Did the Chargers Make a Mistake Letting Brees Go?

Drew Brees was let go following a major throwing shoulder injury by the San Diego Chargers and that paved the way for the Saints to sign him. At the time it made sense because they had in Philip Rivers one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the league, while Drew Brees was damaged goods. Since then, Brees has gone on to win a Super Bowl, throw for the 2nd most yards in NFL history and become an icon/spokesperson for the league. Rivers hasn't been a pushover either by any means. While it's fair to say Brees has had more success, who knows if he would have been as good in San Diego? Would the Chargers have won a Super Bowl with Brees instead of Rivers? As well as Rivers has played, that seems debatable. Let's look at the numbers of each player since Brees left.

Brees 3,013 2,020 22,918 67.0% 155 79 7.61 yds 32 95.86
Rivers 2,425 1,547 19,513 63.8% 135 57 8.05 yds 25 97.53

Amazingly, Rivers' QB rating is actually a bit higher than Brees' in that 5 year span since Brees has been gone from San Diego. I bet most of us wouldn't have expected that. While Brees has more yards and touchdowns, that's a function of having a much higher number of attempts. That also explains why Brees has more fumbles and interceptions. And while Rivers has more yards per pass, that's at the price of having a lower completion percentage. Point is, while Brees is more decorated and a bigger household name, mostly thanks to his 5000 yard passing season and his Super Bowl victory, Rivers has been every bit as good. In fact, Rivers' TD% per pass is higher than Brees' and his INT% per pass is lower than Brees'. I'm not convinced the Chargers made a bad decision. That's not to put down Brees in any way. He won a Super Bowl leading my favorite team and he's been a superstar player for us, the best quarterback in team history. I love the guy, don't get me wrong. But to say he's a much better quarterback than Rivers at this point is overstating. At best, I think Brees is slightly better. At worst, they're about even. Either way, the Chargers can't really be blamed for the move that they made considering how well Rivers has done. 

Since 2006, the Saints are 49-31 and the Chargers are 55-25 in the regular season, which also means Rivers has won 6 more games during that span than Brees. If you factor in playoff records, Brees is 4-2 while Rivers is 3-4. You could argue that Brees is perhaps a bit more clutch, but again the difference is pretty minimal. Ultimately the one big difference is one Super Bowl win, and while that's admittedly a big one, Trent Dilfer also has one Super Bowl win and I don't think anyone would argue Rivers is a better quarterback.

I'm not saying Rivers is a better quarterback than Brees, but I think it's close. If I had to pick, I would want Brees as my quarterback because of his leadership skills and attitude. Rivers is a jerk. But I do think the Chargers made a good decision based on a couple of things:

1. At the time Brees was a free agent, Rivers had a huge contract, and re-signing Brees would have made 2 guys playing the same position the highest paid players on the team

2. Brees was coming off an injury to the most important body part - his throwing shoulder.

When you fast forward to now, while Brees went on to put up Hall of Fame type stats, Rivers has put up comparable numbers. I don't think Charger fans can live with too many regrets, especially since Rivers is still in his prime and the Chargers are still a dangerous team capable of a postseason run. I don't think they downgraded much at the quarterback position at all when they decided not to retain Brees. They lost in the character department maybe, but not in on field production.

Do you think the Chargers made the right decision to allow Brees to leave and turn the keys over the Philip Rivers? I do.

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