The New England Patriots have had a lot of success under current star quarterback Tom Brady. But one quarterback took center stage for the Patriots before the greatest of all time took over. During the 2018 NFL off-season, the Patriots office at Last Word on Sports will take a look back at the history of the franchise, and chronicle some of the best to ever play in New England. Last week, former Patriots star Jon Morris was covered. This week, we will focus on the first great Patriots quarterback, Drew Bledsoe.
Drew Bledsoe: New England Patriots of the Past
Before New England
Bledsoe attended Walla Walla High School in his home state of Washington. He played football, basketball, and was a memberÂ of the track time during his time at Walla Walla. He was named first-team All-State in football and recorded the top throws in the discus and javelin throw.
Bledsoe signed his national letter of intent to play for Washington State. During his record-settingÂ 1992 season, BledsoeÂ led the Cougars to a number ten ranking in the coaches poll and a 9-3 record. He led the team to a win in the Copper Bowl over Utah. Bledsoe finished his career with 9,373 yards, 532 completions, and 66 touchdowns. He decidedÂ to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 1993 NFL Draft.
Bledsoe’s Career with the Patriots
Bledsoe was selectedÂ with the first overall selection of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Patriots. Before Bledsoe, the Patriots were one of the worst franchises in the NFL. A combination of Robert Kraft, Bill Parcells, and BledsoeÂ helped change the fortunes of the franchise forever. In 1994, Bledsoe led the franchise to theirÂ first playoff appearanceÂ since 1986. Bledsoe went on to earn his first Pro Bowl honor that same year. Bledsoe’s finest hour with the team came in 1996.
The Patriots in 1996 were coming off of a tough 1995 season. Bledsoe led the Patriots to wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars to take the Patriots all the way to Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers. Bledsoe and the Patriots could not overcome a high-powered Packers team that night, falling by a score of 35-21. Bledsoe’sÂ 1996 season is one of the best in team history. He led the leagueÂ in completions and attempts, and he finished with 4,086 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Under Pete Carroll, Bledsoe and the team suffered. Bledsoe’s numbers showed a decline in his game due to Carroll’s system, and Bill Belichick was hired as the head coach in 2000. Bledsoe’s time with the Patriots ended after a near-fatal injury against the New York Jets in 2001. Brady took over and the Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI over the St. Louis Rams. Bledsoe’s last appearance with the team came in the AFC Championship Game. Brady suffered an ankle injury, and he came in and led the Patriots to victory in a relief role.
Career After New England
In addition to playing for the Patriots, Bledsoe had stints with the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys. Bledsoe career saw a rejuvenation in 2002 in Buffalo. He earned his first Pro Bowl appearance since 1997. As a result of the drafting of J.P. Losman, Bledsoe signed with the Cowboys in 2005. He led the Cowboys to a 9-7 record. Due to getting replaced by Tony Romo, Bledsoe retired at the end of the 2006 season. He finished his career a four-time Pro Bowler, and a Super Bowl Champion.
Life After Football
In addition to being a football star, Drew Bledsoe opened up a winery in his home state of Washington. His Doubleback Winery has started to gain popularity in the wine business. In 2011, he became a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame. In addition to winemaking, Bledsoe stepped into the coaching profession in 2012. He coached his kids at Summit High School in Oregon, helping lead them to a string of successful seasons.
Bledsoe is one of the best players in the history of the Patriots franchise. As one of the best quarterbacks in the 1990s, Bledsoe has earned his spot in Patriots lore. He has remained around the organization, and will forever be a legend in New England.