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The full story on why Brees isn't a Dolphin

As the Dolphins prepare to play the New Orleans Saints this week, you will likely hear repeatedly how the Dolphins might have had quarterback Drew Brees not once, but twice.

As I am older than the wheel and have covered the Dolphins since 24 B.C., I thought I would give you the benefit of my experience and share with you the circumstances of how and why the Dolphins passed on a player that in turn has passed for 27,658 yards since 2001.

The story starts in the spring of 2001 when Brees was coming out of Purdue University. The Dolphins were coming off a fine season in 2000 when they won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. New quarterback Jay Fiedler had played well, but not great, in throwing 14 TDs and 14 INTs.

The Dolphins needed a quarterback because Damon Huard had left in free agency so then VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman was looking for someone to fill the void. And yes, the Dolphins were studying Brees.

"At least three people on our staff have seen every snap in his career," Spielman told Sports Illustrated. "We will have a substantial field on Brees before we interview him at the combine in Indianapolis."

But something happened between the time Spielman was studying Brees and the April draft rolled around because with Brees on the board, the Dolphins used their 26th overall selection on cornerback Jamar Fletcher from Wisconsin.

Brees went to the Chargers with the 32nd overall selection -- the first selection of the second round that year. And it did not go unnoticed that the Dolphins passed on Brees. Spielman was asked that day why pass on an accomplished QB at that point?

"It really wasn't a consideration," he replied.

The Dolphins did eventually pick a QB. They selected Oklahoma's Josh Heupel in the sixth round. But the fact Brees got away stung, even then. So I remember asking Spielman about Brees again at an informal press gathering at the then Royal Oaks Country Club.

"We thought Drew would be an upgrade over Jay," Spielman said. "But we don't think he is that much better. We feel good about Jay. Plus we think we really upgraded our secondary with Jamar. He can play press. He can help on special teams. He's going to play sooner. He's going to help us more."

To be fair, Brees did not become an instant success in San Diego. In fact he struggled for three seasons. But by 2004, something started making sense for him and he was suddenly a very, very good NFL quarterback around the same time the Dolphins were giving up a second-round draft pick for A.J. Feeley and trying to replace Fiedler.

Fletcher, meanwhile, started a total of six games in three seasons for Miami and was traded to San Diego in 2004. Heupel? He never made it out of training camp back in 2001.

Interestingly, Spielman kept a photo of himself and Fletcher on his office wall at Dolphins camp. At first he said it was because Fletcher was his first-ever pick with the Dolphins and wanted to remember that. Years later, the story changed. Spielman claimed the pick was hoisted upon him by Wannstedt and he wanted to remember how not to make a selection.

That's how that sad, first shot at Brees came to a close.

In 2005, Nick Saban took over as coach. And after authoring a solid rebound season with a 9-7 record, Saban decided that to take the next step, his team needed to replace starter Gus Frerotte with an accomplished NFL quarterback.

Brees was available because he had injured his shoulder in the final game of the 2005 season. The injury required arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Later it was learned Brees had also a partially torn his rotator cuff.

Slated for free agency, Brees negotiated a new deal with the Chargers expecting to remain with his original team. But San Diego offered a cautious, five-year, $50 million deal that was heavily loaded with incentives. The contract made clear that San Diego had serious concerns about Brees and his shoulder. When the Chargers declined to improve their offer, Brees did two things:

He got a statement from renown surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, saying his shoulder was 100 percent and not any more likely to be reinjured than it ever was. The statement was released to the media.

And then Brees went hunting for a new team in free agency.

Two teams seemed most eager to get Brees: Miami and New Orleans.

Saban, ever the competitor, wanted to get out front of the Saints so he and his wife flew to Alabama to meet Brees and his wife for dinner. Saban fell in love with Brees. The coach was certain Brees was his guy.

The two agreed that Brees, who had already scheduled a visit in New Orleans first, would come to South Florida afterward.

Remember that in the spring of 2006, New Orleans was still recovering from the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. There was talk of relocating the team. Parts of the city were still suffering from the storm's aftermath.

The Saints were desperate to make a statement that would be perceived as a vote of confidence in the city and would drive ticket sales. They made that statement by offering Brees a five-year contract that included $8 million guaranteed the first year and a $10 million option the second year.

Brees was blown away, but sources insisted he really preferred to play for the Dolphins instead.

So he left New Orleans without signing a contract and flew to South Florida. He had dinner with Saban at a place called Grille 66 in Fort Lauderdale which to this day remains where the Dolphins take their free agents and coach candidates and alike.

