It's going to be asked every single time the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints face off, and it's a story line that will not go away. In 2006, the Dolphins seemed to have their choice of potential franchise quarterbacks, both of whom were coming off of injury. The team passed on Drew Brees, who would sign with the Saints, because of his shoulder, instead choosing to trade for Daunte Culpepper, who was coming off a major knee injury to hiw ACL, PCL, and MCL, and would, ultimately, never again be the electrifying quarterback he was in his early years with the Minnesota Vikings.
Then Dolphins head coach Nick Saban has said the Miami doctors felt Brees' shoulder injury was too severe, and he would never be able to throw the ball as well as Culpepper would. The Dolphins sent a second round draft pick to the Vikings for Culpepper, who, a year later, would be released by the Dolphins.
Meanwhile, Brees has been to six Pro Bowls, a First Team All Pro selection, won a Super Bowl, and set the single season passing yardage record at 5,476, breaking Dan Marino's record. Since moving from the San Diego Chargers to the Saints, Brees has led the league in passing yards four time, three of those over 5,000 yards, three times in completion percentage, four times in touchdown passes, and once in passer rating. His lowest passer rating since his arrival in New Orleans is 89.4 in 2007.
Yeah, Miami made the wrong choice.
Now, seven years later, it's still a topic of discussion whenever Brees is going up against the team that could have signed him. Asked during his conference call with the South Florida media this week about that 2006 saga, Brees explained:
"I do believe I was their first choice but at the end of the day I felt like New Orleans was the best fit for me, for a lot of reasons, not just football.
" I know that they ran me through a whole round of physicals, evaluations and all kinds of stuff when I was there, which was not a good experience obviously, but I understood they were going to put a big investment in me so they wanted to make sure. I do remember [Coach Saban] saying that their doctors felt like I had a 25% chance of coming back and playing, so if you're going off of those statistics you make the decision based upon that."
Asked what he remembered from the pursuit of Brees back in 2006, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton explained:
"I do recall two teams that had interest, us and Miami. His visit started with us that weekend and then from here he went directly to Miami and then it was a matter of hoping that you put your best foot forward. The challenge for us at that time was a new staff, a lot of people that maybe he was unfamiliar with and you're selling a program much like a construction plan, without the building necessarily in place but he's a pretty sharp guy and we felt the thing we had to do was "A" put our best foot forward and kind of go through the offense and how we envisioned it.
"It was post (Hurricane) Katrina so there were a lot of challenges at the time, and not skirt those issues but just be very upfront about them. I think obviously with the injury that he had there was concern about the recovery. The feeling that we had was knowing the athlete and knowing how competitive he was, if there was a player that could recover from this injury it would be someone like Drew."
Seven years after that decision, the Dolphins finally seem to have found the quarterback that solidifies the position for the first time since Marino's retirement, a job that Brees could have done back in 2006. Payton spoke about the Dolphins' second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill as well:
"He's certainly confident, you can just see that. Just the last game in the two minute drill, he understands his progressions, his fundamentals, his accuracy has been outstanding. Most importantly, that position, the key is to lead their team to wins and give them a chance and you can see him do that. Certainly the players around the quarterback matter, they're playing very well upfront, the receivers, tight ends, running backs are players that have very good ball skills. Of course they've got speed, a guy like Mike Wallace comes in in the offseason, and he's a serious deep threat that can stretch the field and you've got a lot of different targets that make it challenging to defend."
Does Brees see Monday night's game against the Dolphins as another chance to prove the franchise that passed on him wrong? A few years ago, maybe, but not anymore, according to the quarterback;
"Here's the thing, we can sit back and kind of chuckle about it now but there's no hard feelings, everything happened the way it was supposed to. I don't think about it for a second, I really don't.
"Obviously Coach Saban has gone on and probably wouldn't trade his career path for anything either. I don't think about it for a second, but it was just kind of one of those experiences that maybe not a lot of people get to experience, the whole free agency process, especially coming off an injury and kind of all the things that that entailed. "
The Saints host the Dolphins Monday Night, with kickoff at 8:25pm ET.
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