was a free agent, everyone expected him to leave, but the Chargers declared him a franchise player and no team was willing to give up draft picks to sign him. Surprisingly, Brees again held off Rivers in 2005 and had another outstanding season. The year ended badly for Brees in the Chargers’ final game as he suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder by aggressively trying to recover his own fumble. His display of team first attitude immediately before he was set to enter free agency was quite different than what we saw in last year’s Super Bowl from Cam Newton.