Everything seemed cool but the next day weirded Brees out. He was reportedly subjected to a six-hour physical that centered, of course, around his surgically repaired shoulder. To this day, I am not certain whether or not the Dolphins made Brees an offer. A good source close to Brees insisted Miami did, although it was a lowball offer.

Regardless, Brees saw his future in New Orleans. His agent Tom Condon went back to the Saints and beat them up some more and extracted a six-year, $60 million deal that included $10 million in guarantees the first year and another $12 million the second year in the form of an option. Brees signed the deal on March 14, 2006.

The Dolphins simultaneously went a different direction, sending a second-round pick to Minnesota for Daunte Culpepper. Now, the interesting thing here is that Culpepper was also a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback but one with an injury problem of his own.

Culpepper had shredded his right knee in October of 2005, tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL during a game versus Carolina. Culpepper, still recovering from the torn knee ligaments, had met with new Vikings coach Brad Childress and had suffered something of new break -- in his relationship with the new coach due to a contract squabble.

So Culpepper was available in trade.

The trade was made with Miami and the day Culpepper arrived, the Dolphins redid his contract and paid him something in the vicinity of $10 million on the spot.

So what happened?

Months later, when Brees was lighting up NFL secondaries and Culpepper was benched, I requested a private interview with Saban to ask, basically, what was going through his cotton-pickin' mind when he picked Culpepper over Brees.

This was the answer he gave me:

''Let me just say this,'' he said in addressing the subject directly for the first time, ``It was a medical decision. I don't think medicine, personnel or any of that is an exact science. I think we have good, professional people in that area. I think they made the best judgment they could make at the time relative to the circumstances. No one could predict the future. It is what it is right now.''

Saban explained that he preferred Brees primarily because getting him didn't include giving up a draft pick. But he said the medical staff's recommendation was not only that Culpepper would have a better chance of recovering in time for the 2006 season than Brees but also that Culpepper would have a smaller chance of sustaining a reinjury.

''Hindsight is always 20/20,'' Saban told me. ``Let's wait until we're 10 miles down the road on this instead of right now before we decide which guy was the right guy.

``We thought both were good players, and we still think Daunte will be a good player for us. That's all we're concerned about. We're not looking at what anyone else on another team is doing, because our concern is our players.

''We can't worry about what went right or what went wrong [in the offseason],'' Saban said. ``We're going to try to make what we have here work and that's what we're going to do.''

The irony is that although Saban's public stance was to blame the doctors but say he still believed the situation was salvagable, he privately was blaming the team medical staff and repeating, "We should have gotten that guy, we should have gotten that guy," referring to Brees.

Saban was not, in fact, convinced Culpepper would ever be a Pro Bowl player again. 

That was in October of 2006. By January 2007, Saban quit. By July 2007, Culpepper was cut.

The rest is history.

And now you know why Drew Brees is not a Miami Dolphin.


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I was just wondering this. I remember when we had basically our choice btw'n Brees and Pep but I had forgotten about the draft story.

The Culpepper choice was one I was in favor of at the time. A QB with rotator cuff problems is a scary prospect. NFL athletes seem to recover fine from knee injuries so I was in Pep's corner. I was wrong at the time.

So were the Dolphin doctors. Are they the same staff that's there now?

Also, we ended up taking a chance on Pennington who had his own shoulder problems and he certainly performed well while he was healthy...maybe the QB throwing shoulder injury thing isn't as scary as I thought...

Man, I don't miss the dreaded "relative to."

This suck Brees is a great QB. But it looks like he will go the same road Dan Marino did. Yes He will most likely hold a lot of records by the time he retires. But in N.O. It looks like he won't ever win the Super Bowl.
Brees has put up better numbers that Manning and Brady the last 3 years. Yet he gets no respect.
Marino put up better numbers that Montana and Elway. Yet he got no respect.

"But in N.O. It looks like he won't ever win the Super Bowl."

What are you talking about Alex? The dude and his D just dismantled the "Best team in the NFL".

God, our team's past incompetence is depressing. Brees is the 2nd best QB in the league right now and one of the five best of this generation of QBs-- and we passed over him twice. For Jay Fiedler, Jamar Fletcher, and Daunte Culpepper (not to mention the 2nd rounder we lost). That's just so depressing.

