Unless you have read Drew Brees' book Coming Back Stronger (I highly recommend it), you might not realize how close he was to joining the Miami Dolphins. In fact, between Drew and his agent Tom Condon, it was nearly a foregone conclusion. Everyone knows two teams, the Saints and the Dolphins, were courting him at the same time after he left the San Diego Chargers. The real details of how the stars aligned for the New Orleans Saints, however, remain a mystery to some of Who Dat Nation.
In 2006, the Chargers had Phillip Rivers under contract and appeared to be moving on without Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, mostly due to the devastating shoulder injury he had suffered in the last game of the 2005 season against the Denver Broncos.
They offered a five-year, $50 million dollar contract that included $2 million in base salary for the first year, but was heavily based on performance incentives. Brees decided this was an offer that showed no confidence in him and so decided to move on. Only two serious suitors appeared to be interested in Brees; the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints.
The competition between the two teams was somewhat of a David (the Saints) and Goliath (Dolphins) situation. The Dolphins appeared to be relatively stable. They had very good coaches and players in place, a city in the middle of paradise, and considered to be close to making a run for the Super Bowl. Nick Saban was behind the clipboard for the team and liked what he saw in Drew Brees. The Dolphins also had their sights set on Daunte Culpepper if their run at Brees failed to work out.
The New Orleans Saints, on the other hand, were anything but stable. They had just suffered one of the worst natural disasters in U.S history in Hurricane Katrina, they had a brand new coach in Sean Payton, and suffered years of mediocrity. 2006 would be their return to New Orleans after playing away due to the damage of the Superdome and coming off a disastrous 3-13 record in 2005.
Drew Brees and his agent, Tom Condon, both knew the likely decision would be the Miami Dolphins. Brees had made commitments to visit both teams and he did so starting with New Orleans, along with his wife, Brittany. In his book, Brees spoke of that visit and meeting team owner Tom Benson, general manager Mickey Loomis, and head coach Sean Payton.
At the facility, Coach Payton sat with Brees for more than two hours, watching film, going over plays to install that would give Brees the best chance, and getting his input on helping the Saints win football games. There was no physical and no talk of the shoulder injury. It was clear that the Saints wanted Drew Brees as their next quarterback and they believed in him.
Later, Brees wrote that he and Brittany were driven around New Orleans by Sean Payton. They drove past neighborhoods that would likely be the best places to buy a home. In the process, Drew and Brittany witnessed firsthand the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. Houses off their foundations, boats and cars in yards and businesses still boarded up as if the storm had happened a week ago. Those were images Brees still remembers to this day.
During his visit to the Dolphins, Brees had a completely different experience. On arrival that evening, Drew and the coaches talked football and philosophies of the game. It seemed very similar to his visit to New Orleans. The next day, however, the difference between the organizations began to manifest.
He took a physical at the facility in Miami where he was prodded and twisted in nearly every direction, tested for hours on arm strength and movement, and questioned by team doctors. The majority of the visit was dedicated to the healing shoulder as every x-ray and MRI was examined at length. No contract was spoken of, no offer was made before he and Brittany left. Drew writes that he felt as if it were his responsibility to convince the dolphins he was the right quarterback for the job instead of the team attempting to convince the couple that they wanted him. He described it as very formal and uncomfortable. He could not shake the feeling that Miami doubted him.
Drew and Brittany Brees had been thoroughly impressed with New Orleans despite the destruction and thoroughly disappointed in how things went with Miami. As obvious as the choice had been just a few days before, it was completely muddied now. And as with all past decisions the couple had made, they left it to God to lead them in the right direction.
Drew suggests in his book the title Coming Back Stronger isn't just about him. It's also about New Orleans and the fight to come back after Katrina, as well as his fight to come back from a devastating shoulder injury. New Orleans was calling the Brees'. They needed each other to rebuild.
Soon after both visits, Brees spoke with Nick Saban and felt the runaround he received had sealed the deal. Team doctors did not like what they saw in Brees' shoulder and gave him a 25% chance of coming back. Brees promptly informed Saban he was going to sign with the Saints, taking away any leverage the Dolphins had with Culpepper.
The rest of the story is obvious. NFC South Champions in 2006, 2009, and 2011. Super Bowl XLIV Champions over the Indianapolis Colts in 2009. Drew Brees has broken nearly every quarterback record in the stat books and has been to seven Pro Bowls in his career. The small statured slinger with the weak arm has become one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Either Miami or New Orleans was going to end up with Drew Brees. The writing is now on the wall after the choices both teams made.
If history is any indication, it is evident that the rebuilding of both New Orleans and Drew Brees were highly successful. While the second half of Drew Brees' career is yet to be written, it is sure to be eventful and, as Who Dat Nation hopes, could involve more Super Bowl titles.
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