The Chiefs were a different franchise at the turn of the century. The NFL was also in a much different place in the year 2000. That year, the Chiefs finished the season ranked ninth in points scored and fifth in passing. Much of this was thanks to a 30-year-old Elvis Grbac. Grbac threw for a career-high 4,169 yards and 28 passing touchdowns. Running back Marshall Faulk won the league’s MVP award. Brian Urlacher was the defensive rookie of the year and Ray Lewis won the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award, ultimately winning his lone Super Bowl with the Ravens at the season’s end.
Grbac’s 4,169 passing yards ranked third in the NFL, behind only Peyton Manning and Jeff Garcia. His 28 touchdowns trailed only Manning, Garcia, and Daunte Culpepper. That 2000 season would prove to be his last with the Chiefs. Instead of signing Grbac to an extension, the team traded a first-round pick to the St. Louis Rams for a 31-year-old quarterback returning from a brutal knee injury.
Chiefs’ Decision Was Great, But Could It Have Been Better?
In retrospect, it must have seemed like an awful trade for the Chiefs at the time. The team acquired a quarterback coming off a knee injury, having never truly performed well at the NFL level. That quarterback — Trent Green — would turn out to be one of the best quarterbacks in franchise history. Green would lead one of the very best offenses in franchise history in 2003. That season, the team scored 30.3 points per game which ranked first in the entire NFL. The team started 9-0 but sadly lost to Peyton Manning and the Colts in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s safe to say that the Chiefs’ decision to trade for Trent Green worked out just fine. The team didn’t see much postseason success, but that was mostly a result of their defense; not the Green-led offense. However, the team had its eyes set on another quarterback before ultimately trading for Green in April 2001.
In an interview with Dan Patrick in 2014, Brees discussed the teams that he heard were interested in him in the draft:
“And at one point it was the Chiefs, but they ended up trading for Trent Green right before.” Drew Brees on teams interested in him in the 2001 NFL Draft
Imagine for a moment that the Chiefs had drafted Brees that spring out of Purdue. Would it have altered the franchise in any way? What could be different today?
Brees Could Have Brought The Chiefs Success Much Earlier
The Chiefs and their fans famously lived through one of the largest championship droughts in NFL history. A span of 50 years stands between their victories in Super Bowl IV and Super Bowl LIV. Would drafting Brees have changed the length of that drought? It’s possible, but not entirely certain.
After all, Brees was drafted not by the Saints but by the Chargers. In five seasons with San Diego, Brees started 58 games. He averaged just 2,469 passing yards per season with 16 touchdowns and ten interceptions. Famously, following the 2005 season with the Chargers, Brees signed with the Saints and the rest is history. He went on to finish his career with a (then) NFL record of 80,358 passing yards and 571 touchdowns. Despite winning just one Super Bowl, he retired unquestionably as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the league’s history.
Would the Chiefs have kept Brees instead of letting him hit free agency as the Chargers did? If he struggled in Kansas City as he did in San Diego, would they have given him another chance? They probably wouldn’t have had a choice. Instead of drafting Brodie Croyle in the third round of the 2006 draft, the team would have likely looked to keep Brees around. And if they had, would it have changed their levels of success?
Brees And The Chiefs Make Their Mark Behind An Elite Defense
Instead of drafting Croyle in 2006, the Chiefs could have drafted Jason Avant. They could have signed Terrell Owens in free agency and still drafted Dwayne Bowe in 2007. The trio would’ve formed a formidable offense around Brees. Adding in Jamaal Charles in 2008 would’ve made the group one of the all-time great groups.
The 2007 Chiefs finished the season 4-12 and ranked 31st of 32 teams in points scored. On defense, they were much better at 14th. That team with Brees and co. would’ve finished much better than 4-12. In fact, they could’ve made the playoffs. That season, the Patriots famously went 16-0 before losing in the Super Bowl to Steve Spagnuolo and the Giants. Had Tom Brady had to go through Drew Brees and the Chiefs’ defense, do we ever even see the Patriots in the Super Bowl?
It is quite likely that Brees would have broken the Chiefs’ playoff win drought much earlier than Alex Smith did so (in 2015). However, it is uncertain that the same career would have unfolded for Brees had he not met fate and Sean Payton in New Orleans back in 2006. Especially if he had landed in Kansas City. The team and their coaching staff weren’t exactly known as quarterback “whisperers.” After all, there’s a reason that the franchise failed with quarterback after quarterback until Andy Reid arrived.
Ironically, in 2017 when the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes tenth overall, Sean Payton and the Saints would have drafted Mahomes at their pick 11. Had Brees been a Kansas City Chief at that time, would the team still have traded up and drafted Mahomes? It’s an interesting thought experiment, but I’m just happy we have Mahomes on this team. History worked out just fine, even if it took a little longer.
Would the Chiefs have won a Super Bowl with Drew Brees under center? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion.
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