NFL Nation: Drew Bledsoe

The revolving door at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns continues on its trend-setting pace.

No NFL team has had more starting quarterbacks than the Cleveland Browns since 1999, the year the team returned to the field.

Nineteen different players -- some noble, some not so noble -- have taken the first snap. Jason Campbell becomes No. 20 on Sunday.

This season's Browns will have three different starters in the first eight games.

"It's something I'm used to," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "It's not like I've ever played with one quarterback a whole season."

Thomas joined the Browns in 2008. He hasn't missed a play since he was drafted. In that time, the Browns have had 10 starting quarterbacks, with No. 11 set to go in Kansas City on Sunday.

The teams with the fewest starters are not surprisingly among the better and most consistent teams in the league. Teams with talented quarterbacks win, and part of being a dependable player is being reliable. The best play well, and play often.

New England has had three starters -- Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady and Matt Cassel.

Green Bay has had three -- Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn when the Packers gave Rodgers a couple late-season games off.

Indianapolis has had five -- but three started games in 2011 when Peyton Manning missed a season. One could say that Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins were underpaid, because they gave the Colts the chance to go from Manning to Andrew Luck.

On the opposite end, Miami ranks second to the Browns with 18 staters since 1999, and Chicago has had 17.

The average per team is 11.3, which means the Browns will be far above average when they hit 20. Nearly double in fact.

When players shrug off the changes and call it life in the NFL -- which some Browns have done -- it's not really accurate.

It's more life in Cleveland.

Jerry Jones had early feeling about Romo

October, 18, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones knows firsthand how quickly Tony Romo can think on his feet.

The Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager remembers standing in a small coaches' locker room at Texas Stadium with Bill Parcells and Romo before a preseason game in 2006 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys wanted Romo to sign an extension, but Romo wanted the team to make a financial commitment to him that would force them to play him at some point if Drew Bledsoe faltered.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo and Jerry jones
Richard Rowe/USA TODAY SportsCowboys owner Jerry Jones is familiar with Tony Romo's ability to look at the big picture.
Jones said he and Parcells were "stepping on his toes pretty good."

"It had a little shakedown feel to it," Romo joked.

Romo told them he would sign if incentives in the offer were turned into base salary. Jones said yes. Parcells smiled.

"We got us a quarterback," Jones recalled Parcells saying after Romo walked out of the room.

Romo would not make his first start with the Cowboys until the seventh game of that season. He will make the 100th regular-season start of his career Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. And Jones still believes the Cowboys "got us a quarterback."

Last March, Jones affirmed his commitment to Romo with a six-year extension worth $108 million and $55 million guaranteed. He also saw the quarterback think fast on his feet again, calling for more involvement in the game-planning process with the coaches before signing the deal

"He sees the whole picture," Jones said, "and I'm not just talking about an open receiver."

Only Hall of Famers Roger Staubach (114) and Troy Aikman (165) have started more games for the Cowboys at quarterback than Romo.

Staubach was a Heisman Trophy winner. Aikman was a No. 1 overall pick. Romo was undrafted.

Yet Jones knew there was something about the quarterback almost immediately when he heard complaints from the Cowboys' defense in practices.

"They'd all holler, 'He's not playing it the right way. We're not going to see that in the game,'" Jones said. "You saw his point guard mentality and his ability to make it up. There's no question that his natural awareness and his ability to see things, you can't teach that. None of this is coachable. None of what he does is coachable. It can be supervised differently than your traditional coaching."

His first start came Oct. 29, 2006, at Carolina. Romo got a bad haircut the week of the game and told NBC before the game his girlfriend broke up with him the previous week. His eighth pass of the game was intercepted, but he finished completing 24 of 36 throws for 270 yards with a touchdown in the Cowboys' 35-14 win against the Panthers.

"Anybody at any level in the organization really knew we would get some juice from Romo offensively," Jones said.

The Cowboys won four of Romo's first five starts, a season was saved and a quarterback was found.

As he enters start No. 100, he is the franchise leader in touchdown passes (191) and second to Aikman in attempts, yards and completions. He owns the Cowboys' season marks for attempts (648), completions (425), yards (4,903) and touchdowns (36).

"Start 1 you don't really know," Romo said. "You're excited about the opportunity to go out and prove to yourself if you can actually do this. Start 100, it's all about getting your team to where you want to go and leading a group of men and trying to take them there, and that would be one difference. It's a little more individual related starting off to prove to yourself that you can play, and start 100 it's about bringing the team there and winning and accomplishing team goals and that's really what it's all about, accomplishment."

