Thursday, June 20, 2019

Super Bowl LIV: Brees Has Bone to Pick With Chargers

By Anthony Brancato

The 2019 NFL season preview magazines are out — and one of the "Big Three," Lindy's (the other two being Street & Smith's and Athlon) is going with a Saints/Chargers matchup in Super Bowl LIV, with the Saints winning.

If that's what we're headed for, then Drew Brees, who was selected by the Chargers with the first pick in the second round of the 2001 draft, 32nd overall (the NFL had 31 teams in 2000, a season in which the Chargers had the league's worst record, 1-15) will have the chance to revenge himself against the Chargers front office for discarding him after five seasons in which he completed 1,156 passes in 1,851 attempts for 12,667 yards, 82 touchdowns, and 54 interceptions for an 85.3 passer rating (which is more like 95.3 by today's standards), and went 30-29 as a starter, including leading the team to their first AFC West title in a decade, in 2004.

But this did not prevent the Chargers from having future plans at the quarterback position that did not include Drew Brees: in the 2004 draft, they selected Eli Manning with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, in which the Chargers were the first four-win team (from the previous season) ever to land the No. 1 pick. They did this despite the fact that Eli Manning, on the advice of his father, Archie Manning, who went 35-101-3 as a starter, "pulled a John Elway" and kvetched that he wouldn't play for the Chargers. Three picks later, the Giants drafted Philip Rivers — and the Chargers bowed the knee, acquiring Rivers plus two draft picks who turned out to be linebacker Shawne Merriman and kicker Nate Kaeding, in exchange for Eli Manning.

One year later, the other shoe dropped, and Brees departed for New Orleans after receiving a perfunctory, lowball, and quite frankly, insulting offer to remain with the Chargers, which called for a $2 million base salary in 2006 plus "performance incentives" that the Chargers had no intention of giving him a fair chance of meeting, because they were already committed to starting Rivers.

As a Saint, Brees is 5,838 out of 8,547 for 66,529 yards, with 471 touchdowns and 190 interceptions, which comes out to passer rating of 100.5, and is 133-86 as a starter.

But in order for both teams to keep their appointment at the Pigeon-Toed Orange Bowl, so referred to as to distinguish it from the original Orange Bowl, which was demolished last year — and knowing Chris Berman they way I do, he would undoubtably call its replacement the Pigeon-Toed Orange Bowl after the Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel featured in the 1968 Clint Eastwood movie "Coogan's Bluff" — each team has at least one formidable obstacle to overcome: in the Chargers' case, the Patriots and Tom Brady, who is 30-10 in the postseason, compared with Rivers' 5-6 playoff record that includes taking the collar in three postseason games against Brady head-to-head; and in the Saints' case, the Eagles, who brought DeSean Jackson back home and also obtained Jordan Howard, a multiple thousand-yard rusher, both for next to nothing.

There's nothing like a grudge match — or at least something that the media vultures can twist into a grudge match — on the world's greatest stage. And Brees has always had a bad case of "small man syndrome" — blaming his being only six-feet tall and the "lack of arm strength" that stereotypically goes with it for why he wasn't drafted in the first round the year he came out of Purdue in 2001, and then for why the Chargers felt they needed to replace him five years later.

Hopefully the Eagles can swoop in and spare us this lame story line.

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