In 2006, the then-San Diego Chargers let quarterback Drew Brees walk. Over a decade later, this moment still haunts Chargers fans. It’s the biggest “what if” moment in franchise history. And it turns out, they were warned.
Brees apparently made his feelings as clear as possible upon finding out the team was looking to draft a quarterback in 2004. Here’s how it all went down.
Did Drew Brees really tell the Chargers they made “the worst f***ing mistake”?
Yes. Yes, he did. In 2004, current Seahawks quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer was the Chargers’ offensive coordinator. The front office had already decided it was time to explore options beyond Brees at QB. This information was on a need-to-know basis.
When Brees ran into Schottenheimer in the team’s weight room, he asked the natural question any struggling QB might ask — especially after a season that started 0-5. “Hey, who are we gonna draft?“
Schottenheimer was cornered. He had deep respect for Brees despite the struggles, due to working so closely with the QB for three years. So he told him the truth: The Chargers would use their pick on a quarterback in order to hedge their bets on Brees.
Brees did not mince words. He told Schottenheimer that going with a QB pick would be “[…] the worst f—ing mistake this organization could ever make.”
This wasn’t some outburst driven purely by spite or emotions. Brees set out to prove the Chargers’ front office wrong. And he succeeded.
How Brees handled his remaining years with the Chargers
The Chargers drafted quarterback Philip Rivers over Brees’ objections. It was do-or-die time for the starter. Brees started slow, going 1-2 and earning a meeting with the Chargers’ front office over his lack of progress.
Week 4 is when things turned around. The game started off rough, with Brees taking several nasty hits. The sideline fretted over whether he would get a concussion if things continued on this path. And Rivers was told to start warming up.
That was 40 minutes before the end of the game. For the remaining time, Brees went on drive after successful drive. He threw three touchdown passes. The old Brees became the quarterback we know today in the course of a single game.
By the end of the season, Brees was dubbed NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He threw 27 touchdowns over just seven interceptions during the 2004 season.
Brees played one more strong season with the Chargers before a shoulder injury benched him. The team didn’t recognize what they had on their hands. With Rivers waiting in the wings, Brees took a better offer from the New Orleans Saints with little resistance.
The post-Brees Chargers: an era of moderate success
The Saints under Drew Brees have infamous moments but the worst have nothing to do with Brees. He brought the team a Super Bowl championship. He’s their guy. Despite being snubbed for the NFL Top 100 Quarterbacks list, he’s capable of all-time great levels of play. He even broke the record for completed touchdown passes.
Rivers and the Chargers haven’t seen similar highs. The team moved to Los Angeles and landed with a thud. Their own fans are regularly outnumbered by visiting-team supporters. Rivers is a great quarterback, but not one prone to setting career records.
Most importantly, the Rivers-led Chargers era hasn’t brought the organization a single Super Bowl ring. As crude as Brees’ message was worded, he wasn’t entirely wrong.
The Chargers didn’t become a disaster in his absence. But their lack of patience was not rewarded. Brees was the right choice at QB all along.
Follow more updates from Sportscasting on our Facebook page.