How many of you knew that the Tom Brady era started when Mo Lewis of the New York Jets hit Drew Bledsoe and knocked Bledsoe out of the game and out of New England …which started the Tom Brady era…Bledsoe wasn’t as bad as some might think.
On November 13, 1994, the Patriots had won just three of their first nine games and were losing, 20–3, to the Minnesota Vikings at halftime. Bledsoe led a comeback victory in which the Patriots won, 26–20, in overtime, as he set single game records in pass completions (45) and attempts (70). By remaining undefeated throughout the succeeding games, the Patriots earned their first postseason appearance in eight years. Bledsoe started all 16 games that season and went on to set a NFL record in pass attempts (691), becoming the second NFL quarterback to complete 400 or more passes in a season (400), and led the league in passing yards (4,555). Due to his performance, Bledsoe was selected to his first Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Following a difficult 1995 season, Bledsoe turned it around in 1996 ranking among the top passers in the league with the help of wide receiver Terry Glenn, thus pushing the Patriots to reach the playoffs again and winning the AFC championship against the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20–6. This led to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXI, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers by the score of 35–21. Bledsoe completed 25 of 48 passes for 253 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions in the loss. He was also named a starter for the Pro Bowl that season, the second of his career.
After losing his starting job to Tom Brady, the following season he was traded to the Buffalo Bills.
A change of scenery—by way of a trade—to Bledsoe’s former division rival Buffalo seemed to give him a bit of rejuvenation in 2002. He had one of his best seasons ever, passing for 4,359 yards and 24 touchdowns and making his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl. In Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings, Bledsoe set a team record with 463 yards passing in an overtime win. He continued his strong play in 2003 as the Bills began the year 2–0. However, a flurry of injuries stymied the Bills offense; they failed to score a touchdown in three consecutive games en route to a 6–10 season. In 2004, they fell one game short of making the playoffs; a late season winning streak went for naught when Bledsoe and the Bills performed poorly against the Pittsburgh Steelers backups in the season finale.
Bledsoe was released by the Bills after the 2004 season to make way for backup quarterback J.P. Losman. When Bledsoe was later signed by the Dallas Cowboys, he expressed bitterness with the Bills for the move, stating “I can’t wait to go home and dress my kids in little stars and get rid of the other team’s [Buffalo’s] stuff.”
Bledsoe went on to sign with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was reunited with former coach Bill Parcells. Bledsoe was intended to be a long-term solution at quarterback for the Cowboys. Said Bledsoe on the day he signed with Dallas, “Bill [Parcells] wants me here, and being the starter. I anticipate that being the case and not for one year.” He signed for $23 million for three years.
During his tenure with the Cowboys, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season for the ninth time in his career, tying Warren Moon for fourth in NFL history. That season, Bledsoe led five 4th quarter/OT game-winning drives to keep the Cowboys’ playoff hopes alive until the final day of the season. Though the team ultimately failed to reach the playoffs, Bledsoe had led them to a 9-7 record, an improvement over the 6-10 mark that Vinny Testaverde had finished with in 2004.
However, in 2006, his final season with the Cowboys, Bledsoe’s play became erratic, so much so that six games into the season he was replaced by then-backup and soon to be Pro Bowler Tony Romo. Shortly after the end of the 2006 season, Bledsoe was released by the Cowboys. Unwilling to be relegated to a backup position, Bledsoe announced his retirement from the NFL on April 11, 2007.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes …Drew Bledsoe.
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