Brees Ends Up in New Orleans - 2
Special Retirement Tribute: Brees, Bauer Media Group (2021)
Read Part 1
That March (2006), Brees explored free agency. San Diego offered an incentive-laden contract for five years and $50 million. It was considered by many to be a lowball offer. Brees had never ben heard of new Saints coach Sean Payton until he got a call from him in March 2006. The Saints set up a meeting.
The only other team seriously interested in Brees - the Miami Dolphins - found out about the meeting and wanted to set up their own meeting before Brees met with the Saints. Nick Saban and Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller flew into Birmingham, where Brees was still rehabbing his shoulder. They met Drew and his wife, Brittany, at a pancake house. The couple liked Saban, and they agreed to set up an official meeting with the Dolphins soon after Brees met with the Saints – that meeting had already been arranged. Drew noted that Saban was really trying to impress Brittany. "We have great communities and great places to raise a family," Saban said.
Later that same day, Payton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis flew to Birmingham. Then, they all flew together to New Orleans, where the Saints rolled out the red carpet for their target. The city was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, and the local economy needed a jolt. Brees was just what the team and the city needed. The Saints offered a six-year contract for $60 million, including an $8 million guaranteed signing bonus. But there was still the meeting in Miami, which had the sun and the surf and the draw of South Beach.
Dr. James Andrews, Drew and Brittany Brees
Brees' agent Tom Condon helped weigh the two teams. "Drew, the overall reputaton of the [Saints] organization is not good. The team has been pretty dysfunctional for a long time." Condon thought Loomis would have a hard time attracting additional talent to New Orleans. As for Miami, Condon told Brees: "There's an unbelievable tradition with the Dolphins. They've won Super Bowls." The Saints, meanwhile, were the Aints.
Brees was excited by the prospect of playing in Miami, but the Dolphins' medical staff interceded. They subjected him to what he thought was an unusually long six-hour medical examination, making sure his shoulder was worth the amount of money it would take to sign him. It's unclear whether the Dolphins actually made Dolphins an offer. But after team doctors told Mueller, the general manager, they didn't think Brees' shoulder would hold up, the Dolphins traded a second-round pick for former Minnesota Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper, who'd had a knee injury treated by Dr. Andrews a few months earlier.
L-R: Nick Saban, Daunte Culpepper
On March 14, 2006, Brees signed with the Aints, determined to rid the town of that reputation. He was drawn by the city's "clear sense of home." Six years later, Saban, who ultimately had had the Dolphins' final word, said, "If we'd had Drew Brees, I might still be in Miami."
Brees was at peace. His body and mind were ready. At his introductory New Orleans press conference, Brees boldly allayed any fears about his injured shoulder - cynics had been doubting him all his life. "They'll be eating their words," he said. "It's not the first time somebody said I couldn't do it." His new teammates quickly grew to love him; he addressed them and many came away impressed.
Brittany and Drew moved into a four-bedroom home that was more than 100 years old in New Orleans' Uptown neighborhood. "I love the charm of this place," Drew told the New York Times. "Who knows how long these wood floors have been here, how long these chandeliers have hung here. That is the fun of being in an old house like this."
Brees felt easy in the Big Easy. The Bayou would be built up again. And yes, New Orleans did have tradition: football and family.