It’s not often that NFL fans remember a sixth round draft pick, but that’s what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ended up being in the 2000 NFL draft. Since that date, Brady has won three Super Bowls with New England and has become a player destined for the NFL Hall of Fame. However, there was another team interested in Tom and in this edition of COED’s “What If”, we track down what might have happened if the San Diego Chargers had drafted Tom Brady.
Before the 2000 NFL Draft, many scouts weren’t very keen on a Michigan quarterback by the name of Tom Brady. Brady had a rather average performance at the scouting combine and most scouts projected him to be a career back-up.
There were only two men interested in Brady, Pats quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein and Chargers head coach Mike Riley.
The Chargers at the time were still muddled in the Ryan Leaf Era and Riley had taken a shine to Tom after trying to recruit him at USC when he was the offensive coordinator with the Trojans.
So, as the 2000 NFL draft got underway, Tom Brady’s name would continue to slip down the board and San Diego would have an opportunity to select him.
San Diego selects Tom Brady at the 184 pick of the 2000 NFL draft and he becomes the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Ryan Leaf and Jim Harbaugh. The Chargers end up winning one game all season and Brady sees limited action against the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers in the final two games of the regular season.
The Chargers have the first overall pick in 2001 and they trade the pick to Atlanta to acquire Atlanta’s first and second round picks in the 2001 NFL Draft. The Chargers end up using those picks on LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. Brady stays on the squad as the third backup to Brees and recently signed Doug Flutie. The Chargers improve to 5-11 but coach Riley loses his job and Brady’s biggest supporter is gone.
The Chargers hire Marty Schottenheimer to take over the squad for Riley in 2002. For Tom Brady, he doesn’t play much in 2002 but sees lengthier action in 2003 as Brees struggles with injuries. Brady throws for nine touchdowns in the four games he plays in as the Chargers finish the season with three straight wins.
During the 2004 NFL draft, Chargers general manager AJ Smith is happy with the quarterback situation and uses the top pick to take University of Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Talk about a rift in the time-space continuum. Does this mean Rivers WOULD end up with the Giants and Eli would be with some other team? Or would the Giants have selected Eli anyway at #4? How could the Cardinals be content with Josh McCown when Fitz is off the board and they have the #3 pick?] A quarterback controversy starts between Brees and Brady but Brees wins out in the eyes of Marty. The Chargers go to the playoffs with a 12-4 record but fall to the New York Jets in the divisional round.
During the 2005 season, Brady is still on the bench until Brees goes down with a torn labrum suffered in the final game of the season against Denver. Injury concerns mount for Brees and San Diego decides to go with Brady who becomes the full-time starter in 2006. Brady helps lead the Chargers to a 14-2 record and an AFC Divisional meeting with the New England Patriots, only one step away from an AFC Championship game. Sadly, fate deals San Diego a cruel hand as New England’s Matt Cassel ends up beating the Chargers in a 24-21 victory.
In 2007, Norv Turner is named the head coach of the Chargers replacing a fired Marty Schottenheimer as Brady and the team makes the playoffs in three straight seasons but a Super Bowl appearance still eludes them.
In 2010, Brady and the Chargers take the NFL by storm and finish the season with a 13-3 record and sweep through the AFC playoffs to face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. Brady throws for three touchdowns in the game but the Packers led by Aaron Rodgers win the duel of California-born quarterbacks by the score of 31-25.
Brady is talked about as one of the best QBs in the game not to win a Super Bowl but after winning two MVPs and putting up astounding numbers during the regular season, many believe he’s going to be a guaranteed NFL Hall of Famer.
What Really Happened
Well, Brady ends up winning three Super Bowls with the Patriots and the Chargers end up going with Phillip Rivers as their quarterback of the future and present.
To date, the Chargers have not been to the Super Bowl since 1994 and have become one of the best teams in NFL history to fail to make a Super Bowl in the past decade.
Oh, by the way, the player that the Chargers selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft instead of Tom Brady, Virginia linebacker Shannon Taylor who played only three seasons in the NFL.