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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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Thank God the days of Spew-man,Wannabe and Satan are over in Miami!As to the Brees-bungle,I have always suspected the medical staff blew it big time based on their past mismanagement of other players--OJ McDuffie, for one example.

Brees would have been great here if we took him over Pep in 2006... Brees was great with San Diego and now again with the Saints... He adapts and learns... And he is deadly accurate.

Saban and the Medical Staff blew it. Saban should have gone with instincts. We may have had winning records each year. Saban would have stayed and been better as he learned the NFL game as a HC, Ricky Williams would have still been around, and chances are Saban would have still picked up Ronnie because he wanted balance.

My guess playoffs each year but still no titles by 2009 but still getting better... That's my "what if" guess for Brees as a Dolphin back in 2006.

But New Orleans needed a break and they got one from us... You're welcome Bourbon Street.

Hope lives in Chad Henne.

I don't know nothing about nothing. Anybody got a good rumor for me to spew ...

Oh yeah, the Dolphins are trading Matt Roth. How's that one. Never mind the guy hasn't done squat this year and is unsigned for next year. Some genius GM out there will give up a 1st round pick for him.

I break that story. Now, about the Marlins.

Dwayne Bowe to Miami????

Mike Beradumbo - Is this your assumption or do you have inside information?

For once give up a precious draft pick and pull the trigger, DWAYNE BOWE, KC's just signed Galloway so he's available, Bowe's better right now than anyone in the upcoming draft, he's young and will contribute a hell of a lot quicker than anyone who we draft next year!!!

I'm really glad the Dolphins have moved on from the desolate days of Dave Wanstache, Nick Satan, and Cam "In Over His Head" Cameron. Those stories of the past hurt. We could've had Randy Moss... oops. We could've had Drew Brees... oops. We could've had anyone but Ted Ginn at no. 9... oops. Geez, as stoked as I am about the future, looking back on the Dolphins recent past makes me want to puke.

oh well... you gotta do your homework, but still sometimes you got to throw out your analysises and go with what your heart tells you. Saban's first impression is clearly what he should of stuck with.

water under the bridge, GO HENNE!!!!

Really , who cares. We need to get over it. There's more important things to worry about like a little thing called a big game this sunday.

Nobody mentioned the 25 or so 2nd round picks the Dolphins have used on quarterbacks since Brees was sitting there as a free agent. Then again, our draft "experts" would have whiffed on all of them anyway.

The way our luck was going back then Breeze may have become the bust and Culpepper would be having the great years in New Orleans. We would be grumbling how we passed on Culpepper to take Breeze. Sometimes we have to chalk things up to not being in the cards. The curse of the 13 was upon us.

Great article Mando, thanks for clearing this up.

Enjoy your excellent work here. At the end of your column, you state, "And now you know why Drew Brees is not a Miami Dolphin."

Now, the next thing we need to know is why..."Ted Ginn is a Miami Dolphin." :)


Thats water under the bridge. We had bad GM and talent evaluators then. Our chances left with the Brees. Blown in the wind, hind sight is 20-20 moving on.

Armando, I never liked Saban or his feelings towards SF in general. He was never NFL material. The thing that strikes me, is that Wayne did everything he could to keep him. Glad he's gone back to where he belongs and glad we have Sporano!

My boy moses was traded to the titans for a 7th round pick. this is to make room for roth. I hate to see moses go.

Omar & Fialwhatever,
Young man, I'll slap an injunction on you so fast your head will spin.

That's ok, the world needs ditch diggers.

I'm off to the back 9 with my son Spalding.
All the best, Judge Smales.

any news on trades??

I remember the medical exam thing. I was concerned about the rotator cuff, but was floored by the way the team treated Brees. Even if we had made a decent offer he might not have wanted to play for us after that. And I think that, more than the medical staff getting it wrong, the way they treated Brees probably stuck in Saban's gut. Maybe he wouldn't have been so mad that they over-estimated the risks, but to do so in such a tasteless manner? I hated Saban for leaving, but if he lost confidence in the business side of the team, I almost understand him walking.

This story is a nightmare!!

BTW- jets REALLY suck!! ha ha


Boiler Up

No, we are not making any moves!!! Stop with the Cribbs-Bowe crying...Parcells is NOT giving up draft picks for ANY player!!! Just not gonna happen!! Especially for a receiver!!!

We screwed up twice on Brees, but then again so did everyone else drafting in the 1st round because of his height. We should have known better the 2nd time around.

That said, everything happens for a reason. Saban stunk, his draft picks, aside from Ronnie, were mediocre and he saw the writing on the wall in terms of his legacy being tarnished. Had Brees brought our declining team a few more wins, Saban might still be here instead of us now ending up with Parcells, Ireland and our great HC. We've struggled with Culpepper, Lemon, Trent Green and Beck, but we wouldn't have had Henne who could well be Marino's second coming.

So good for the Saints fans whose doctors knew better than ours, but since present pain brings future gain, we've now rebuilt our organization, have men instead of wimps running it and a young QB to build on, who's every bit as exciting as Flacco and Ryan and whose canon will pierce through those swirling Meadowlands winds every year humbling The Sanchump.

And we are NOT trading Matt Roth!!! The kid will be playing soon

Armando - Any updates? You have been wuiet on the blog today, but I'm sure that is because you been out gaining a TON of GREAT information for us Dolfans!!

Genothefox - Take your "boiler up" and shove it. This is a professional sports blog, not COLLEGE...

Purdue sucks just like you!!!

With this admin we need to get and keep as many draft picks as possible I believe in the two drafts they put together we've gotten as many playmakers as we as have the last 13 drafts

Armando my son has been attending the Tim Dwight football camp since 2004 and Tim always has a great bunch of NFL players there In 06 my son worked with Drew and Doug Flutie and I told Drew that picking Cold-Pepper and not him would be the biggest mistake the fins would ever make. Also I just want to say go Hawkeyes it's been a long time comming thank you for your blog I reed it every day

Wow I love how Henne has been annointed when he has done nothing, in 2 more years will we be talking about him like people talk about Geoff George

I hate Nick Satan

Thanks Miami! For passing on Brees.

I sincerely thank the Dolphins management for passing on Brees. As previously said, he's not only a class act on and off the field, but he's also a monster who will shred any defense that's put in front of him. If you Dolphins fans haven't seen Brees in action this season, you better get ready for what's coming to you Sunday. Not trying to be arrogant, but I've watched every Dolphin game this year, and this one won't even be close.

Saints 45, Dolphins 20

hindsight is 20/20-I wonder if brees would've been the wunderkind qb he is now had he been w/that 2005 team as constructed. But things happen for a reason & not necessarily to do w/incompetent coaching and personnel men. Finally, things are looking up.

WHO DAT! WHO DAT! Damn sure aint the Dolphins!

Who dat?? Someone named Jerry James who thinks he knows it all...u a closet Jests fan??? Only those bozos go on others blogs...you know where can stick ur prediction

Did u watch the Monday Night Game where Rivers passed all over Denver??? Who won??? Some big special teams play, control the ball offense and limit the damage..that's what we need to do to Brees..

" dreaded Yatil pick before that. We are such draft failures. :( "

that's ancient history my friend. I had the same feelings as you but this current management group has it down. no, you're not going to hit on ALL picks... but our average is WAY up as evidenced by going 11-5 after 1-15. this year will be rough and you can't judge this year's draft on this year's record... but year 3 of the "Parcells project" was always the year I earmarked as the "telling" year. I feel VERY confident that we're going to kick some ass in '10!... if not sooner! GO FINS!

I remember the blog and a lot of guys were also pining for the windbag CPep. Me included. Little did we know.

But that was then and this is now. We are a running machine. Big and bad at the line, tough hard downhill runners, clock eaters, and now it appears we are going to be blessed by a guy with an arm. Brees is in the past. Ginn isn't traded and has the speed to open up the opposing defense. It is a grinding machine.

shut up Matt get off the blog loser if you can't support Our QB go back to the Jets


REALLY?? Marino got no respect??? Come back to reality.

As for Brees looking "like he won't ever win the Super Bowl", I just want to know what you're smoking at this point. I'm not going to say that the Saints will win the SB, but they at least look like at team that will.

Oh, and I agree with everyone else on this board. Nick Satan is a spineless jellyfish.

- LSU alumnus, Saints Fan and hater of all things Alabama.

Armando, you have been "foisted" on your own petard.

ancient history is ancient history. we got the tuna in the house runnin' the show. he's hit on MOST personnel decisions (you can't hit on 'em all) and we went from 1-15 to 11-6 in a heartbeat. year 3 is the acid test for a new front office and '10 the fin's will be kickin' butt DEEP into the playoffs... if not sooner! GO FINS!~

I never liked Culppeper, but didn't think he'd suck so bad, I still think coaches and the media tend to overrate certain players, DC had good numbers in Minessota playing with a couple of the best WR's these league has ever seen (Moss and Carter mainly) also he was a mobile QB with a busted knee and no premium WR's, bad choice. Medical decision or not, from the begining it seemed like a bad bad choice.

mando ive been a fan my whole life dont act your a o.g were the real fans here not you i remember the storys u dont always have to bring up the negatives i think u like to hate on us the real fans

Tough cookies.There is always going to be players we should have signed and didn't. Get over it. Unless you have a crystal ball there's no way to know Brees or Brady or Flacco or Ryan or WHOEVER would be a good fit for the Fins. He's in New Orleans now and we just have to stop him and his plethora of weapons on Sunday.Go Fins!

