If I told you about a former starting quarterback who had just started to come into his own under center after years of struggling only to go down with an injury, who would you think I was referring to? Of course, the more contemporary answer is San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith, but just seven years ago, a guy by the name of Drew Brees was in a very similar situation. Granted the circumstances have some clear differences, but let’s do a true comparison to see just how similar they actually are.
Both quarterbacks had experienced terrible seasons prior to their perceived breakout campaigns, but each had their own specific set of expectations as well. For Smith, he was the top pick of the draft back in 2005 whereas Brees was the top pick too, of the second round back in 2001. Both had three forgettable years during their first snaps in the league with completion percentages below 60 and quarterback ratings in the mid to upper 60s. Both also had nearly identical touchdown totals to their number of interceptions which is never a good thing.
While Brees only lasted five years with the San Diego Chargers, Smith did manage to hang on for eight in San Fran, but not with out taking a significant pay-cut and going through some serious criticism. Both saw their respective career arcs turn upward in scarily similar manners however as Brees led a San Diego franchise to the postseason in 2004 for the first time since 1995 while Smith did the same for the 49ers in 2011 with a team that hadn’t been there since 2002.
Perhaps the torn labrum for Brees to finish the 2005 season was a bit different than the concussion that essentially ended Smith’s 2012 campaign, but there is no denying the coincidental circumstances. Philip Rivers would take over the reigns in San Diego while Colin Kaepernick made some history of his own with the 49ers.
The narratives for neither player are finished yet however as Brees would go on to sign with the New Orleans Saints as we all know and win the Super Bowl in February of 2010. While Smith’s next stop is still unknown, if history has taught us anything, he may very well have a soft landing of his own somewhere and find some significant success in the not so distant future.