As Jones went through the process of extending Romo's contract, he studied how quarterbacks fared after their 100th start, knowing Romo would get there this season. He does not view Romo as the traditional 33-year-old quarterback because Romo did not play in his first three seasons. Aikman was 34 when he retired from the Cowboys. Staubach was 37.

"I see a player who's evolved and grown," Jones said. "You have a lot better chance to win now than at when he started his career. We feel there's plenty of quality games remaining not only with his ability but with his experience that will put us in a position to win it all. If you really look at it, there are only a handful of those guys in the NFL."

It's something Jones and Parcells found out about Romo inside Texas Stadium in 2006.
The new contracts for Darrelle Revis in Tampa Bay and Kam Chancellor in Seattle will be interesting to analyze once the figures can be confirmed.

Initial reports tend to focus on maximum payouts, which can be misleading. Sometimes the new money available through an extension produces a misleading new average per year.

For context, John Parolin of ESPN Stats & Information recently put together charts showing how much money players received after signing deals reportedly worth at least $100 million. The answer was less than 50 percent in most cases.

The first chart examines the numbers for contracts that are no longer active.

The second chart shows how much money players have received on active contracts with maximum values of at least $100 million. It counts the $29 million signing bonus associated with Joe Flacco's deal as money already paid.

The Buffalo Bills are usually a place where quarterback careers go to die.

It happened to Drew Bledsoe, who went from a Super Bowl participant with the New England Patriots to a 23-25 record in three seasons as Buffalo’s starter. It happened to Rob Johnson, Kelly Holcomb, Ryan Fitzpatrick and several other quarterbacks who failed at their chance to start and lead Buffalo during its league-high 13-year playoff drought.

Can new Bills quarterback Kevin Kolb end the streak of bad quarterbacking in Buffalo?

Conventional wisdom says no. Kolb is on his third team in seven seasons. There are various reasons things didn't work out for Kolb with the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, and the Bills have issues of their own. They are a team in transition with a new head coach, new offensive and defensive coordinators and a new attitude.

But the good news is Kolb has decent weapons around him. He has dynamic tailback C.J. Spiller in the backfield. Kolb also has a 1,000-yard receiver in Steve Johnson, although he's nowhere close to Kolb’s favorite target (Larry Fitzgerald) in Arizona. More importantly, Kolb has a solid offensive line in Buffalo that is light years ahead of what the Cardinals had last season.

Kolb most likely will never develop into the franchise quarterback the Eagles and Cardinals hoped he would be. But if Kolb is solid for a year or two in Buffalo and provides a bridge to the future for a 2013 draft pick (Ryan Nassib? Landry Jones? Tyler Bray?), that's all the Bills can ask for.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 7, 2012
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Week 14 games:

Magic number: The Falcons have won their past five games against the Panthers. But the amazing thing is Atlanta’s point total has been either 30 or 31 in each of those games, including a 30-28 victory against Carolina in Week 4.

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
Geoff Burke/US PresswireMatt Ryan, who faces the Panthers in Carolina on Sunday, boasts the best Total QBR in road games this season.
Better on the road: One of the knocks against quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons is that they’re not as good outdoors. Well, this season’s numbers dispute that. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ryan has an NFL-best 87.5 Total QBR in road games this season. He also has thrown 15 touchdown passes with four interceptions on the road. At home, Ryan’s Total QBR is 53.5, and he’s thrown seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Bouncing back? After a rough start, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been pretty solid recently. In the first seven games of the season, Newton turned the ball over 11 times. In the past five games, he’s had only two turnovers. Newton also has been more effective on downfield passes recently. In his past two games, Newton has completed six of 10 throws of more than 20 yards.

A record they don’t want: The Buccaneers are on pace to become an unflattering part of history. Through 12 games, they’ve allowed an average of 309.4 passing yards. The NFL record is 299.8 yards per game by the 2011 Green Bay Packers.

Giants are Brees’ favorite team: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees has struggled recently, throwing seven interceptions in the past two games. But there might be some good news on the horizon. Brees has been stellar when facing the Giants in the past. He is 4-0 against New York and has thrown 11 touchdown passes with no interceptions. That ties him with Drew Bledsoe (against the Cardinals) for the most touchdown passes without an interception against one opponent in NFL history.

