Drew Brees Era Ends


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Jan 22, 2006
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Will history repeat itself?

March 15, 2006

For those who've already written off the 2006 season for the Chargers, well, hold on to your season tickets a little longer. Recent history says the team will be better this year with untested Philip Rivers at quarterback than it was last season with former Pro Bowler Drew Brees, who signed with the New Orleans Saints yesterday after five seasons with San Diego. Since 2000, there have been at least five instances in which a largely untested QB replaced a popular or established starter at the beginning of a season, and in four of those cases the team improved its record from the previous year. On the other occasion, the club matched its previous record. Here are the five examples:

2004 Cincinnati Bengals
The setup: In 2003, Jon Kitna led the Bengals to their first nonlosing season (8-8) in seven years and established career highs for completions (324), passing yards (3,591), touchdown passes (26), completion percentage (62.3) and passer rating (87.4).

The switch: In the offseason, coach Marvin Lewis announced he was handing the starting job to Carson Palmer, the top pick in the 2003 draft. Palmer had no career pass attempts.

The outcome: Palmer threw for 18 TDs while leading Cincinnati to an 8-8 record in his first season as the full-time starter. Last year, he threw for 32 scores, earned a Pro Bowl spot and led the Bengals to their first postseason appearance since 1990.

2003 St. Louis Rams
The setup: Kurt Warner was a living football legend in St. Louis after winning two NFL MVP awards and leading the Rams to one Super Bowl win in two appearances.

The switch: A struggling Warner was replaced as the full-time starter by Marc Bulger in the second game of the season. Bulger had just seven career starts to that point.

The outcome: Bulger threw for 22 TDs and helped the Rams to a 12-4 record, division title and trip to the playoffs – one season after the Rams went 7-9 and failed to reach the postseason. He also earned his first spot in the Pro Bowl, where he was named MVP after throwing four TD passes. Warner was released in the offseason.

2002 Atlanta Falcons
The setup: Chris Chandler was considered a solid journeyman, and in four of his five seasons with the Falcons he threw more touchdown passes than interceptions. In 2001, he helped Atlanta win seven games, its highest total in three years.

The switch: Chandler was released in the offseason to make room for Michael Vick, the top pick of the 2001 draft.

The outcome: Vick showed unusual composure while throwing twice as many TD passes (16) as INTs (8) and helping the Falcons to a 9-6-1 record and playoff win. He also earned a spot in the Pro Bowl.

2001 New England Patriots
The setup: QB Drew Bledsoe was one of the region's more popular athletes, a former No. 1 draft choice with a strong arm and a Super Bowl appearance on his résumé.

The switch: In the second game of the season, Bledsoe sustained a serious sternum injury and was replaced by a second-year pro who had only three career pass attempts. Guy named Tom Brady.

The outcome: Brady played so well in Bledsoe's absence that Bledsoe was left on the sideline even after recovering from his injury. The Patriots, 5-11 in 2000, went on to the first of three Super Bowl championships in four years, all with Brady at the helm.

2000 Minnesota Vikings
The setup: Veterans Jeff George and Randall Cunningham played well enough in 1999 that the Vikings finished 10-6 and won a playoff game.

The switch: In the offseason, Minnesota allowed both players to leave and handed the starting reins to Daunte Culpepper, who had no career pass attempts after being taken in the first round of the 1999 draft.

The outcome: Culpepper started all 16 games, threw for 33 touchdowns and led the Vikings to an 11-5 record, a division title and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game. He also made the first of his two Pro Bowl appearances.


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