Mando, in a slightly tangental way, I'm curious when the last time was the Dolphins got extra value for our first round pick? Jake Long looks solid, but he was the number one overall pick, so he won't ever really surpass our hopes. Ronnie Brown is still looking like a stud at #2 (I'd take him over Gore, Barber, and Grant, I guess)), but it was kind of a weak draft class and you really want a franchise changer as your #2 pick. Everyone else I can think of has been a relative disaster, Ginn at #9, Fletcher at whatever you said, Jason Allen at #16, all terrible. Vernon Carey at #19 is okay, I guess, maybe not the 19th best player left over from the 2004 draft, but he wasn't a bust by any stretch. It's a little early to predict on Vontae, we didn't have a 1st rounder in '03 or '02 because of the Ricky Williams trade, didn't have one in '00 or '99 for god knows what reasons, and I don't remember anything but the dreaded Yatil pick before that. We are such draft failures. :(



PLAY BUMP and RUN RUSH 5 or 6.

THE jets blitz them and was affective the GIANTS DIDN't AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED.




It's because we have ownership that knew nothing about football and was too trusting of people, and he put stupid people in charge of his team. I thought Saban would have been good, but the fact that he walked away proved he couldn't hack nor could he understand the NFL. The only decent think Wayne H did was bring in Parcells. Now he's gone, and it seems like Ross knows what he's doing.


The only comment I'll make is that Brees is a class act of the field as well as on. He has embraced New Orleans and New Orleans has embraced him. We're going to have our hands full this weekend.

Mando, I remember the team doctors having a lot of say so in the decision. And CanesAddiction brings up a good point, please tell me we have better doctors now.


I had heard a story of fisticuffs breaking out in the draft room when Wanny decided to go with Fletcher. Any validity to that story?

Who is to say that Brees would have been successful here? A lot of a QBs success and failure is determined by the OL, the skill players around him, and the play calling.

For all we know, that OL might have gotten Brees killed and everyone would be wondering why we would go after a guy with a bad shoulder.

Brees would have been nice but with our shaky o-line and other than chambers no weapons at wr brees wouldn't have been anywhere near successful as he's been. the guy was meant to be a saint. they needed his leadership on and off the football field. culpepper would have been ok but saban rushed him on the field. harrington should of started.

The truth is that he has a wooden leg. Teams stay away from players like that.

Rick Spielman? Who is he? Never heard of him.

Way to drop in a reference to Royal Oaks Country Club. So how long were you inside of the gate before they spotted you and threw you out?

Nick saban sucks hes not good enough to be in the NFL.. The 1 good thing he did in his life was draft Ronnie

RE: A possible deadline Ginn trade. Here's my two cents guys.

I think everyones perspective has alot to do with this possible decision.
Is yours a short term or long term view?? I agree with the comments that Ginn has the sprinter speed needed to keep defenses honest to stay competetive "this year." But I also think he is not the long term solution unless he is kept to be a #2 or #3 receiver. The problem with short term as a #1 receiver is, because of his build and lack of strength and tuffness, opposing defenses can slow or shut him down by jamming him at the line with a cover 2 up top just in case. But if your thinking long term... such as trying to trade him for a talented, powerful and respectfully fast receiver like Dwayne Bowe (the kind BP loves), we wouldn't have that problem. It would give us our long term #1 solution. Remember...its much harder to get a very big, talented, true #1 receiver, than to get a speedster with average catching skills to stretch the field. Thats why I think the Tuna should speed dial his brother in law again to see if they can work something out! What will we give up aside from Ginn you ask?? I wouldn't worry to much. ...I don't think BP is going to get hoodwinked on any deal

I don't miss Saban's "it is, what it is." It was a tough choice between Brees and Culpepper with the injury concerns. With the time of the draft, that was a no-brainer bad decision. Thanks for the overall story.

I look at it this way, if Miami would have picked up Brees, then Ronnie Brown would be somewhere else right now.

CarltheChamp hopes that Drew Brees does win a Super Bowl, not this one because I want it for Miami, but the last thing I need is to have anybody have a legitimate "best QB never to win a Super Bowl" conversation, that title belongs to Danny boy

I remember watching that draft and as guy in his early 20s knew that Jay Fiedler wasn't the qb to lead that talented bunch to the next level. I watched Brees play a lot at Purdue and knew that he was a very good qb.

I then remember screaming NOOOOOO at my tv when the Dolphins made their pick.

