Quarterback Rumors Blow like The Brees

As rumors concerning the San Diego Chargers interest in trading for Jaguars' quarterback Mark Brunell continue to swirl, Chargers fans have entered a state of delirium concerning who will quarterback their team in 2004. Some believe a steady veteran at such a key position is worth the number thirty five pick in the upcoming draft. Others believe a rookie such as Ben Roethlisberger or more likely Eli Manning should be anointed as the Chargers' franchise quarterback.

However, there is one option that seems to have been lost in the fray.

What about Drew Brees?

What about the young passer three seasons into his development that has been given nothing but a lackluster supporting cast and a short-sighted coach to aid his development.

This is the same man who re-wrote the Big Ten record books while at Purdue. He also led the Chargers to three overtime wins and an amazing fourth quarter comeback victory during his first year as the starter. Then came last year, and the struggles began.

Many young quarterbacks struggle as they continue to gain experience early in their NFL careers, so chalk some of Brees' struggles up to that factor. Then consider how he was forced to sit and watch as Toniu Fonoti, Vaughn Parker, Bob Hallen and Courtney Van Buren all ended up on injured reserve, and were joined on the sidelines by the often injured Damion McIntosh, Solomon Page and Jason Ball. Not to mention he had only one playmaker at wide receiver, David Boston, and he too missed two games and played through heel and neck injuries in several others.

So maybe Brees' regression was not so unexplainable.

The Chargers drafted Drew Brees to be their quarterback of the future, and he has done nothing to prove that he is not capable of such a responsibility. If you negate the interceptions that were bounced into the air by his own receiver's hands, Brees would have gone a second consecutive season with more touchdown passes than interceptions. He again showed his cool under pressure, and he continues to run the two minute offense as well as, if not better than, any quarterback in the league could do while working with his supporting cast.

However, Brees does have his faults. He has had a difficult time converting on third down during obvious passing situations, and has a difficult time throwing over the middle of the field due to his unspectacular height. These flaws can be easily worked around.

The development of Antonio Gates along with the return to health of slot receiver Eric Parker will give Brees a couple of dynamic and sure handed weapons on third down that he did not have to work with for much of next season. And better utilizing the elite skills of David Boston should keep Brees from having to throw over the middle too frequently.

Assuming the Chargers draft tackle Robert Gallery as they should, and assuming Toniu Fonoti returns in shape and continues to develop, Brees should have more time in the pocket this season than he did last. That will allow David Boston to utilize double moves downfield and open up the deep passing game. This in turn will loosen up opponents' press coverage, and let Boston run slants outside the hash marks which will allow him to use his size and strength to dominate, as well as provide Brees with an outside outlet. This, along with LaDainian Tomlinson's continued development as a receiver, will give Brees many more options this season when throwing outside where he is most comfortable.

The Chargers should not trade for Mark Brunell because they do not need Mark Brunell. They need to have faith in Drew Brees, and focus their off-season attentions on fixing their porous defense so that Drew and the offense do not go into the second quarter of games having to make up twenty one points on the scoreboard.

Drew Brees had obvious problems last season. Some were personnel related, other injury related, still other due to bad scheme or unfortunate circumstance. The good news, however, is that all of his problems are fixable.

If the Chargers want to win this season and have a quarterback the franchise can lean on in the future, they need to do what the can to fix these problems, then get out of the man's way and let him do his thing.

A veteran will surely be brought in because of what happened last season. But instead of someone like Mark Brunell coming in to take Brees' job, it should be a player like Jeff Blake who can tutor Brees, and play at a high level if pressed into duty. The Chargers must challenge Brees to succeed, not doom him to fail for lack of an opportunity. The only way the Chargers can answer their quarterback question this off-season, is to be smart enough not to ask it.

Note: Coincidentally, Redskins contract specialist Eric Schaffer met with Brunell's agent, Leigh Steinberg, in LA on Tuesday.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at BenLeber51@yahoo.com

SD Super Chargers Top Stories