Coach believes in Drew Brees

When the San Diego Chargers decided to trade for Philip Rivers during the NFL draft they made it quite clear that they no longer believed that Drew Brees was their quarterback of the future. But now, with Philip Rivers just ending his hold out and Doug Flutie feeling his aging knees, it seems the team has no choice but to deem the lame duck signal caller as their quarterback of the present.

Whether Brees' stint at number one lasts all season or merely a couple of pre-season games remain to be seen. But what is a certainty is that Brees believes he has what it takes to succeed on this level. Any success he has beyond this season, however, will have to come with another franchise. Lots of money has been paid to Philip Rivers and it means little opportunity for Brees to merit an extension beyond this final year of his contract. So for Brees, this season has turned into more of an audition than anything else. How will he perform under the spotlight before being asked to exit stage left? One man who is quite capable of answering that question is Brees' former college coach, Joe Tiller.

Coach Tiller was very close with Brees throughout the years the two shared at Purdue. In fact, after his tumultuous season came to a merciful end last spring, Brees went back to his roots and visited his old collegiate stomping grounds.

"He actually came back to campus this spring and we had a chance to go out to dinner," recalls the coach. "He seemed really frustrated by everything. He has changed."

Brees has indeed changed noticeably throughout his NFL career. During his rookie season he oozed with potential, dominating the Kansas City secondary in his sole performance that year. Year two was all about performing in the clutch for Drew, as he led the team to three overtime victories as well as an amazing fourth quarter comeback over the Chiefs. Year three, however, was when the biggest change occurred, as Drew became known as a turnover prone player who too short to effectively throw over the middle of the field. This latest change is the one that sealed Brees' fate with the Chargers.

Brees is only entering his fourth season in the league. Many players with less talent than Brees have taken even longer to develop their game, and have then gone on to have incredibly productive careers. How can the Chargers be sure that the Brees they are giving up on is the one who bombed in year three and not the one who performed beyond expectations in years one in two? In order to help answer this question, Coach Tiller has offered some personal insight on what kind of player and person Drew Brees really is.

"The thing about Drew is he is tremendously proud," says Coach Tiller. "He has great pride in his work ethic, and he is really affected by losses. Some guys can lose a game and it's like water off of a duck's back, you know, and they just go on about their business. But Drew wasn't like that."

This may provide some insight into why Brees struggled so mightily last season. Playing quarterback in the NFL is pressure-packed enough. With each loss building on his conscious, the season was undoubtedly a rough one for Brees. Perhaps that is why he looked lost at times last year, and why he went back to Purdue, where his former coach tried to help him find some answers.

"I said, 'Drew, remember it's different for you and I,'" Coach Tiller recalls. "'Being a quarterback is the closest thing to being a head coach in terms of media scrutiny. You always get too much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose.' I think Drew just feels he is taking the blame for everything the team does."

I think everyone can agree that Brees has taken too much blame for last season's debacle. While it is true he played poorly and failed to meet even the mildest expectations, at the there were some explanations for this. His offensive line was banged up and inexperienced, his receiving core was constantly in flux, and the play calling completely ignored the style of play with which Brees was most comfortable. Those are valid excuses.

So which quarterback is he? Is Brees the one who makes excuses as a result of his bad play, or one whose bad play was only a result of legitimate excuses? No one can say for sure as of now, but there is little doubt in Coach Tiller's mind about what kind of player Drew Brees is in all actuality.

"He's my favorite quarterback of all time," beams the coach.

A bold and simple statement from a respected and successful head coach such as Coach Tiller would seemingly say enough about what kind of quarterback Drew Brees is and can be. Unfortunately, Chargers fans may be listening to another coach say that same thing about our former quarterback next year. But until the time that his successor is prepared, the team will have to rely on Brees once again, just as Brees once relied on his team. Hopefully, Brees will not let the Chargers down the same way they did to him.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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