This is the first of a three-part series asking which Saint or Charger you would rather have (The picture shows Philip Rivers doing something he is not generally successful doing--throwing on the run).
This may seem like a topic more suited for Charger fans, but since these are my two favorite quarterbacks in the league, and they play for my two favorite teams in the league, I thought it's fair to ask the question-who would you rather have under center: Drew Brees or Philip Rivers?
Now I know 99.9 percent of Saints fans are going to immediately jump to say Brees before even reading this article. But I think Charger fans are going to be a little slower to answer, and perhaps less unanimous.
I think both of these quarterbacks have put themselves in the upper echelon of all quarterbacks in the entire league. I would say both are in the top-five.
It is crazy to think the two were on the same roster for two seasons. But I think there is little doubt the two made each other better. Rivers was able to learn how to be a professional from Brees. Brees was forced to improve his level of play because Rivers was so talented.
Ultimately it led to the logical conclusion--one must go. It was the elder statesman, as it so often is.
Brees packed up his bags and headed down to the Gulf Coast. Rivers took over, at the time, the second most exciting offense in the league behind Indianapolis. The rest is history as they say.
But who would you want? Here are some factors to consider before you jump to conclusions.
Drew Brees QB New Orleans Saints
Brees has led the top passing offense over the past three years since he arrived in New Orleans. In year one, his top two targets were rookies in seventh round pick Marques Colston and running back Reggie Bush. Brees turned the two into the most successful rookie duo of pass catchers the league has ever seen.
In all three seasons Brees has thrown for 4,400-plus yards and his passing touchdown numbers have improved in all three seasons, never lower than 26.
His QB Rating has never been higher than it was in 2004, when he led the Chargers to the playoffs and made his first Pro Bowl. However, he's been above 89 in all three seasons in New Orleans. That is a very high number.
Brees has one of the quickest releases of all NFL quarterbacks, which combined with his ability to keep plays alive within the pocket, makes him an extremely difficult target for opposing pass rushers to bring down. The Saints are among the least sacked team over the past three seasons. Part of that is a good line, part of it is Drew Brees.
Brees has one of the most accurate deep balls in the entire league, and is very athletic which allows him to pick up key first downs with his legs, but also to make accurate laser beam throws on the run.
Brees is by and large a quiet personality who leads by example and knows how to get the job done on the field, in the locker room, and in the community.
On the flip side, Brees is barely 6'0" and sometimes struggles with having balls tipped at the line, although this happened more frequently in San Diego than it has in New Orleans. His size also has a tendency to hurt him when he is sacked as he often is not strong enough to hold onto the football.
Some people may point to his interceptions as a big negative. I resist that urge as I realize as you throw as many passes as Brees and the Saints do, you're bound to throw a few. Plus, if you look at the throws he makes, they are generally on target but are dropped, tipped, or the defensive player just made a Sportscenter Top 10 kind of play.
Finally, when compared to Rivers, Brees has not had as good of an overall winning percentage. Yet, I have heard many a Charger fan say that if Brees was still the quarterback, the Chargers would have won a Super Bowl by now (more on that later).
Philip Rivers QB San Diego Chargers
Even if you don't regularly watch the Chargers, you certainly know Rivers as the cocky, in-your-face jerk quarterback for the Chargers. What most NFL fans don't realize is that Rivers is actually one of the best people in the game. He has high moral character and his teammates by and large love the guy.
People see his attitude on the field and assume he's a jerk. In reality, he's one of the most competitive people in the entire NFL. I'm not condoning all of his actions, as some were a bit childish. I am however, reminding you that many of the best athletes of all-time have had very similar attitudes. It tends to be a character trait that many of the great ones have.
As for the quarterback Philip Rivers; he is also very accurate and that percentage has improved from his rookie starting season until his third year as the starter for the Chargers. His QB Rating a season ago was 105.4, topping any of Brees' QB Ratings in his career.
He attempted only 18 more pass attempts this past season than he did the prior two years ago, yet he threw for 600 and almost 850 yards more than in those two previous seasons.
Last season he was tied with Brees for the league lead in passing touchdowns with 34.
Rivers is aided by a strong running game, an all-world TE in Antonio Gates, and two very good deep threats in Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers.
He struggles to complete passes on the run, and gets sacked right around 25 times per year. He tends to loft a lot of passes and sometimes allows his emotions to get the best of him in terms of decision-making.
Rivers' interception total is lower than Brees', although Brees has thrown many more passes.
The cumulative starting record for the two players, over the past three seasons, favors Rivers as his mark is 33-15, plus three playoff wins. Brees is just 25-23 with only one playoff W.
I have long held the belief that Brees would not have become the QB he is today if he had remained in San Diego, where the success of the offense was tied to the running game. Brees has become one of the top QBs because he plays in a system which highlights him and his abilities.
The big question is who would you rather have?
My answer is this. For the next year or two I would take Brees, as he is in the prime of his career and playing the best football he will ever play. Brees is one of the smartest QBs in the league, and one of the most athletic.
Long-term I might take Rivers, as he is just 27 and entering the prime of his career with some developing talents around him. Also, he has a defense which should be consistently good for the next five-to-ten years, whereas you don't know what to expect with New Orleans.
Despite this statement, I believe 2009 is the Chargers' year. I believe it is their last gasp at a Super Bowl with LT, and possibly Shawne Merriman. I think those two are going to will them to a title.
And then in 2010, Brees will get his. I know that's a crazy prediction, but it's how I feel.
How do you feel? Who would you want? Please let me know.