Two things Mando didn't mention is that the Dolphins already had 2 pro bowl CBs in Madison and Surtain at the time who were in their primes. So the idiots Spielman and Wany spent their 1st pick on at best a nickel CB who couldn't even grow into that role over a potential and eventual franchise qb. Be greatful that those years are over.

Check it out.....We have HENNE people. Have faith. Henne's younger and has a stronger arm. And, we are now opening up the playbook with deep passes. Henne is the annointed one!!! Go Henne!!! And, Jake Long: Protect our QB!!! He is the key to the Division Title once again. We are going to win the AFC East again this year!

How did they ever buy into the notion that Culpepper was any good at all. Joey was so much better that year and I knew that from game 1. Culpepper was made by Moss. The incompetence of some of those Phins Teams back office was astounding.

It's pretty painful to remember both of those opportunities we had to get Brees. Hadn't bought an official player jersey in a while but I remember at the time that I would of bought Brees' #9. To Mark in Toronto... I also said the same thing at the TV screen. Including some expletives. Many of us probably said it so loud, surprised we didn't hear each other.
Those two regimes were a disgrace!!

who cares...give it a break...let go of the past dude. i am sick of this drew brees coulda, woulda, shoulda story!

The real story? This is not new news at all. No insight here, whatsoever. Thanks for taking up 3 minutes of my time.

I remember watching that draft on TV and wearing my Dan Marino jersey(I know I need a life) and almost ripping it off in disgust as the selection was announced. I remember when the free agent signing was going to be announced, once again I wanted Brees, there was an initial unconfirmed report that the Dolphins did in fact sign him, then there was unconfirmed report that we traded with Atlanta for Matt Schaub, which I was okay. Then it was announced we traded for Culpepper and once again I was greatly disappointed as by all reports he was not going to be medically ready to play by the start of the season and in hindsight he wasn't. Fortunately the trifecta is in town and after 10 years of misery they seem to have a good plan in place for finding and grooming the right talent. Now just go get us a WR and a S and this team will be ready to compete with anyone.

Effing Soilman and Nicolleta Saban!! 2 of the worse mistakes in our history!!!! I still remember the anger when we signed "let it roll" over Brees!!! At least those idiots led us to the trifecta!!

Since jimmy left, are drafting has been suspect to say the least. Look at all the great u of Miami players in the league,why aren't any of them on are roster ? Last years draft brought long ,henne ,merling and langford, not bad. We so desperately need game changers . We have to work too hard to score, next year should be devoted to offensive playmakers, get a safety in free agency.

Excellent insight, Mando. I like it when you tie it all up like this because it helps us see exactly what people were thinking and how they went wrong/right.

Great job.

I noticed that Wanndstedt was left out of the decision process in the drafting of Fletcher. Somehow I think he had alot to do with that draft. Doesn't matter though. The fact is, it all came down to poor player evaluation and medical advice, from two different regimes. Both coaches are back in college. Spielman seems to have redeemed himself. I never thought Spielman had any control while he was here though.

Judge Smales, how long would you last in Mando's neighborhood before someone takes your wallet, your watch, your wife and sends you home wearing a barrel?

CarltheChamp says you guys are killing me with this shoulda taken Brees in the draft crap, get off it I mean its not like he was some sure fire franchise dude as he still sat there at pick 26, it was a miss, we wanted help in the secondary and Fletcher seemed like a cant miss. Where are all those people screamin for Brady Quinn in that draft a couple years ago, oh, it must be you same guys......I do agree that we whiffed big time when we took Daunte, but get real with this draft stuff please

Drew Brees would have helped us beat the Ravens last year and we would have put more of a premium on adding good receivers.

As it is, we're still looking for WRs and we HOPE we just found our QB. These decisions, in other words, set us back about four years each.

Libermaniac, it took you three minutes to read this blog? What are you in kindergarten? You still sounding out every word?

And if I was born with athletic skills I wouldn't be busting my balls working everyday...Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda...didn't happen...what are u gonna do..

Anyone who knows anything about Bill Parcells knows there is a ZERO percent chance of him giving up draft picks for anyone, much less an older receiver...We may pick up se draft picks with some mibor trades, bit I wpuld be shocked to see Parcells GIVE UP a draft pick, especiaaly a number 2...

Picking Jamar Fletcher with our first round was one of the most incompetent moves that I've ever watched a GM make. I knew it on draft day not 3 years later.

Rick Spielman and Dave Wandstadt were the worst duo ever.


Will any trades happen today since it is the last day to make one? Is it midnight tonight when the deadline ends?