Final Word: NFC East

December, 7, 2012
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 14:

Rookies making history. The Washington Redskins are the first team in NFL history to feature both a 2,000-yard rookie passer (Robert Griffin III) and a 1,000-yard rookie rusher (Alfred Morris). Griffin is poised to join Morris as a 1,000-yard rusher if he can average 71.5 rushing yards per game the rest of the way. Griffin already is just the fourth player in league history to pass for at least 2,500 yards and rush for at least 700 yards in a single season, joining Cam Newton (2011), Michael Vick (2002) and Randall Cunningham (1990). The Redskins are 6-6 and pushing for a playoff spot, and the success or failure of the rookie engines of their offense over the final four games could determine whether they can get in.

[+] EnlargeAlfred Morris
Kim Klement/US PresswireRookie running back Alfred Morris has rushed for 1,106 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Outside the numbers. Per ESPN Stats & Information, the top two wide receivers in the NFL this season on passes thrown outside the painted numbers are the Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant and the Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green, who will be on the same field Sunday in Cincinnati. Green leads the NFL with 49 receptions and eight touchdowns on such throws, and is averaging 13.8 yards per reception outside the numbers. Bryant has 42 catches and six touchdowns, and is averaging 14 yards per reception on throws outside the numbers. These two are going to be a nightmare for the opposing cornerbacks in this game if they're trying to cover them man-to-man.

Flipping the rookie script? Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown has been more impressive since taking over for concussed starter LeSean McCoy than rookie quarterback Nick Foles has been filling in for concussed starter Vick. But that could change this week in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are allowing just 82.3 yards per game on the ground this season, the lowest figure in the NFL. They are allowing an NFL-high 309.4 yards per game through the air, which could turn out to be historically bad. No team in NFL history has allowed an average of 300 or more passing yards per game over a full season. So Foles has a chance for his best game yet, while Brown is likely to find the going tougher this week.

Not going to be a Brees. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is 4-0 with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his four career games against the New York Giants, who host the Saints on Sunday in New Jersey. ESPN Stats & Info tells me the 11 touchdowns are tied for the most any player has had against a team that has not intercepted him. Drew Bledsoe had 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his career against the Cardinals. Of course, the Giants could be catching Brees at the right time. He threw five interceptions and no touchdowns in Week 13 against the Falcons in Atlanta. It broke a league-record streak of 54 consecutive games in which Brees had thrown at least one touchdown pass.

On the ground. Neither the Saints nor the Giants have been very good at stopping opposing runners in the backfield. New Orleans is allowing an average of 3.4 yards per rush before initial contact, which is the second-highest figure in the league, while New York's 3.2 yards allowed per rush before initial contact is third worst in the league. So Ahmad Bradshaw and whichever Saints running backs are active this week could have an easier time than usual making it to at least the line of scrimmage.

Keeping pace with Drew Brees' numbers

November, 3, 2011
If he continues on his current pace, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees will break -- or at least come very close to -- several NFL records.

After eight games, Brees has 242 completions on 343 attempts for 2,746 yards. If you project those numbers over 16 games, Brees would have 484 completions, 686 attempts and 5,492 passing yards.

Let’s start with the yards, because that’s the most interesting. If Brees continues on his current pace, he’d easily break Dan Marino’s record (5,084 yards) from 1984. Brees already is the only quarterback besides Marino to throw for 5,000 yards in a season. He had 5,069 in 2008.

On his current pace, Brees also would set the record for completions. Peyton Manning set the record (450) in 2010.

When it comes to the record for attempts, Brees is just slightly off the record pace. Drew Bledsoe set that record with 691 attempts in 1994.

Also, if Brees throws for 240 yards against Tampa Bay, he’ll break his own record for passing yards through the first nine games of a season. Brees set that by throwing for 2,985 yards in 2008.

History doesn't favor Cam Newton

September, 2, 2011

Now that we’re getting down to some real football, I’m happy that I can start interacting more with my friends at ESPN Stats & Information.

They supply some wonderful stuff, much of which you can’t get anywhere else, and we’ll lean heavily on them during the regular season. Heck, we’ll start it a little before the regular season.

Now that we know for certain Cam Newton will be the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers on opening day, it’s time to look at some history.

Here’s a look at quarterbacks drafted No. 1 overall (since 1966) who started a season opener and how they fared in that game.
None of the above finished the season with a winning record as a starter. In other not-so-encouraging news in this department, all rookie quarterbacks starting an opener since 1970 are a combined 10-16. But, hey, there’s one bit of good news for Carolina fans. One of those 10 wins came by Carolina with Chris Weinke in 2001.
Drew Brees Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireDrew Brees will need to separate himself from quarterbacks like Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe.
He already has thrown for 7,000 more yards than Terry Bradshaw, completed one fewer touchdown pass than George Blanda and won one more Super Bowl championship than Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton combined.

