Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Drew Brees an icon on the level of Jim Kelly.
Gregg Williams the next Marv Levy.
The San Antonio Saints.
It's interesting how one draft choice you didn't make can affect so many lives and two franchises. Think back to the 2001 draft. Gregg Williams, the coach of the Bills, was teaming for his first draft as a head coach with GM Tom Donahoe. Before the draft, when Williams attended a workout for Brees, the smallish Purdue quarterback, he thought he was the best quarterback prospect coming out that year. "I fell in love with him,'' Williams said the other day. "Not just his ability; he had plenty of arm. But his moxie as a leader. You need that in your quarterback, and I loved his."
The Bills determined they would use their first-round pick to get Nate Clements, the Ohio State cornerback (they actually traded down a few spots in the first round and still got him), then focus all their attention trying to move up from the 46th overall pick in the second round -- their slot -- to pick near the front of the round. That's where they projected Brees getting picked. So Buffalo began calling around, trying to see if Brees was still there when they picked, could the Bills move up to get him? No team bit. And then, as the second round dawned, San Diego used the 32nd overall pick to select Brees.
"I almost pulled a hamstring in the draft room, jumping up and down because I was so mad,'' said Williams.
Think about how this might have changed the current landscape of pro football. A year later, Buffalo wouldn't have been in the market when New England went to deal Drew Bledsoe, so Bledsoe would have been traded elsewhere in 2002. It's likely Brees would still be quarterbacking the Bills. "I'll tell you this: I wouldn't be sitting here in New Orleans right now,'' said Williams, who's certain the drafting of Brees would have led to a great marriage in Buffalo.
The biggest mystery is what would have happened to the Saints without Brees. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit, the Saints became orphans of the storm, and they finished the season with a 3-13 record. The next spring, desperate to upgrade their quarterback situation over Aaron Brooks and Todd Bouman, New Orleans signed Brees -- jettisoned by San Diego after it gave Philip Rivers a six-year, $60-million deal.
The Saints became an American feel-good story. With a refurbished Superdome and Brees' leadership, the team won the NFC South and advanced to the conference title game. And with Brees playing so well over his first three years and keeping the Saints competitive and compelling, the team got a new stadium lease through 2025 out of the state of Louisiana. What if Brees hadn't come? Would the state have acted so aggressively to keep the team if it was floundering at 3-13 every year? My guess is, without massive public and legislative support, the team may have become the San Antonio Saints, because that's where owner Tom Benson would have been most inclined to move the team had it continued on a bad path.
Shameless Monday Morning QB Book Promotion of the Week
Just what you've been waiting for (and an inexpensive Halloween gift for that special someone): MMQB the book. It reprises some columns from the first 12 years of MMQB -- I know you can't wait to re-read the one about the death of our dog -- with some new lists and opinions and other sundry observations. Like my list of the best 100 players of alltime, and the best 100 players of today. After running my top quarterbacks in history in this space two weeks ago, I thought I'd throw out the best QBs of today. I ranked 13 quarterbacks among my top 100 players, and the order follows.
When I did this list in the spring, I didn't have Joe Flacco in the top 100. If I had the list to do over right now, he'd certainly be in my top 100. In fact, I'd probably have him No. 9 on my quarterback list . He's been terrific in the first month of the season, a legitimate MVP candidate, and he's played his way into the top 10 for sure. One note about Flacco from Sunday's loss at New England that says great things about him: Baltimore coughed up the opening kickoff, surrendering an early field goal. The ensuing kickoff left Flacco at his 19, and he led a 15-play, 81-yard touchdown drive, the longest allowed by the Pats this year, culminating by taking a big hit by Derrick Burgess while he hung in and threw a touchdown pass to Derrick Mason. Believe me, I wish I had the Flacco call back.
So if you want to bash me for that one, I deserve it.
You can find the book online now or in stores next week.
1. Peyton Manning. It's possible he's a notch better while turning over his receiver corps?
NFL Truth & Rumors