Now you know why the Dolphins went 1-15 because of dumb personal moves.

AArrrrggggghhhhh......The Horror! The Horror!!!

I wonder if Saban would of stayed had he gotten Brees instead?

Also, you see how the "win now" attitude influenced "Spielman/Wanny" instead of taking a choice that would benefit the future... Chances are Jamal would have been available in the 2nd round anyway...

I meant Jamar not Jamal...

But would Brees have flourished under Saban the way he has under Peyton?? He could have came here and Saban would have run a more conservative offense and his numbers could have been average at best. I am not sayng that getting Brees would have been a bad move but at that time with Saban and Cameron would Brees be what he is today?? Overall it has worked out well for both Brees and Miami, he has had tremendous success in NO and Miami now seems to be on the right track with Parcells and company, so really the move that never happened has helped both franchises in the long run. With Brees we might have won more games and be stuck with Saban or Cameron in 8-8 seasons because Brees talent would have masked their coaching deficiencies.

CarltheChamp likes what Finsfan just said, good comment bro

Excellent backstory.

And, of course, Nuts!

Oh and Omar and Harvey ...
Look at the wax build up on these shoes I want that wax stripped off there, then I want them creamed and buffed with a fine chamois, and I want them now. Chop chop.

You know, I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.

That's truly a shame that we didn't get drew, but the truth is, you never really know how a player is going to preform after injury. Brees found his nitch and daunte found the unemployment line.
On a different note, I noticed in the saints/giants game that drew was making a lot of the kind of throws Marino used to make. Throwing into coverage and letting his receivers go get the ball. A few of his throws where to receivers that were blanketed by a defender who has his back to the QB. That is a strength, but can also be his weakness. Danny made his living that way, but was picked off a lot when he started to lose his velocity and the DB's could turn around for a pick 6. Right now bree's is seeing the field and his velocity is outstanding, plus he has great chemistry with his receivers. The Dolphins have a tough challenge ahead but, I believe, If we can get pressure on him from our defensive front and LB's ( believe it or not we are missing matt roth) and get him rattled and the backfield can cover, without turning their backs on drew, we should get a couple of picks and the win

saban was a great coach and one of such eye for talent .he was misunderstood .we will remember him as marino who was was gret but never won any thing .


TO will leave bills in matter of hours .
pats released GALLWY afer just few month of doing nothing .

i have the feeling long or porter will be gone .

The best thing that ever happened to this team was to go 1-15. As much as it hurt at the time. The taem was allways in the hunt for the playoffs, not to go deep but in the hunt. Towards the end Shula had the Marino years and let him carry the team (candy store). Did he ever have a supporting cast? No, he was that good. The J.Johnson years were based on him building a speed team and approaching the draft from a "value" angle. The other regimes aren't even woth going into. Parcells gets it, build from the lines out. Huge beast at the line of scrimmage, a punder at running back, an emphsis on a blocking back, and players who are commited to football. Although the Phins play home games in Florida, the AFC East is a very cold and wind element division. Heck even some of the home games are flooded. Being associated with the Pats and Jets has given Parcells an upfront view of this teams weaknesses over the years. As much as I loved watching Marino air it out and all the entertainment. One thing has been missing here for years. That is a punch you in the mouth, tough team that wears its apponents down physically. Other than a play hear or there this year, a few turnovers, and some costly penalties have you seen the other teams posture in the 4th quarters? I like the approach it's a welcome change after so many years.

Go Phins!

You want cream on your shoes, Judge? I got your cream for you right hear.

Yeah our gramma sucks.

Really, you are the only one who constantly brings this up, like a bitter ex-girlfriend, Mando. Can we remind you in a few years, that if we had gotten Brees we wouldn't have Henne? As of right now, as someone who bleeds orange and teal, I truly believe Henne is the guy. So by my theory, I wouldn't want either of these alternate universes that you continue to bring up.

I know you have a lot of readers, and overall we like you, at least to a degree. But you really do a whole lot of "I told you so" type of nonsense that chicks do. Just sayin'.

Nick Saban is spineless Jellfish that I hope is crushed under the wieght of his own ego prisy F*g

Everything happens for a reason! If we would have picked up brees we would not have the tuna, sporano, henne, or the the rest of our team that I love!!! I rest my case! I don't see a super bowl ring on brees's finger anyway so who cares about him let's move on allready.

Dolphins 27- saints 24

Nick Saban is still a spineless!!! Jellyfish!!

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