41-year-old replaces struggling Brees

Updated: November 7, 2003, 11:16 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- Now Doug Flutie gets to see what he can do for a whole game.

Still energetic at 41, and in his 19th season in pro football, Flutie will start at quarterback for the punchless San Diego Chargers at home Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, replacing the ineffective Drew Brees.

Drew Brees

Doug Flutie

Flutie replaced Brees in the fourth quarter at Chicago on Sunday and led the Chargers (1-7) on their only scoring drive in an otherwise dismal 20-7 loss.

Afterward, Chargers defensive end Marcellus Wiley said it was time for the Chargers to go with Flutie.

Five days later, coach Marty Schottenheimer made the anticlimactic announcement. Flutie took the majority of snaps during the week, but Schottenheimer held off announcing the change until Friday, hoping to keep the Vikings guessing as long as possible whether they'd face the scrambling Flutie or Brees, a pocket passer.

"I'm pretty excited about it," said Flutie, who's backed up Brees the last 1½ seasons. "I'm looking forward to getting on the field and trying to put the ball in the end zone, see if we can score some points."

That'd be a radical change for the Chargers, who've lost 14 of their last 17 games and are one loss shy of clinching an eighth straight non-winning season.

Brees, 9-15 in his 1{ seasons as the starter, threw five interceptions and no touchdown passes in the last three games.

Flutie hasn't started since 2001, when he was the first-stringer all season and the Chargers were 5-11, losing their last nine games.

"I've said it before, the most popular guy on the team is the backup quarterback because if you are losing, that's the answer to everything, that's the answer to all the ills, one guy," Flutie said. "Yeah, put the other guy in and like I said, if we go out and get beat again, they will be calling for Cleo to get in there."

He was referring to Cleo Lemon, the Chargers' practice squad QB. The Chargers don't have a third-string QB.

"There's not always a quick fix, but hopefully a change at the quarterback position can maybe re-instill some confidence in the other guys and get them to play well, as well," Flutie said.

The 5-foot-10 Flutie isn't sure whether it's his mannerism, body language or the way he operates in the huddle that gave the Chargers a spark last Sunday.

"What I do know is I welcome the opportunity and I'm excited about playing and I feel athletically, arm-strength wise, just like I have for the last 10-15 years," he said.

"I feel like I can still run and move and do all the things that I like to do and play the game I like to play it. So, when I step on the field, I step out there with confidence."

Said Brees: "Of course I'm angry, of course I'm disappointed.

"I was actually leaning toward thinking I was going to get the start. But a decision has been made and I support Doug 100 percent. I just want us to win."

As disappointed as he is in losing his job, Brees said he was "probably more disappointed in the fact that it even got to this point. But you just got to turn it into a positive and hopefully look back on this day and say it made me a better person and better player."

Flutie and Brees get along well off the field. That wasn't the case when Flutie and Rob Johnson were involved in a divisive QB controversy with the Buffalo Bills.

"Here, it's a little different because Drew is still young, Drew is still seen as the future of this franchise and it's more looked at as a short-termed thing in my mind," Flutie said.

"I think the bottom line is we have to find a way to win a football game and that will help a lot of things around here."

Schottenheimer said Flutie will play the whole game, barring injury.

He made the change because of Brees' poor passing accuracy "and Doug Flutie brings a different style of play as was evident the other day," Schottenheimer said. "The ability to run around and make plays on your own, improvise."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press