So they already should be carving Drew Brees from the shoulders up in Canton, Ohio, right? The quarterback of the New Orleans Saints could retire tomorrow and waltz straight to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in five years, correct?

Well, it’s not quite that easy. At least not yet.

Brees has 35,266 career passing yards. He should soar past Kelly in the first game of this season and should end the year somewhere pretty close to Johnny Unitas, who ranks No. 12 all-time with 40,238 passing yards.

If Brees throws 33 touchdown passes this season, the same number he threw last season, he’ll have 266 for his career. That number would put him in the top 10, just behind Joe Montana at 273.

If you’re putting up numbers like Unitas and Montana, shouldn’t you be an automatic Hall of Famer? Yes, if Brees had played in the same era as Unitas or Montana.

But times have changed, and if you don’t believe me, let me throw out three names: Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe and Kerry Collins. All three rank well ahead of Brees in career passing yards, and Collins might not be done yet. Bledsoe and Testaverde also rank ahead of Brees in career touchdown passes.

Bledsoe, Testaverde and Collins are pretty good quarterbacks, and their stats were helped by longevity. That’s not a bad attribute, but nobody is ever going to argue that Testaverde, Bledsoe or Collins belongs in the Hall of Fame.

What they represent is the middle ground of the last generation. Brees has to cross that -- and then some -- to assure himself a spot in Canton.

Testaverde had 46,233 career passing yards, which ranks seventh. Bledsoe is one spot behind him at 44,611 yards. Collins is No. 11 at 40,441 yards. Testaverde is No. 8 in career touchdowns with 275, and Bledsoe is No. 14 with 251.

As a member of this generation of quarterbacks, Brees has to go beyond the numbers of guys like that. The bar has been raised, and it’s still rising.

Assuming Brett Favre stays retired this time, he finished his career leading in passing yards (71,838) and touchdown passes (508). Then, you’ve got guys like Peyton Manning, who is 34, still going strong with 54,828 passing yards and 399 touchdowns and Tom Brady, who is 33, with 34,744 yards, 251 touchdowns and a handful of Super Bowl rings.

Manning and Brady are going to continue to increase their numbers, and Brees has to stay on a similar pace. I’ve had the honor to vote for the Hall of Fame twice, and I can assure you voters pay very close attention to a player's contemporaries. Brees isn’t going to get in simply by putting up numbers close to Testaverde, Collins and Bledsoe.

He’s got to stay somewhere close to Manning and Brady. It would help if Brees could avoid seasons like last year when he threw a career-high 22 interceptions and the Saints got bounced by Seattle in the first round of the playoffs.

I’m not trying to cast gloom on Brees’ Hall of Fame chances. I seriously think he’ll get there, but I’m just saying there’s some work left to be done.

Brees had some knee problems last season but still threw for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdowns. Those numbers are pretty comparable to an average of the two seasons before that.

Let’s assume the knee is healthy and say Brees goes out and plays four more seasons with numbers like that. It’s fairly realistic, as long as Sean Payton’s calling the plays, Marques Colston is catching the passes and Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks are blocking up front.

That would put Brees at 53,746 passing yards and 367 touchdown passes. That would put him fourth on the all-time passing yards list and fourth on the list of all-time touchdown passes, as they now stand.

That would be an automatic pass into Canton. Brees doesn’t even need to reach those numbers to get there. He just needs to move ahead of the middle-of-the-pack guys, and a few more playoff wins wouldn’t hurt. Brees is approaching the doors to Canton. He just needs to keep going straight up a few more steps.

Flash Points: Franchise-turning events

May, 26, 2011
Examining the most crucial event in the history of every team in the division.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Elsa/Getty ImagesIn 11 seasons with the Patriots Tom Brady has thrown 261 touchdowns and amassed close to 35,000 passing yards with a 95.2 passer rating.
Who made who?

That was the question readers had to answer to determine the key event that shaped the New England Patriots. Is Bill Belichick the reason for their success, or was it Tom Brady who turned his head coach into a genius, or was it Robert Kraft's decision to hire Belichick in the first place that made all of the above possible?

Among the AFC East clubs in's "Flash Points" series, the Patriots' poll generated the most votes and the closest race.

Readers went with Brady, claiming the Patriots' decision to select him 199th in the 2000 draft was the moment that most impacted the franchise's fortunes.

