“NFL Draft–What If”
This is the 20th Anniversary to remember.
These times are supposed to be special, but not this one.
As we head to the NFL Draft next Thursday, this is the 20th Anniversary of a Draft pick that could have changed the San Diego Chargers fortunes.
A ‘What If’ moment in a franchises lifetime.
It was the 2000-NFL draft, as the Chargers were in the midst of transition. The Super Bowl team of 1995 was long gone.
There had been head coaching changes. There was a quarterback controversy raging in Mission Valley.
And in 20-20 hindsight, ‘what if’, then General Manager Bobby Beathard had done what his head coach Mike Riley wanted.
The background story. The Bolts had blown the 1998-draft, when Peyton Manning went first to the Colts and Ryan Leaf fell to the second spot for Beathard and Company to take. They did, it did not workout.
In the midst of a lost 1998-season, then head coach Kevin Gilbride put an unprepared Leaf into the lineup, in what turned out to be a disastrous (5-11) season. Leaf threw (2TD-15Int) and had QB-rating of (48). Gilbride was fired at midseason, replaced by June Jones.
Mike Riley took over in 1999, and Leaf did not play, recovering from a broken wrist suffered horsing around on the practice field. He got his team to an (8-8) record with a combo of Jim Harbaugh and Erik Kramer guiding the team.
The Chargers had a chance to do something about the ongoing QB crisis in 2020, but didn’t. Then so, neither did the other teams in the league. In what was a quarterback poor draft, only 1-QB was taken in the first two rounds. Of the top 6-QB-picks, only two had decent careers, Chad Pennington-Jets and Marc Bulger-Rams.
The Chargers didn’t have a first round pick that year. Starting in the 2nd round-this is who they chose:
..3-Damion McIntosh-OT-Kansas State
..6-JaJuan Seider-QB-SW Texas State
They had 6-opportunities to take a QB-that day, an heir apparent to Leaf’s cataclysmic failures. And they wound up with a QB from 1AA-football.
It was the beginning of the end of Bobby Beathard’s career in San Diego. The Hall of Fame, who had done so many brilliant drafts in Washington, Miami and in his early years with the Bolts, made bad choices, and didn’t do what his head coach asked.
Mike Riley pleaded for a QB with big time credentials from a big time program. They had attended his pro day, done all types of research, and yet were not willing to even try a late round pick on the guy Riley wanted to take a look at.
Not one of those draft picks amounted to anything.
Of course a ton of other teams didn’t put this name up on their draft board. There were 6-quarterbacks taken heading into the end of the 6th round, a few good, most failures:
6-Marc Bulger-New Orleans-West Virginia
6-Spurgon Wynn-Cleveland-Texas State
That draft went on and on, and then New England did what San Diego did not. Took a flyer, played a hunch, went for the gamble.
The Patriots chose Tom Brady, a part-time starter at Michigan, who had nearly transferred out, and now we know the rest of the history. A 20-year career, 6-Super Bowl Rings, 9-Super Bowl Sunday games..a (219-64) record…(74,571-passing yards)…(541-TD) and a Hall of Fame ceremony awaiting.
The Chargers, as Leaf returned for the 2000 season, were like a ship sinking in Mission Bay, as disaster struck. It cost Riley his job, Beathard’s career was over, and the Bolts went (1-15) that year. Leaf had 11-TDs..18-interceptions…and a QB rating of (56), this in his third year in the league. He was gone…dumped on the Dallas Cowboys, where his career-life spiraled into drug addiction and failure.
You can play the game of thinking, hoping, what the Bolts could have become if Brady had wound up in San Diego.
Connect the dots. Here came new GM-John Butler, his wingman AJ Smith, and a cadre of draft picks, that helped Marty Schottenheimer to (12-4) and (14-2) seasons.
Brady would have been the first piece in the puzzle. Followup drafts and signings included LaDainian Tomlinson..Antonio Gates..Vincent Jackson..Michael Turner..Quentin Jammer..Nick Hardwick…Nate Kaeding..Shawne Merriman..Darren Sproles..Eric Weddle…Marcus McNeill..Antonio Cromartie..Luis Castillo…Igor Olshansky..Drew Brees and Sean Phillips.
There might not have been a Philip Rivers-Eli Manning pick and trade years later.
But there would have been wins, AFC-West titles and maybe a Super Bowl Sunday appearance or two.
‘What If’ the Chargers had drafted Tom Brady. Things would have fallen into place, rather than falling apart.
If Brady had done in San Diego what he did in Foxborough, maybe the Chargers would still be our team, instead of an orphan in Los Angeles.
Indeed, the 20th Anniversary….and you have to say….’What If’?’