The New England Patriots thought they had their franchise quarterback in 1993 after selecting Drew Bledsoe first overall… but then Tom Brady happened.
Before Tom Brady stepped on the scene in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the New England Patriots already had their franchise quarterback… or so they thought. The Patriots selected Drew Bledsoe first overall in the 1993 NFL Draft.
For many of us in my generation, Bledsoe was the first quarterback we remember for the Patriots. In fact, Bledsoe’s No. 11 was the first Patriots jersey I ever owned. He was part of the original group of Patriots who would eventually set the culture for what has become a historic dynasty in New England.
Some of those original players include Troy Brown, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, and Adam Vinatieri.
Bledsoe was also part of the pre-Robert Kraft ownership era in New England. He was coached by Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll before Bill Belichick took the head coach job in 2000.
Even though he was coached by Belichick for just about one season, Bledsoe arguably had better career numbers when Belichick was not his coach. Statistically, the Pats were a better passing team with Bledsoe as their quarterback before Belichick became the head coach.
Other than his rookie season in ’93, Bledsoe had six straight seasons of throwing for more than 3,500 yards and five seasons of throwing at least 19 touchdown passes. When Belichick took over in 2000, Bledsoe’s production dropped right above 3,200 passing yards and 17 touchdown passes.
Needless to say, Bledsoe was who all Patriots fans believed in and trusted as their quarterback for the previous seven seasons.
But in Week 2 of the ‘01 season — due to what looked like a season ending injury — the franchise transitioned from Bledsoe to Brady.
When Bledsoe eventually was cleared to play and learned that the starting job was no longer his, he obviously wasn’t too pleased about it… but he handled the situation with professionalism and didn’t let it affect the team.
In an interview later in the season with now NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, Bledsoe basically admitted he didn’t have an argument against Belichick sticking with Brady.
“Looking back at it, I didn’t like it, I didn’t agree with it. But the fact of the matter is, we’re in the Super Bowl now,” Bledsoe told Bradshaw, courtesy of SkySports Live via YouTube.
In the same interview, Bledsoe gave Brady some praise for the success he was able to accomplish for the Patriots in the wake of his own injury.
"“I am not surprised at how well he has performed. When I went down, I fully expected him to come in and play at a very high level because I’ve watched him.”"
Now fast forwarding 18 years. Brady’s a six-time Super Bowl champion — the most by a quarterback in NFL history. He’s also a three-time league MVP, two-time Offensive Player of the Year, and has been selected to the Pro Bowl 14 times in his 20-year career. Brady is arguably the most successful quarterback in the history of the NFL.
On a recent series of ESPN’s E:60, the E:60 team conducted an interview and learned what Bledsoe has been doing with his life since he was forced out of New England in 2002 and eventually retired from the NFL in 2006. Since then, he makes and blends wine in his own winery: Doubleback Winery.
Bledsoe’s retirement endeavors weren’t the only thing the E:60 team wanted to talk about though. Bledsoe expressed himself about what he originally thought about Brady during those shared seasons together in New England.
"“He’s never going to be a starter… he’s going to be Jason Garrett or one of those guys who’s just going to be around forever. But I really liked the kid, and still do. But nobody, outside of Tom himself, predicted he would go on to be a starter and in the conversation as the greatest of all time.”"
Throughout the history of the league, we’ve seen backup quarterbacks eventually become starters one day. Steve Young, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Nick Foles, and Tom Brady have all proved to be successful starters in the NFL after starting their careers being overlooked or on the bench.
As a Patriots fan in my generation, we’ve been lucky enough to only really see two New England quarterbacks in our time. You can’t tell the full story of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots without mentioning Drew Bledsoe.