Brees has job but how long?


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Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

PITTSBURGH - Right now, there’s no quarterback controversy in San Diego. But a major conflict is brewing.

Philip Rivers, picked seven spots ahead of Ben Roethlisberger in the 2004 NFL Draft, wants to start next year, either with the Chargers or elsewhere.

But Drew Brees, the Bolts’ record-setter from a year ago, plans on keeping his starting job for a fifth straight season.

“We’re in an ideal situation,” claims coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose Chargers (2-2) host the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) on Monday night.

“From our point of view, we have an ideal circumstance. We have a young man in Drew Brees who’s made considerable progress and behind him, Philip Rivers, whom we hold in extremely high regard. Fortunately, I think we’re in position where we can afford both of them.”

Kudos to the Chargers if they can find a way to keep both Brees and Rivers.

Brees, San Diego’s second-round pick in 2002, was tagged as a franchise player this season and is being paid $9 million. But he’s looking for a long-term deal once this season is over. Rivers signed a six-year, $40.5 million contract last year that included a $14.5 million signing bonus.

But unlike Eli Manning, the New York Giants’ QB who was drafted first overall, and Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ phenom taken 11th overall, Rivers hardly played as a rookie (he saw mop-up duty in only two games). And he hasn’t played a down yet this season.

While Rivers missed most of training camp last year over a contract dispute, Brees kept his starting job and starred as the Chargers won the AFC West Division at 12-4.

“No, I don’t believe things would have been different (if Rivers reported on time),” said Brees, a former Purdue star. “I never visualized myself as anything other than the starting quarterback and leader of this team.

“Honestly, I planned on 2004 being the way it was even if Philip Rivers was here or not. There wasn’t any extra motivation. I knew I was going to have to compete for my job, whether it was with Philip or with a free agent. In my mind, I didn’t compete against Philip Rivers. I competed against myself. It didn’t matter who was there. I knew that if I was able to continue to get better, then things would work out.”

Things worked out wonderfully for Brees. By throwing 27 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions, he became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for 20 or more TDs and less than 10 interceptions in the same seasons. He set a team record and tied for third in the NFL with a 104.8 passer rating. No other QB in franchise history - not John Hadl nor Dan Fouts - had enjoyed a better season statistically.

And when the season was over, Brees got to play in the Pro Bowl. The only other Charger QBs to ever earn Pro Bowl honors were Hadl and Fouts.

For his performance, Brees was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Obviously, he rebounded from a brutal 2003 season in which he was benched for a five-game stretch. Two years ago when the Chargers tied for last in the AFC West at 4-12, Brees threw only 11 TD passes but 15 interceptions. His passer rating was a lowly 67.5.

One of his low points that season came on a cold and windy Dec. 21 game in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers routed the Chargers that day, 40-24, and in the second half at Heinz Field, Brees and Schottenheimer got into a shouting match after the coach yanked his struggling quarterback.

“That was one of the lower points,” Brees said. “It’s disappointing that Marty and I got into it on the sideline. That’s just because I didn’t want to get pulled out of the game. He came over and told me I’m out. I wanted to know why. I disagreed with why he was doing it.

“I look back at that now and laugh. It’s something you have to go through at times to develop as a player, person and a competitor.”

Brees’ development seems to be furthering this season. He’s completed 68.3 percent of his passes and ranks fourth in the NFL with a 99.2 passer rating. Ahead of him are Roethlisberger (131.8), Cincinnati’s Chris Palmer (112.2) and Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb (100.6).

Right behind Brees is Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts (97.8).

As a senior at Purdue, former Dallas Cowboys general manager Gil Brandt compared Brees favorably with Peyton Manning.

“When I see Drew Brees, I see Peyton Manning,” Brandt said. “He’s extremely talented with excellent character and outstanding football skills. There is no doubt he will be a successful NFL quarterback.”

But with Rivers biding his time, Brees can only wonder if he’ll still be playing quarterback for San Diego next year.

X’s and O’s - The only Steeler who didn’t practice Thursday was wide receiver Hines Ward, who’s still listed as questionable with a hamstring pull. Ward suffered the injury in the Sept. 25 loss to the New England Patriots and hasn’t practiced since … Linebacker Joey Porter (knee) and cornerback Ike Taylor (knee) were upgraded from questionable to probable and will start against the Chargers … The Steelers will practice today from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and then have a light workout Saturday evening. They’ll fly to San Diego at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.