In the summer of 2006, the Miami Dolphins were in the free agency market of looking for a prized quarterback to take the realms under center. A series of events would alter the life on many people involved with the decision and direction the Dolphins chose that summer. The previous two seasons (2005-2006) before that very important free agency summer, the Dolphins were going through a disaster under former LSU college football head coach Nick Saban. Who in those two seasons compiled a 15-17 record. Afterwards, Saban bolted for the University of Alabama and built one of the best dynasties in college football over the next decade. The Dolphins then put the keys in the hands of Cam Cameron, who was the San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator the previous five seasons. Unfortunately, Cameron’s one and only head coaching season in 2007 was a complete failure with a 1-15 record. The only saving grace from that season was the lone victory over the Baltimore Ravens at home in Week 15 snapping a 13-game losing streak. That victory spared the Dolphins from truly establishing NFL history as they could have been the only team to have both a undefeated AND winless season. After being fired by the Dolphins after one season, Cameron would take the offensive coordinator job with, you guess it, the Baltimore Ravens.
But back to the summer of 2006. There were two quarterbacks who were big time free agents on the market, Drew Brees and Daunte Culpepper. Both players had established themselves as perhaps future Hall of Famers heading to Canton. Culpepper had a good run with the Minnesota Vikings and Brees with the San Diego Chargers. However, both of their 2005 seasons ended with injuries. Brees sustained a throwing shoulder injury in the final game that season, and Culpepper suffered a devastating knee injury that tore three of the four major ligaments. Nevertheless, the Dolphins’ team doctors believed there was a slim chance that Brees would be able to still have a very productive career. So therefore the Dolphins settled on Culpepper because it was believed that he could recover from a knee injury and have a successful season and remaining career.
As the saying goes: “hindsight is 20/20”.
Culpepper would sign with the Dolphins for the 2006 season, but would only play in the first four games of the season before being placed on injury reserve with knee problems. He led the Dolphins to a 1-3 record that one and only season with the team. Culpepper would play three more seasons (2007-2009) afterwards with the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions before ultimately retiring from the NFL. During those final three seasons, Culpepper played in 20 games compiling a 2-14 record as a starter. Drew Brees on the other hand, seemingly without a doubt punched his ticket to Canton and can be widely considered as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Considering that Brees has a 131-83 record and a Super Bowl championship (2009) since that 2006 free agency decision. Not to mention that Brees now currently holds NFL records for career touchdown passes, career passing yards, and career pass completions to name a few.
In sports, draft picks and free agency decisions fall into two categories: great/good or bust. These decisions that can make or break a franchise for years if the wrong decision is made. As for the Miami Dolphins decision in the summer of 2006 between Daunte Culpepper and Drew Brees; the decision is very, very clear. The course of this franchise and these two players have transcended in polar opposites since that summer. It makes you wonder if the Dolphins would be considered as one of the best teams over the past decade. Perhaps, even perhaps the New England Patriots dynasty with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady might have not seen the light of day. But its all speculation and hindsight now.
Therefore leaving Miami Dolphin fans to only wonder: “What the Dolphins Could Have Been?”