If you bump and run Colston and Meachem, Lance Moore will kill you from the slot. Then, Shockey lights you up from the TE position. And even worse, a big guy like colston, you bump the guy, he drives a small corner, releases and you see seven points 80 yards later. The Saints are far better than some of you give them credit for. Don't forget the back tandem of Bell and Thomas, as well as Bush out the backfield. The Saints are the BEST team in the NFL right now.

try Saints 31, Dolphins 14


How you boys are down there in South Florida. Time to stir the pot as us cajuns need some more ingredients for our sauce picaun. We sendin our cool Brees down there to do a little carving up on your Dolphins and while he's there we want a taste of that wild kitty for flavoring.
Hide your women and children cause it aint gonna be a pretty sight when our SAINTS are done. We already took the North by storm and now it's time to turn our attention to the south and ya'll bout as low as we can go. When we done with ya'll we'll clean up everything in between. Ya'll just know it gonna be a Black and Gold Super Bowl this year and them Dolpins wont be well enuff to participate when we get done. Good Luck to ya anyway............Go SAINTS !!!!!!!!!!!

More than one sports magazine picked the Dolphins to win the Super Bowl the year they picked up Daunte Culpepper. He had EVERYONE fooled!

dont get mad but i doubt we will see playoffs this year, but there is hope if we pick up a real #1 reciever next draft and a for real saftey!!!! ginn will effective with a great rookie reciever and i belive henne is gonna be special im doin my part im prayin do yours cause its gonna take god to help us out guys

rdbulldurham dolphin fan from the first kickoff being run back for a TD

I wouldnt trade it for anything though.. Because we are on excellent shape now from fubdamentals up.. Get a receiver and tighten up secondary and we can contend for sometime

There were a lot of fans and media people who liked to fault Fiedler for the Fins problems but the fact was that the QB was not the problem. Feidler was a very smart QB and he held one of the top passer ratings in the league for his first few years. The problem was that Maimi' line could not run block or pass block and the play calling was so predictable that defenders new on 2nd/ 3rd down a screen pass was comming. They would jump the route and take it to the house.

Cpep was a bad choice but behind the line of a few years back even Manning would have been a failure. It all starts in the trenches. The first few games this year the line could not pass protect and the team failed to pass for 200 yards. The line now seems to be jelling and the pass yards are getting better.

Everyone is quick to blame the QB but if the line, receivers, and RBs can not do their job the QB will not be able to do his.

In five years from now Henne could be a leader amongst QB's and everyone will be saying, wow if you had Brees back then we never would have held onto Henne.

Hindsight is there all the time.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the decision to pass on Drew Brees was ultimately the one which ended Nick Saban's tenure with the team.

I guarantee you that if Brees had indeed become a Miami Dolphin in 2006 that we would have made a very strong playoff run that year. The defense was very good and the offense would have been solid behind Brees.

And Nick Saban would likely still be coaching this team, something which members of the press would rather not have to deal with!!

Mando, why rehash something that has no relevance to the Dolphins today? Can anything regarding that situation benefit the Dolphins now? Why not do a expose on the Murphy cut? How about tell us what the doctors on the team DO? How much impact can they have on personnel matters? are they prima donnas? You started out the season focusing on the game - it's too bad that you're going to quit reporting and just be content to mandate this blog.

ROFL Maxx.

I love to read the other opinions of other readers. I'd just prefer not to have to continuously think "Um, and this is relevant because..." I'd love to see more football and less self-justification. The thing that makes me scratch my head was that I remember Armando saying it took an act of God to get Saban to say anything to the press at all, and now it seems like Saban just called and said, "Here's how it all went down, Armando."

I always hated the drafting of Jamar Fletcher and if Wanstache really made that pick it just shows how poor of a talent evaluator he was. Fletcher at Wisconsin never played bump-n-run coverage so how did they figure he could play press coverage in the NFL.

Please Fins fans the drafting of Yatil Green at the time was a great pick. You can't really fault the player for always being injured. Green's injuries were just freak things. Yatil Green would have been a great receiver if not for those freak injuries.

Dolphins have so many missing pieces it's not even funny. Sorry but Ronnie Brown isn't living up to expectations of a #2 pick. Ginn is a complete BUST. Defense is a mess. Get real people, this team is many, many years from being anything close to what I consider competetive.

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