The Leadership Link Between Drew Brees and Nick Saban

At my daughter’s school, they conclude each year with Awards Day.  The highest honor bestowed on a student is called the Warrior Award.  It is an award handed out to the one student of each class that best exemplified the qualities of a Christian warrior.

The problem with the award is it is completely subjective.  The teachers each have different definitions for what a Warrior is.  Ultimately, it is their opinion of who they think the Warrior should be.  The award is not measurable.

The world often attempts to put labels on people.  If you have ever felt marginalized by others, I want you to think of New Orleans Saints All-Pro QB Drew Brees.  There are some interesting lessons to take from Brees’ career and how it impacted the Super Bowl champion Saints as well as the NCAA champs, the Alabama Crimson Tide.   Before we review his career history, let’s be reminded what type of leader Brees has become.

  • Drew Brees – Drafted with the 32nd pick by the San Diego Chargers on April 21, 2001
  • Philip Rivers selected 5th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft on April 24th, 2004 by the same San Diego Chargers.  Then Head Coach Marty Schottenhemier liked Rivers from coaching him in the Senior Bowl.
  • Rivers is unable to beat out Brees who wins the 2004 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
  • Monday, August 29th 2005 Hurrican Katrina hits Louisana.
  • New Orleans Saints go 3-13 in 2005.
  • Rivers is once again unable to beat out Brees in 2005
  • Brees gets hurt in the final game of the 2005 season and the Chargers chose not to resign him.
  • 2005 – Nick Saban goes 9-7 with the Miami Dolphins.
  • March 13th, 2006 Drew Brees signs with the New Orleans Saints. 
  • March 14th, 2006 Miami trades a 2nd round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for Daunte Culpepper after Saban elects to go with Culpepper over Brees.

Before we take a look at the next chapter of this saga, please note Brees’ comments after the Chargers chose to go with Rivers and then the Dolphins went with Culpepper as reported by

“… I just felt that energy in New Orleans,” Brees said. “From the very beginning there was a genuine feeling that they wanted me there. They believe I can come back from this shoulder injury and lead them to a championship. They were as confident as I am, and that meant a lot.”

Brees’ decision came within seconds of the Dolphins dropping out of the bidding when they traded a second-round choice for Daunte Culpepper. All along, the Saints had more money and more guarantees on the table for Brees and wanted to use his name as the marquee for ticket sales, sales that have been hot because of the Saints’ return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“Drew was sufficiently impressed with the organization and the head coach in New Orleans,” said Brees’ agent, Tom Condon, referring to Head Coach Sean Payton. “New Orleans was also very comfortable with the risk-reward, based on his rehabilitation from the injury, and Miami didn’t have that same level of comfort, so New Orleans made a lot of sense for us.”

  •  2006 – Daunte Culpepper was benched after four games and the Dolphins go 6-10.  The Saints led by Brees go 10-6 and defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-24 in the Divisional Playoff game.
  • 2007 – Nick Saban leaves Miami and is subsequently announced as Head Coach of the University of Alabama.
  • January 8th, 2010 the Alabama Crimson Tide defeats Texas Longhorns 37-21 in the BCS Championship game.
  • February 7th, 2010 the Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in the Super Bowl.
  • Daunte Culpepper is currently considering a contract with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League.

The following are interesting thoughts to ponder if Nick Saban would have selected Brees over Culpepper.

  1. Nick Saban is probably still in Miami.
  2. Miami could very well be a Super Bowl champion.
  3. New Orleans never wins the Super Bowl.
  4. Alabama never wins the NCAA championship.
  5. The Florida Gators probably win their 3rd title in 4 years.
  6. Here’s something else to think about – if then San Diego Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer doesn’t coach in the Senior Bowl in 2004, New Orleans ultimately doesn’t win the Super Bowl in 2010.

Now here are the leadership lessons:

  1. Drew Brees had two organizations reject him.  Just because someone doesn’t appreciate your skills doesn’t mean they are right.  It also doesn’t mean that in another environment you will not absolutely thrive.
  2. When choosing between two equally talented people, select the better leader.  The better leader always has the capacity to make those around him/her better as well.
  3. Discover where your skills would be a good fit.  Sean Peyton operates a very wide-open offensive style that requires quick decisions while utilizing multiple options.  Brees is perfect for that system.  What system would you be perfect in?
  4. Sean Peyton and Nick Saban are both from the Bill Parcells coaching tree.  Parcells gave each a glowing report on Brees.  Yet, Saban ignored the advice.  We all need to have mentors whose opinions we value that speak into our life.  My pastor Crawford Loritts is that person for me.  They take us to a higher level.

Failure is not final.  Whenever you feel unappreciated by an organization or person, remember the story of Drew Brees.  Look for a situation that’s a perfect fit.  Join that organization.  Watch the results and then use your story to encourage others.


About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

One Response to “The Leadership Link Between Drew Brees and Nick Saban”

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