METAIRIE, La. – Drew Brees knows it would be an easy story for him to dislike the San Diego Chargers and to harbor ill will towards Philip Rivers.
The Chargers did, after all, let him go free after injuring his shoulder in 2005 and Rivers was drafted to take Brees’ place in charge of San Diego’s offense.
But there’s only one problem.
“You know what’s funny is I like Philip a lot as a person, as a quarterback, as a family guy, off the field, everything,” Brees said this week.
For only the second time since Brees signed with the New Orleans Saints, he’ll face his former team and the man signed to replace him when San Diego comes to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a Sunday night game.
Brees is 1-0 against Rivers, guiding the 2008 Saints to a win in London over the Chargers.
It would be hard to argue the move didn’t work for everyone involved. Rivers is second in the NFL in passing yards and third in touchdowns while Brees leads the NFL in yards, touchdown passes and pass attempts.
And for Brees – and the Saints – the move culminated in a Super Bowl win.
Still, for Brees and Rivers, it’s a relationship built on respect and admiration.
“He deserves all the recognition he’s received,” Rivers said. “I was only with him those two years kind of early in his ascent to where he is today. He was a heck of a player then, obviously before the Super Bowl and the other great things he’s done since he’s come to New Orleans. It’s certainly been impressive to see.”
Brees knew Rivers was drafted to eventually take over for him. He also knew that many believed the relationship, because of that, would be controversial.
It just wasn’t, though. Seven seasons after Brees left, they’re still friends.
“I think people wanted us to be at odds,” Brees said. “They wanted us to be adversaries. They wanted this to be a contentious relationship, and it wasn’t. Listen, we were both competitive people. We both wanted to play, we both wanted to be the guy.”
He added, “The point being is that we all helped one another, and yes it was competitive, but it wasn’t adversarial at all.”
While there’s mutual respect, you better believe they’ll be trying to match each other Sunday night.
Through four weeks of the 2012 season, Rivers has a QB rating 5.8 points higher than Brees and his 69 percent completion rate is fourth in the NFL, or 20 spots better than Brees’. But the Saints quarterback leads the NFL in yards (1,350) and is second in completions (110). Rivers has only 897 yards and 87 completions.
And where they’ll be compared the most is on the scoreboard, where Brees leads Rivers 10 touchdowns to 6 so far this season.
“Just like last week, you know that you’re going up against Aaron Rodgers and that offense,” Brees said. “You know what they’re capable of, so you know that you just have to bring your absolute best, not to say you’re not trying to do that every week, but you’re competitive.”
Yet, when this game is over, they’ll go back to pulling for each other.
“I always watch them when they’re playing when I get the chance,” Rivers said. “He seems to do the same. When you have a solid guy, a good guy and a true pro in the way he plays, it makes it easy to get along and pull for a guy.”