Perception being what it is, it would be rather easy to think that Drew Brees and Philip Rivers have an adversarial relationship as two competitive quarterbacks who once eyed the same job.
After all, it was Rivers who took over for Brees as the San Diego Chargers’ starter in 2006 after two seasons together. Naturally, the perception is they didn’t get along before and after Brees, who was cast aside after a major shoulder injury, signed with the Saints.
But as they prepare to face each other for the second time in the regular season, when the Chargers and Saints meet Sunday night, both say otherwise.
According to Brees, it may have been adversarial to others — but not to them even though a still-young Brees was just entering his fourth NFL season.
“It was like, ‘Hey, they’re drafting him to be the quarterback of the future to take (Brees’) job,’” Brees said of the initial reaction when the Chargers picked Rivers in the 2004 draft after being spurned by Eli Manning.
“I think people wanted us to be at odds. They wanted us to be adversaries. They wanted this to be a contentious relationship … and it wasn’t.”
Still, many thought there was one when Rivers had to watch his first two seasons from the bench while Brees led the Chargers to their first playoff berth in eight seasons in 2004 and retained the job in ’05.
“Despite what people might have tried to make it,” Brees said, “it wasn’t that way.”
It was only natural, he said, for Rivers to want to be on the field instead of waiting and wondering when — and if — he’d get a chance.
“Listen, we were both competitive people,” Brees said. “We both wanted to play. We both wanted to be the guy, but we had a good quarterback room during that time.”
The Chargers also had Doug Flutie and Cleo Lemon at the time, but Brees said while it was extremely competitive, there wasn’t any animosity.
That didn’t change when Brees’ career took off with the Saints, resulting in a Super Bowl title and MVP award and two NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors to go with a slew of NFL and Saints’ passing records.
At the same time, Rivers developed into one of the game’s top quarterbacks, even though he hasn’t earned elite status yet.
He said it makes sense that he and Brees will forever be connected because of the two years they happened to be together in San Diego.
“It was neither our choice that we ended up right there at the point we did in our careers,” Rivers said.
“There’s no doubt we were going to compete like crazy. I wanted to be the starter my rookie year, and there was no doubt in his mind where he said he wasn’t letting me have it.
“We’re both competitive, but very respectful of one another.”
What makes that easy, both say, is they’re very similar in the way they approach the game — whether it’s in their work ethic or competitiveness.
Which was, and is, healthy for both of them.