But Brady was the only AFC East winner not to collect a majority of the votes. He received 46 percent of the nearly 60,000 cast. The decision to hire Belichick was second at 34 percent.

Kraft's purchase of the team received 10 percent, and the 1993 combo of hiring Bill Parcells as head coach and drafting Drew Bledsoe first overall got 8 percent.

Sportsguy1236 reasoned: "Whats more important to a team? Best QB in the league or best coach in the league? I think Kraft and Belichick make a close tie for second behind Brady. Reason being, I think Brady would have been successful anywhere, but Belichick and Kraft rely on each other. Belichick wants full control and Kraft gives it to him."

InStint733 disagreed: "OK, Brady being drafted is not a flash point. Drew getting hurt and Tom coming in to take over is a flash point. Tom Brady's story is a great one, but I have to give Belichick more of the success pie than Brady. I'm a big believer that defense wins championships and Belichick always has a good top 10 D no matter who plays."

JETS: Namath chooses AFL over NFL

We go from the AFC East's closest poll to the most lopsided. Of all the candidates for the most seminal New York Jets moment, readers overwhelmingly went with Joe Namath's decision to spurn the NFL monolith and join the upstart AFL.

[+] EnlargeJoe Namath
AP PhotoJoe Namath changed the course of Jets history when he chose to play in the AFL. Here Namath signs his contract with coach Weeb Ewbank (left) and owner Sonny Werblin in 1965.
That received 69 percent of the vote, and rightfully so. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Namath 12th overall in 1964. But the Jets made him the top choice and gave him a mammoth contract he couldn't refuse.

It was the first flutter of a remarkable butterfly effect. Without that moment, Namath doesn't make the guarantee, the Jets don't win their only Super Bowl and Namath probably doesn't become a cultural icon. Nothing else in Jets history can compare to what Namath did for the organization.

A distant second was the 2008 hiring of Rex Ryan as head coach at 19 percent, followed by the 1997 hiring of Parcells at 7 percent and the formation of the New York Sack Exchange at 2 percent.

Bbarkz took exception with the choices in the poll: "I'm a big Jet fan, but if you were going to say defining moment for the franchise, the only possible option is the guarantee. It's not only the Jets defining moment, but you could argue it was the defining moment for the NFL as we know it."

That's true, but if Namath goes to the NFL, then the guarantee doesn't happen.

Eric5741 summed up the Ryan hire finishing second in the poll: "The team has been so bad for so long that Jets fans can't help but brag about two AFC Championship losses. ... So just give them a break. It's not their fault that their team has done nothing since most of them have been alive."

DOLPHINS: Undefeated in 1972

The Miami Dolphins generated the fewest votes among the AFC East polls, but readers were generally convinced their undefeated 1972 campaign was the most influential moment in franchise history.

[+] EnlargeDon Shula
AP PhotoIt's hard to imagine Miami going undefeated during the 1972 season had the team not hired Don Shula.
I disagree with that verdict, but let's break down the percentages first.

The 1972 season collected 56 percent of the votes. The team's decision to hire head coach Don Shula away from the Baltimore Colts in 1970 came in second at 21 percent. Drafting quarterback Dan Marino in 1983 was third at 20 percent. The dramatic turnaround from a one-win team to division champs in 2008 took the other 3 percent.

The 1972 season is symbolic and keeps the Dolphins a topic of conversation every season a team can get off to a hot start. The comparisons will not go away until another team manages to win every game, including the Super Bowl.

The unbeaten feat makes Miami special. So I understand why readers chose it.

But my pick would be Shula's hiring. Without him as head coach two years earlier, can we assume the Dolphins would have run the table in 1972 and won back-to-back championships? No, we could not.

The initial exchange in the comments section under the poll ...

Gofins7933 wrote: "Everybody knows us for our perfect season in '72. That has to be the most defining moment for us."

Marek13brave replied: "Without the signing of Shula there is no perfect season in '72."

Gofins7933 countered: "Even my mom knows about the Fins perfect season. She doesn't know who Shula is."

BILLS: Norwood's kick sails wide

The Buffalo Bills went to four consecutive Super Bowls. Their best chance to win one and avoid the misery of being a perennial bridesmaid came at the end of their first appearance.

[+] EnlargeScott Norwood
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaScott Norwood's missed field goal in the closing seconds of the 1991 Super Bowl would have brought joy to one Giants fan in particular.
With eight seconds left in Super Bowl XXV and the Bills trailing by a point, Norwood lined up for a 47-yard field goal. We all know what happened next. The Bills still are looking for that first NFL championship.

