What might have been

The Dolphins made a big mistake during the 2001 draft and they certainly will be reminded of it this weekend when they face the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are in the thick of a playoff race, and a big reason has been the play of quarterback Drew Brees, the same Drew Brees who probably should be with the Dolphins right now.

The Dolphins made the playoffs with Jay Fiedler as their quarterback in 2000, but it should have been apparent even back then that he was limited and that the Dolphins eventually would need another quarterback.

Sitting with the 26th overall selection that year, then-Director of College Scouting Tom Braatz apparently pushed hard for the Dolphins to draft Brees out of Purdue.

It really made a lot of sense. He filled an important need and he was considered the second-best quarterback prospect that year behind Michael Vick.

Only concerns about his arm strength and whether he was a product of Joe Tiller's offensive system had made him slide down a little.

Even Brees thought he was coming to Miami.

"I was told by a couple of people that if I was there at the 26th pick ... that the Dolphins were going to take me," Brees said this week. "They ended up taking Jamar Fletcher, and I kind of shook my head, thinking, 'Man, I thought they were going to take me.' "

Yes, the Dolphins bypassed Brees and instead selected Fletcher.

This despite the fact that Fletcher played mostly zone in college and wasn't a great fit for their pressing, man-to-man style. This despite the fact the Dolphins already had two outstanding cornerbacks on the roster in Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain.

More than four years later, it's obvious the Dolphins messed that up big time.

Brees is coming off a Pro Bowl season and could be headed back for a repeat appearance. Fletcher, meanwhile, was a flop in Miami and is now, ironically enough, with the Chargers after being traded for wide receiver David Boston last offseason.

In the Dolphins' defense, it took Brees a while to develop as a quarterback, which is why the Chargers picked up Philip Rivers last April to become their quarterback of the future.

But Brees emerged big time last year, and he now looks like the guy who's going to be running the San Diego offense for the next several years.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins will go into yet another offseason looking to address the quarterback position.

Chances are, they wouldn't be in this position had they just drafted Brees back in 2001. They'll get to see first-hand on Sunday just what they missed out on.


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