Brees: Too Many Obstacles

It wasn't supposed to be this way. A record setting quarterback from Purdue was supposed to solve the San Diego Chargers' quarterback issues for at least a decade. After all, he's the anti- Leaf, right? He's short, but intelligent. He lacks a gun for an arm, but he has character. So why are AJ Smith and Marty Schottenheimer, both knowledgeable football men, looking for a new captain to right the Charger ship?

The recent Super Bowl proved a couple things to us: In today's NFL, to have any chance- you need a great defense and you need a good quarterback. Not just a good quarterback, but a good quarterback who can make great plays when called upon. Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme are good quarterbacks who made great plays on the biggest stage of all. Brady, one can argue, is on the verge of greatness, and the valiant performance of Delhomme earned him major respect amongst those in NFL circles. A type of respect that Drew Brees has failed to earn during his three years in the NFL.

The writing is on the wall. Marcellus Wiley told us, Marty Schottenheimer's actions proved it, and now AJ Smith is all but spelling it out for us. The question is not IF the Chargers are looking to replace Drew Brees, the question is WHY the Chargers are looking to replace Drew Brees.

The Chargers selected Brees with the top pick in the 2nd round (2001), hoping his positive qualities would outweigh his negative ones; after all, it worked in college. His abundant traits like character, intelligence, experience, and hard working were supposed to be enough to overcome his deficient traits like: arm-strength, height, accuracy, and mobility. Welcome to the NFL, a league where tangibles do matter.

Height- Some argue that it doesn't matter how tall you are. They say Drew Brees is the same height as Michael Vick, or Montana was only 6'2, blah, blah, blah....Vick has a gun for an arm, better accuracy than Brees, and he's probably faster than LaDainian Tomlinson, while Montana could thread the needle with the best of them. Don't forget that lack of height limits field vision; why else does Doug Flutie flee from the pocket seemingly every play? How many quarterbacks under 6'1 are successful in the NFL?

Arm-strength- Brees' arm strength is a concern; this has been confirmed by league insiders, although it is blatantly obvious anyway. He got by in college, but in the NFL the margin for error is magnified ten fold. Arm-strength may be over rated, but I doubt David Boston feels that way. If you can show me five passes that Brees has "stuck" through tight coverage in the NFL, I'll buy you a Marty Schottenheimer bobble- head doll.

Accuracy- This is the big one. The one that could stale mate the others. Brees has struggled in this area, particularly the mid- to deep-range throws. Even some simple short-passes are missed badly. The word is that Brees' accuracy concerns date back to his senior year at Purdue, and were further emphasized at the combines. Teams like the Dolphins passed on Brees in the first round for a reason.

Mobility- Brees is judged a bit harshly in this area, he's not a statue. He can be quick in the short area, but he isn't considered mobile. To put this in perspective, think of Brees taking off up-field.......Now think of Flutie taking off up-field. Big difference.

Brees might be a winning quarterback in the NFL. He already has the best running back in the league. If he had a better offensive line, a defense, and better receivers he could excel. Make everything perfect so Brees can succeed, and then we will see if he can. As if it's a foregone conclusion. It's far from it. After all, we'd still have to wait and see. By the time we'd find out the truth about Brees, the Chargers could have another quarterback developed. Perhaps one without height, arm-strength, accuracy, and mobility questions.

Brees was successful during the first half of his first season as a starter. He's slumped since then, some blame injuries or lack of supporting cast. That doesn't help matters, but also consider that teams figured out how to defend him and he has not responded. They crowd the line and take away the shorter routes- you beat em' deep. Maybe he can't.

In a nutshell, the feeling among league offices is that Drew Brees simply has too many obstacles to overcome in order to be a great quarterback. Which doesn't mean that he can't, but the odds aren't in his favor.

The Chargers are getting this one right. AJ Smith is not pinning the Chargers future on the hope that simply upgrading the offensive line, defense, and receiver core will upgrade Drew Brees.

This doesn't mean the Chargers should take Eli Manning first overall. In fact, they should trade down, acquire more picks, and then snag Philip Rivers with their first rounder. At the Senior Bowl, he showed what quarterback play in the Chargers offensive scheme is supposed to look like. After his performance, it's hard to imagine the Charger coaching staff not thinking of ways to get him to run their offense permanently. Another thing to think about is Rivers' comparisons to Bernie Kosar. Isn't he the guy that played for the Browns, who were then coached by Marty Schottenheimer? The tricky part to snagging Rivers is the trade down. If they get past the eleventh overall pick-he may be gone.

Will Mortensen can be reached at will.powered@verizon.net

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