In the "Flash Points" poll, 59 percent of readers voted for Norwood's miss. Then came Jim Kelly finally being forced to sign with the Bills after the USFL collapsed, followed by the 1985 promotion of Bill Polian to general manager at 8 percent, and linebacker Mike Stratton's "hit heard 'round the world" on San Diego Chargers running back Keith Lincoln in the 1964 AFL Championship Game at 6 percent.

Reader mdavila07 wrote: "It's definitely the Norwood miss. The Bills' legacy would be completely different if they won a Super Bowl. Not to mention, if you tell anyone you're a Bills fan, what do they bring up? Wide right and four straight Super Bowl losses. That is what the Bills are known for, their defining moment."

Dan_Daoust suggested another option: "Doesn't it have to be the Music City Miracle? The Bills had a Super Bowl-caliber team (or at least defense) that year, they got knocked out, and they've been a league doormat ever since. Wide right is an obvious choice, but it wasn't really a fortune-defining moment. The Bills made three more Super Bowls right after that, after all. The MCM, on the other hand almost seems to have had the effect of kicking the team in the groin and then standing on its neck."

I agreed with MattRichWarren's take: "It's going to be Wide Right, but that team doesn't exist without Polian's vision and drafting skill. I went with Polian because it's the right answer."

Fans vote Bledsoe into Pats Hall of Fame

May, 16, 2011
New England Patriots fans have chosen Drew Bledsoe as their next inductee into the team's Hall of Fame.

The Patriots didn't announce the actual vote totals, but announced Bledsoe won by the largest percentage of votes since they opened the process up to fans. Also on this year's ballot were former head coach Bill Parcells and star AFL defensive lineman Houston Antwine.

"Drew Bledsoe played such an integral role in our efforts to rebuild the Patriots brand," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. "He gave fans hope for the future and provided many memorable moments during his record-breaking career.

"I will never forget Drew's record-setting performance in that come-from-behind victory against Minnesota the year I bought the team. It sparked a seven-game win streak and put the Patriots back in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. For a franchise that had only hosted one playoff game in its first 35 years, winning the AFC Championship Game at home in Foxboro and taking the Patriots to the playoffs for three consecutive years were unimaginable goals prior to his arrival."

The Patriots made Bledsoe the No. 1 pick in 1993. He spent nine seasons with the Patriots, throwing for 44,611 yards and 251 touchdowns. He went to three Pro Bowls for the Patriots and, after Tom Brady took over the job, one more for the Buffalo Bills.

In March, a newly formed senior committee selected AFL center Jon Morris for induction this year.

Flash Points: Patriots' defining moment

May, 11, 2011
What key event significantly changed the fortunes of the Patriots -- for better or worse? Give us your take and we'll give you our definitive moment on May 26.

Unlike the other AFC East clubs, the New England Patriots' heaviest moments have been recent. Their early years were mostly nondescript, a long span of mediocrity (at best) interrupted occasionally by a triumphant interlude or two.

The team's culture changed in 1993, when Bill Parcells was named head coach and the Patriots drafted quarterback Drew Bledsoe first overall. Bledsoe started as a rookie, and the combination -- plus Robert Kraft's purchase of the team a year later -- awakened a slumbering fan base and raised expectations.

Kraft hired Bill Belichick in 2000. That year, the Patriots drafted quarterback Tom Brady with a sixth-round compensatory pick. Belichick-Brady didn't carry the same immediate punch as Parcells-Bledsoe did. Belichick wasn't as much of a known coaching quantity, having failed with the Cleveland Browns, and nobody had any idea Brady would overtake Bledsoe and blossom into a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But Belichick and Brady propelled the Patriots to four Super Bowls, winning three in a four-year stretch.

One of the great debates is whether Belichick made Brady or vice versa. That's for you to decide in this poll.

Submit your vote with the SportsNation poll. If you vote Other, please give us your suggestion in the comments area below this article.
RENTON, Wash. -- Highlights and interpretations from Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider's session Monday with reporters covering the team:

  • The Seahawks would rather trade back than up in the first round. Schneider said moving up is easier, however. Not having a third-round choice bothers him. Schneider: "Personally, I would like to move back because I have confidence in our ability in the middle rounds to do a good stuff and we have a coaching staff that has good teachers and they are excited to have these guys."
  • [+] EnlargeSchneider
    AP Photo/John FroschauerGeneral manager John Schneider would rather see the Seahawks move back than move up.
  • Seattle would like to add at least one offensive lineman and one defensive lineman in the draft. The team wants to add at least one quarterback every year as a matter of philosophy. Quarterbacks become valuable commodities even if a team already has a viable starter.
  • Schneider wants the team to get younger in the mold of the Green Bay teams he helped put together. He said the Seahawks patched their roster with older players out of necessity last season, producing positive short-term results. Winning a playoff game was hugely helpful for Pete Carroll as a first-year coach in Seattle, but the focus this offseason will be on adding enough young talent to avoid patching so much.
  • The wide variety of quarterback styles in the draft will make the position less predictable. Schneider called it a "unique" year that way. He sees nine to 12 teams needing quarterbacks. He noted that Tampa Bay Bucs GM Mark Domenik said as many as six quarterbacks could become first-round choices. Schneider: "Mark is a good friend of mine and if he was sitting right here, I would say, 'He's got a quarterback, so he wants a lot of guys to be taken. He wants the offensive linemen to fall.' "
  • Schneider stressed the importance of remaining disciplined and not going after a quarterback just because the team remains unsettled at the position. He said the Packers were not "hellbent" on landing Aaron Rodgers and weren't going to move up for him. Of course, they didn't know just how good Rodgers would become, either.
  • Charlie Whitehurst is in the mix to start next season after playing well enough to beat St. Louis in Week 17. Whitehurst is also the only Seattle quarterback with a contract for next season. Schneider said he valued the game against St. Louis in particular because it was the one time Seattle built its game plan for Whitehurst.
  • Schneider thought long and hard, choosing his words carefully when I asked him to what extent Carroll, as a defensive head coach, has a vision for what he wants in a quarterback. I wanted to know how that vision might differ from the visions an offensive-minded head coach might have for a quarterback.
  • Schneider apparently thought I was asking whether the slow-footed Ryan Mallett would fit in Seattle's offense, but I had no one in mind. Schneider: "From a pure, uh, I'm reading your mind with this, I'm going to be really careful how I answer this. Pete and (quarterbacks coach) Carl (Smith) coached Drew Bledsoe, who is not a big movement guy, and he had his best season. I don't know if Pete has ever had a guy that is a big-time runner, huge movement guy. I wouldn't slam any of the guys he has had. But everybody likes a guy that can move, but a lot of these guys have compensating factors. So the guy that you're thinking about would be one of those guys that has compensating factors."
  • Picking at 25th overall, Seattle can probably pare down a short list to 10 players the team is most likely to select. This year could be less predictable, however, because the absence of free agency could lead teams to favor need a little more strongly. He said Seattle would not take that tack.

Those were a few highlights. I'll be taking a day trip to visit the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday as they prepare for their first draft with head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Parcells, Bledsoe up for Pats Hall of Fame

April, 15, 2011
The New England Patriots announced Friday morning their two most pivotal figures from the 1990s are finalists for 2011 induction into the team's Hall of Fame.

[+] EnlargeBill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaBill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe are in the running for induction into the Patriots' Hall of Fame.
Fans will have one month to choose one honoree from a ballot that includes head coach Bill Parcells, quarterback Drew Bledsoe and star AFL defensive lineman Houston Antwine. The winner will be revealed the week of May 16.

Antwine will have no shot in this popularity contest. Not only is the competition too stacked against him, but I doubt his fans' demographic will be as likely to click on to cast their votes.

Parcells eventually should get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was head coach of the Patriots for only four seasons, but had a major impact. The Patriots were 14-50 the four years before he arrived. Parcells went 32-32 and guided the Patriots to a Super Bowl.

But he's not fondly remembered by all New Englanders because of the distasteful way he departed. Parcells went on to work for the hated New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. Bill Belichick's success also has made Parcells' accomplishments look trivial -- although they weren't at the time.

Unless a slew of New Yorkers invade to vote for Parcells, my prediction is a runaway victory for Bledsoe.

Bledsoe was the first overall selection in 1993 and lived up to the responsibility. He went to three Pro Bowls and was Parcells' quarterback in the Super Bowl. He was a bombs-away passer who led the NFL in attempts three times. He made Patriots football fun again.

Bledsoe also deserves credit for helping the Patriots win their first Super Bowl title after the 2001 season. He stepped in for an injured Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bledsoe did become an AFC East enemy with the Buffalo Bills, but he didn't leave as a free agent. The Patriots traded him for a first-round draft choice.
Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley & Patrick PetersonGetty ImagesMarcell Dareus, Nick Fairley and Patrick Peterson are all options for Denver at No. 2.
There wasn't a debate in the Carolina Panthers’ draft room in 2002.

