Brees’ injury a pivotal moment for all of football

Published 7:55 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

On Monday night in the Superdome, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will become the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yardage. He needs 201 yards to break Peyton Manning’s record of 71,940 and should do it some time in the third quarter.

Being the holder of such a hallowed record is fitting for a guy who also unwittingly became the most pivotal person in football in the 21st century. When Brees injured his shoulder trying to recover a fumble in a meaningless Week 17 game between his San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos in 2005, it set off an odd chain of events that impacted every level of the game.

Consider this:

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

• Brees’ injury ended his time with the Chargers and paved the way for Phillip Rivers to become their starting QB. Rivers has had a Hall of Fame career and become the face of the franchise.

• Rivers twice beat the Colts in the playoffs, adding to Manning’s reputation as a quarterback who struggled to win the big game. Manning retired with two Super Bowl rings and all of the NFL’s major passing records, yet struggled his whole career to shake that image.

• One of Rivers’ playoff victories over the Colts was in the 2008 AFC wild card round, which led to the NFL changing its overtime rules for the following season.

• Brees signed with the Saints in 2006 and led them to the NFC championship game that season and the Super Bowl in 2009. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, there was doubt about the future of football in the city. Renovating the Superdome became a point of civic pride, but without Brees’ arrival the city might not have an NFL team in 2018.

• While Brees was a free agent in the 2006 offseason, one of the teams showing interest was the Miami Dolphins — coached, at the time, by Nick Saban.

The Dolphins signed Daunte Culpepper instead. Culpepper was a bust, Brees blossomed into a superstar, and Saban felt enough heat after a 6-10 season to leave the Dolphins a year later to become the head coach at Alabama.

Saban quickly turned Alabama into a superpower that has shaped the landscape of every college football season for the past 11 years. The efforts of other programs to achieve that level of success inspired a stadium arms race, caused coaches to be hired and fired, and led to the development of offensive and defensive philosophies that eventually filtered down to high school and youth football.

There are other tentacles to this as well, but there’s only so much time and space. Suffice it to say, the shape of 21st century football owes a lot to Drew Brees hustling after a fumble 13 years ago.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest