DAVIE, Fla. — Nick Saban didn’t have too good of a tenure with the Miami Dolphins. Apparently, it also wasn’t a memorable time for the team doctors.
Saban, who coached the Dolphins to a 15-17 mark in 2005 and 2006, had revealed in a South Florida radio interview last December he didn’t choose Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees as a free-agent quarterback in 2006, but that Brees was the first choice and failed the team’s physical. Brees, then recovering from a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder, agreed Thursday that was the case.
“I do remember (Saban) saying that their doctors felt like I had a 25 percent chance of coming back and playing,” said Brees, who had been injured in the 2005 season finale with San Diego. “If you’re going on those statistics, you make the decisions based upon that.”
So much for that projection. Brees signed instead with New Orleans, which will play host to Miami on Monday night. All Brees did in 2006 was be named All-Pro and begin to really show he’s bound for the Hall of Fame.
Brees, who steered the Saints to a 46-34 win at Miami in 2009, will face the Dolphins for the second time since they elected not to sign him. But he insists he doesn’t have any added incentive to show them what they’ve missed.
“We can sit back and kind of chuckle about it now,” Brees said in a conference call with South Florida media. “There’s no hard feelings and you know what, everything happened the way it was supposed to. So I don’t think about it for a second. I really don’t. Obviously, coach Saban has gone on and probably would not trade his career path for anything either.”
Brees has since played in six of his career seven Pro Bowls and led the Saints to a Super Bowl win after the 2009 season. After leaving the Dolphins, Saban has won three NCAA titles at Alabama, the latest last January at Sun Life Stadium over Notre Dame is his South Florida return.
While many have claimed Saban chose Culpepper over Brees in free agency, he had revealed shortly before the win over the Fighting Irish that Brees failed his physical. Culpepper, who signed a six-year, $60 million deal, was a disaster with the Dolphins, playing in just four games (three of them losses) in his only season with the team. Brees got $10 million for his first year from the Saints and a $12 million option for 2007.
“We chose Drew Brees,” Saban, who then controlled player personnel for the Dolphins, told South Florida station 790 The Ticket last December. “I’ve never ever talked about this publicly and I think a lot of players know this. … We think Drew Brees was an outstanding player. That’s the guy we made the first offer to. And, quite frankly, he didn’t pass the physical with our organization, so we had to go (with Culpepper).”
Brees confirmed he was at the top of the Dolphins’ list.
“I do believe I was their first choice,” said Brees, who completed 22 of 38 passes for 298 yards with a touchdown but had three interceptions in the 2009 win at Miami. “But, at the end of the day, I felt like New Orleans was the best fit for me for a lot of reasons, not just football. I know that (the Dolphins) ran me through a whole round of physicals and evaluations and all kinds of stuff when I was there, which was not a good experience obviously, but I understood. They were going to put a big investment in me, so (the Dolphins) wanted to be sure.”
The Dolphins have been lambasted regularly over the years for not signing Brees, who had shown great promise in his first six seasons with the Chargers. The criticism got louder after Brees won a Super Bowl and has had three of the top five seasons for passing yards in NFL history.
For years after Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season, the Dolphins couldn’t land a franchise quarterback. But it now appears they might have one in Ryan Tannehill, in his second season after being a first-round pick.
Meanwhile, the play of Brees has kept Saints coach Sean Payton around. He had just been hired when the team went after Brees in free agency in 2006.
“I don’t recall that being the scenario,” Payton said Thursday about Brees failing the Dolphins’ physical. “I do recall two teams that had interest, us and Miami. His visit started with us that weekend. And from here he went directly to Miami and then it was a matter of hoping you put your best foot forward.
“I think obviously with the injury that he had, there was concern about the recovery. I think the feeling we had, knowing the athlete and knowing how competitive he was, if there was a player who could recover from that injury, it would be somebody like Drew.”
No word on what percentage Saints doctors gave of Brees playing again.