The Panthers’ brain trust was certain it had identified the player who best fit their needs. All they had to do was wait and see what direction the one team in front of them would take.

“It was stressful because we knew what we wanted, but we still had to wait,” former Panthers executive Tony Softli said. “At No. 2, you can almost control what you want to do, but not totally.”

Softli and the rest of the Carolina brass were overjoyed when the Houston Texans used the No. 1 pick to take quarterback David Carr. That left Panthers to take their top choice, and they grabbed defensive end Julius Peppers. They survived their short wait.

That was John Fox’s first year as the Panthers’ coach. That experience of having the No. 2 pick ended happily for Fox. Will it happen again? In his first season as the Denver Broncos’ head coach, Fox also has the No. 2 pick.

“Knowing, John, he’ll want defense,” Softli said. “We’ll see what happens with picking at No. 2 again.”

The Broncos have been busy this offseason studying players at several positions in their attempt to get it right at No. 2. The only team in Denver’s way is Carolina, which has the No. 1 pick. No matter what the Panthers do with the No. 1 pick, the Broncos know they must get this pick right. The Broncos were 4-12 in 2010 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2005. They need an infusion of talent.

[+] EnlargeJohn Fox and Julius Peppers
AP Photo/Rick HavnerJohn Fox found success the last time he had the No. 2 pick in the draft -- in 2002 when he and the Carolina Panthers took Julius Peppers.
“We know that the key thing is -- and we have talked about the fact that we have to be good in the draft -- we cannot miss in the draft, especially with where we are,” said John Elway, the Broncos' new vice president of football operations. “We have to be dead on … We cannot miss in the draft. We have to be good there.”

Added Fox: "There'll be a player there who's worth that pick in this draft. Some years you don't want to be there, but there's a lot of players there in this draft.”

Softli knows plenty about picking at No. 2. In addition to being in Carolina in 2002, Softli was an executive with the St. Louis Rams in 2008 and 2009 when they had the No. 2 pick.

“Picking No. 2 is a great place to be if there are multiple players to pick from at the spot,” Softli said. “This is a good year to be at No. 2. There are a number of high-quality players. Denver can’t go wrong.”

Softli said it will help the Broncos that there is a chance the Panthers will take a quarterback at No. 1. The Panthers have been linked to both Auburn’s Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert.

The Broncos finished last in the NFL in total defense and points allowed. The draft is stacked with top defensive prospects. If the Panthers take a quarterback, Denver would have its pick of any defensive player on the board.

“I think a great spot to be in is No. 2 and not need a quarterback if there is a top quarterback available,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “The stud quarterback is going No. 1. If you pick No. 2 and you really need a quarterback, you probably aren’t going to get him. But otherwise, it’s a solid place to be.”

There haven’t been many quarterbacks taken at No. 2 in recent history. Since 1990, only three quarterbacks have been taken with the No. 2 pick. Each time, a quarterback was taken No. 1. The last time it has happened was 1999, when Philadelphia took Donovan McNabb at No. 2 after Cleveland took Tim Couch No. 1. In the same time span, a quarterback has been picked at No. 1 12 times.

“Usually, there aren’t two quarterbacks worthy of the first two picks,” Softli said. “So, the presence of a quarterback can really make a difference between one and two. If you pick No. 1 and you need a quarterback, you usually take one. That can help the team picking No. 2.”

While the failures of the team picking No. 1 are most remembered, success at No. 2 has been far from guaranteed. There have been epic failures at No. 2 in the past 20 years. Ryan Leaf, taken by the Chargers in 1998, is considered one of the greatest draft busts in NFL history. The Colts took Peyton Manning at No. 1 that year. Other major busts since 1990 at No. 2 include Jets running back Blair Thomas (1990), Seattle quarterback Rick Mirer (1993, taken after New England drafted Drew Bledsoe) and Detroit receiver Charles Rogers (2003).

There have been plenty of draft hits at No. 2 in the time span. Some of the solid picks in that spot include running back Marshall Faulk (Colts, 1994), McNabb, Peppers, receiver Calvin Johnson (Lions, 2007) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (Lions, 2010).

Softli was with the Rams last year when they picked No. 1. Softli said he feels there is nearly as much pressure drafting No. 2 as there is at No. 1.

“It’s almost as hard,” Softli said. “I know everyone concentrates on the No. 1 pick, but owner will look at you funny if you mess up the No. 2 pick, too.”




Sunday, 2/2