Injuries are a major part of sports. Players and organizations treat various ailments differently. Sometimes the way that a franchise reacts to a player’s problem changes the course of the future. Making the wrong decision can be the difference between a championship and just top draft pick.
At the end of the 2005 NFL season the Chargers made a lukewarm offer to resign quarterback Drew Brees. Because he tore his labrum during the final game of the season, San Diego suggested an incentive laden contract with only $2 million guaranteed. Miami was interested in Brees, but team doctors were unsure how healthy his shoulder was, and instead the Dolphins traded for Daunte Culpepper. Meanwhile, New Orleans inked Brees to a six year, $60 million deal.
Since the beginning of the 2006 NFL campaign the Dolphins have gone 48-69 with one playoff appearance, and choose Jake Long as their top pick in the draft in 2008. The Chargers are 73-45 and reached the AFC Title game once since Brees departed. New Orleans has celebrated a Super Bowl Title and produced a 74-44 record with Brees as their leader.
The reason it is worth studying the Brees situation is because he is a star player who has the talent to decide a championship. In the NBA, Derrick Rose is similar. Brees left San Diego after playing four full seasons with questions about his health. Rose was a dynamic scorer and passer for the Bulls for four years until tearing his ACL during the 2011-2012 playoffs.
The year before Rose got to Chicago the team went 33-49. The Bulls were 50-16 during the last season he stepped on the court. A storm of controversy has taken place because Rose never suited up last year despite practicing with the team. There were constant rumors that he was ready to play. When Chicago fell to Miami in the Eastern Conference Semifinals it was impossible not to wonder, how the series would have been different had Rose been in the lineup?
Because Rose is signed through the 2016-2017 season, the Bulls do not face the same decision San Diego did with Brees. However, pressure has been on the team since the middle of last season to compel Rose to play. By not doing so, Chicago decided to look at the long-term, and perhaps most importantly make clear to their star that they understand his plight and care about his health and future.
During the rehabilitation of his injury, Rose has put on 10 pounds of muscle and improved his vertical leap by five inches. He sat out an exhibition game last week causing skeptics to hoot and holler. In the same way that Gregg Popovich manages his roster in San Antonio, the Bulls don’t need Rose to be a star in the preseason. They also weren’t going to win the NBA Finals last year with a 65-percent Rose risking further injury while playing. The goal is for Rose to be healthy and productive come April. The organization and player have taken the correct steps to make that likely. Unlike Brees, who will go into the Hall of Fame in the Saints black and gold, Rose is likely to remain the face of a successful Bulls team for many years to come.