(article premise suggested by PFM reader “Jaigunda”)
As the 2013 NFL playoffs begin, the Miami Dolphins, aiming for their 3rd straight Super Bowl championship, sure are glad they gave quarterback Drew Brees a second chance at that physical back in 2006, sources close to the team confirmed Friday.
“Whew. To think we almost let one of the greatest QBs ever to play the game slip through our fingers,” said Dolphin coach Nick Saban, now in his 8th season. “I don’t want to think where this team would’ve been without old number nine in that huddle.”
Brees, an unrestricted free agent in 2006 after his rookie contract with the San Diego Chargers expired, almost left Miami without a contract after his initial visit with the team. A still-healing shoulder injury caused Brees to fail his first physical, and concern that he might never play at a high level again caused the Dolphins to hesitate on signing the signal caller.
“Yeah, he’d already left the team’s headquarters, and was heading to the airport to visit some other team. The Saints maybe? I can’t recall for sure. But thankfully, we came to our senses and got him on the phone before he got to his plane. We told him a talent like his was too rare to let get away, shoulder fear or not. Then we upped our offer to him, to show him our confidence, and he was signed within the hour. He passed the second physical we gave him with flying colors, and the rest is championship history”
With Brees safely on the roster, the Dolphins became an attractive option for other high quality free agents such as Jonathan Vilma, Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans and Darren Sproles, all of whom have helped keep Miami at the top of the league’s standings year after year.
“You know, I’ve actually had other job offers since I’ve been here,” continued Saban. “I’m not at liberty to reveal from whom, but let’s just say that I’m glad the ‘tide’ never rolled me away from Miami, if you know what I’m saying. With a QB like Drew, a team of red elephants couldn’t drag me away from this squad.”
As the Dolphins’ have piled up the wins, other AFC East teams have been left in their dust. Both the Bills and Jets have shuffled through a steady stream of head coaches in unsuccessful attempts to challenge Miami’s supremacy. Even three-time Super Bowl champ Bill Belichick has not been immune to the Brees ripple effect, as the former Patriot coach, now in his third season as Oakland’s defensive coordinator, was fired by New England in 2009 for failing to solve Bree’s high powered offensive juggernaut.
“It’s been a joy to watch Drew eclipse some of my records,” marveled former Miami great Dan Marino. “Honestly, it would’ve killed me to have seen him break those marks in any other uniform. But knowing that he’s wearing Dolphin colors while he’s rewriting the record books, and bringing home those Lombardi trophies just does my heart good.”
After placing second in the Drew Brees sweepstakes, the New Orleans Saints meanwhile have continued a decades-long losing streak into the 2010′s.
Needing a QB for the 2006 season, the team signed journeyman Daunte Culpepper, an experiment that lasted just one season. The list of other quarterbacks who have failed to succeed in New Orleans includes David Gerrard, Billy Volek, Jeff Garcia, and of course Brett Favre, who came out of retirement to lead the team in 2010, and who was having a magnificent season until the infamous “Bounty” game in December, when Vikings DE Jared Allen ended Favre’s season (and career) with a vicious cheap shot that was the result of Minnesota defensive coordinator’s Gregg Williams’ “pay-for-injury” program that later resulted in heavy sanctions for the entire Vikings franchise.
While New Orleans has continued to be a laughing stock, some observers have suggested that the team’s fortunes might have been drastically different had the push to land Brees been successful.
“Yeah, I had just taken that job back in ’06,” said former Saints head coach Sean Payton, now in his third season with Dallas. “I really pushed hard to get Drew, but unfortunately the Dolphins insisted on that second physical, and we never got a chance to sign him. I’d like to think we might have done great things together if it had worked out.”
Instead, Payton has spent the past three seasons working with Cowboys QB Tony Romo who, despite putting up gaudy statistics in Payton’s QB-friendly offense,has continued to make crucial mistakes at the worst possible time, and some have suggested that Romo might simply have an inescapable destiny as a big-game “choker.”