The Quarterback Debate

There's an ongoing wrangle between frustrated fans of the 1-2 San Diego Chargers. The debate centers on what else but the quarterback position. Does the man who plays it struggle because of factors beyond his control? Or does the position struggle because of the man who plays it?

The man who plays it is Drew Brees. An accomplished college passer out of Purdue, Brees was skipped over by the quarterback-needy Miami Dolphins, among others, in the first-round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

The Chargers, holding the first pick in the second-round, jumped at the chance to land the anti-Leaf. He was short, full of character, and possessed a pistol ˆ not a cannon ˆ for an arm.

Brees excelled in the Boilermaker offensive-machine despite shortcomings in the minds of NFL scouts. Namely height, arm-strength, mobility and to a lesser degree, accuracy.

Regardless, traits like competitiveness, character and productivity allowed him to land on NFL draft boards. And a new Charger was born.

His dubious path and struggles since are known to many, with none more telling than the recent first-round selection of Philip Rivers in the 2004 draft.

The latest showing in Denver saw the Bronco defense stack eight and even nine-men at the line of scrimmage to stop LaDainian Tomlinson. In other words, the Broncos put the onus on Drew Brees and the passing game to beat a blitzing front.

The fact that the Broncos would even attempt such a risky game-plan says a lot about the Charger passing game.

"You put them in a one-dimensional game, where they have to throw it, and that makes it easy," Broncos safety Kenoy Kennedy told the San Diego Union Tribune.

But why is that so? Is it because the play-calling, a green offensive line, what?

Bronco linebacker Al Wilson has his answer. "We wanted to force the Chargers to put the ball in Drew Brees' hands."

In Brees' defense, the play-calling left a lot to be desired. Perhaps the Chargers could have came out throwing instead of continually slamming Tomlinson into a defense that was obviously game-planned to do everything it could, including nine men-in-the-box, to stop him.

Perhaps offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and head coach Marty Schottenheimer feel handcuffed and have zero confidence in their quarterback. So they game plan accordingly. Who really knows?

Sure the play-calling could be better. So could the line play. And sure the Chargers could use more talent at receiver. Surely Philip Rivers will struggle under the same conditions. But, nobody is saying that Brees is the sole cause of the problem, just that he is a big part of it.

One thing is sure, and Tomlinson said it best. "If we're going to win games, we have to start making the plays that we should make. When they bring a blitz, we've got to be able to hurt them with a pass, you know?"

Brees looks fine the times he drops back and a nice pocket forms around him, which does happen from time to time, contrary to popular opinion. But even then he will miss receivers or force them to adjust to catch the ball, which usually allows zero yards after the catch.

If it wasn't for Rivers contract hold-out, perhaps Brees would be wearing a different uniform and this would all be for naught. The situation is what it is though. Brees' days as a Charger are drawing to an end, and have been since the day the team traded for Rivers.

It's only a matter of time.

Lightning quicks:

Tomlinson reports that his toe is in good working order and has been since last week:

"I didn't have a problem with it at all last game."

Rivers hurt his index finger at camp on Wednesday. In just his second day getting more reps, he hit another player's helmet. It is nothing to be concerned about. Taking him out of practice was more precaution than anything else.

Will-full Wisdom

Be more careful not to miss once than to hit a hundred times. No one looks at the blazing sun, but all gaze when it is eclipsed. -Balthasar Gracian, 1637

Will Mortensen can be reached at

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