Sunday, January 24, 2021

What If Miami Had Chosen Brees Over Culpepper?

The Miami Dolphins finished 9-7 in 2005 and were looking for a new quarterback. Starting quarterback Gus Frerotte recorded 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2005. The Miami Dolphins had the choice between Daunte Culpepper and Drew Brees.

Culpepper was available for trade from the Minnesotta Vikings and Drew Brees a free agent after five seasons with the San Diego Chargers.

Brees during his time in San Diego.

In the end, Culpepper was chosen over Brees based on the medical records. However, this ended up being the completely wrong choice.

A Contrast In Careers

Daunte Culpepper ended up playing just three more seasons in the NFL due to injury and started just 24 games from 2006 onwards whereas Brees has gone on to start every season since 2006 and is still playing.

Culpepper last played in 2009 with the Detroit Lions.

Drew Brees came into the NFL only two seasons after Daunte Culpepper and has ended up making 156 career starts. This is 132 more games than Culpepper managed since the 2006 off season where Miami chose Culpepper over Brees.

Brees has also gone on to feature in 12 more Pro Bowls in addition to his 2004 inclusion. He also went on to win a Super Bowl, Walter Payton Man of the Year award and is a two time NFL Offensive Player of the Year award winner.

Brees is also currently the NFL record holder for the most career passing yards, passing completions and touchdown passes. He has thrown for 77,416 career passing yards and 547 career touchdown passes.

Brees celebrating with his family after breaking the passing yards record.

So the question remains why Miami went for Culpepper over Brees?

Daunte Culpepper was not a bad player. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2000, 2003 and 2004. He was the 2000 NFL Passing Touchdowns Leader and the 2004 NFL Passing Yards Leader. He also became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to run for more than 2,300 yards in a five season period. In 2004, Culpepper also broke Dan Marino’s record in the NFL for combined passing yards.

CINCINNATI, OH – SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Daunte Culpepper #11 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass against the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium on September 18, 2005 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Culpepper had a disappointing 2002 season where he threw for 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions after throwing for 33 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2000.

Culpepper then bounced back for Minnesota in 2003 and threw for 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and then 39 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2004 before injury restricted him to just 7 games in 2005.

Unfortunately, Culpepper spent just one year in Miami after they chose him over Brees and only managed to start four games thanks to injury and an apparent fall out with head coach Nick Saban. Steve Young was also seen to publicly question the work ethic of Culpepper.

Culpepper and Saban during their time in Miami.

The Implications Of The Decision

Miami went on to finish 6-10 in 2006 and then 1-15 in 2007. If Brees had been chosen instead of Daunte Culpepper, there is no chance the Dolphins would have finished 1-15 in 2007 and would have definitely done better than 6-10 in 2006.

The Dolphins may have finished 11-5 in 2008 and won the AFC East but this was with Tom Brady being injured for the whole season. Brees would have surely gone on guide Miami to the same record and maybe an even better record.

Quarterback Chad Pennington during the 2008 season.

Had Drew Brees had been signed, Miami may well have won in the play offs in the aforementioned 2008 season and the Dolphins would not be sitting in the present day without a play off win since 2000.

I can’t help imagining how good a Drew Brees, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown offensive trio would be and how far they could have taken the team.

Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown during the 2008 season.

The biggest problem for Miami since the retirement of Dan Marino is the fact that the team has simply not been competitive. There has been no real franchise quarterback since Dan Marino but there is alot of hope that 2020 fifth overall pick Tua Tagovailoa can turn the team into a Super Bowl contender once again.

However, had Miami gone with Brees rather than Culpepper then we would be seeing Miami as a perennial play off contender.

The New Orleans Saints have made the play offs in eight of the fourteen seasons that Brees has played in New Orleans. Taking Brees over Culpepper would mean that we would be seeing Brees at the end of his career in Miami and Tua would have probably ended up being drafted by either the Los Angeles Chargers or Detroit Chargers.

There were questions as to whether Miami should go for Tua Tagovailoa because of his injury record. I do feel that the passing of Brees due to the medical records had an impact on Miami in the 2020 Draft. Tua is a real prospect and has every potential of being a franchise quarterback for the team. He is a prospect they cannot afford to miss out on. They simply had to roll the dice on this one.

Interestingly, Tua played college football for Alabama who are coached by Nick Saban who was head coach of the Dolphins when they chose Culpepper over Brees.

Tagovailoa and Saban during the Quarterback’s time
in Alabama.

In conclusion, it is hard to fathom that Miami went for Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees due to the medical record when Culpepper had an injury the previous season. This decision is a reason why Miami have had so many years of mediocrity in recent memory. Hopefully the tide has turned with the exciting end to the 2019 season down the stretch and a potential franchise quarterback in the making.

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