Rabalais: Let’s play what if for  a little while

Associated Press photo by Vasha HuntAlabama coach Nick Saban watches his team's practice Tuesday.
Associated Press photo by Vasha HuntAlabama coach Nick Saban watches his team's practice Tuesday.

It is said history is written by the winners, but who would have ended up winning if history had taken a slightly different turn?

In 1979, a close 24-19 victory at LSU convinced Bobby Bowden he could make Florida State into a big-time program. What might have been at LSU, after Charles McClendon retired, had LSU lured Bowden to Baton Rouge?

In 1986, Steve Spurrier craved the LSU job but was spurned in favor of then LSU defensive coordinator Mike Archer. It seems inconceivable to think that Spurrier would have stayed at LSU for decades, but how many tormented seasons in the 1980s and 90s might LSU have avoided if Spurrier had come and set Tiger football on a different path?

It is against such a backdrop that we consider a Miami radio interview with Nick Saban this week, in which the former LSU and Miami Dolphins coach discussed the Dolphins’ failure to sign Drew Brees after the 2005 season and his much-criticized departure from South Florida to Alabama.

It has been widely reported for years that Dolphins team doctors examined Brees (then with the San Diego Chargers) and determined that his surgically repaired throwing shoulder was far too iffy to risk a big contract. Saban, however, said the Dolphins did indeed make an offer to Brees, but that he then failed his physical.

Brees, of course, passed his physical with the New Orleans Saints. Both quarterback and shoulder have stayed in the passing lane ever since.

The Dolphins signed Daunte Culpepper instead. The resulting 6-10 campaign was the only losing season of Saban’s career, one that left him looking for an exit strategy out of South Florida that he found behind Alabama’s gilded door.

The possibilities had Brees passed the physical — or if the micro-managing, dictatorial Saban said hang the physical and signed Brees anyway — are enormous.

Would Brees have been as successful with the Dolphins as he has been with the Saints? Would Miami have won a Super Bowl with Brees throwing and Saban coaching, maybe even the very same Super Bowl Brees and the Saints won in Miami three seasons ago?

And, from an LSU perspective, would Saban have ever left the Dolphins if he won a championship with Brees as his quarterback? Who would Alabama have found to replace Mike Shula after the 2006 season? No one as accomplished as Saban, to be sure, and almost certainly no one who’d now have the Crimson Tide playing for its third BCS title in four seasons. How much more dominant could the Tigers have been with a diminished Alabama occupying the SEC West?

You can play the what-if game from now until this year’s Super Bowl and get nothing for the trouble, except ulcers. Better to say history is what it was always supposed to be, and remember that USC could have finished just ahead of LSU in the 2003 BCS standings, or that the Indianapolis Colts could have recovered that third-quarter onside kick.