Drew Bledsoe

Michael Holley Podcast: When Ty Law knew Tom Brady was the real deal

Michael Holley Podcast: When Ty Law knew Tom Brady was the real deal

Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the New England Patriots selecting unheralded quarterback Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

The Michigan product didn't exactly wow anyone with his talent upon joining the Patriots as their fourth-string quarterback. He did, however, get the attention of his teammates with his attitude and unmatched competitiveness.

Former Pats cornerback Ty Law joined the latest episode of The Michael Holley Podcast and pinpointed the moment he knew Brady was special. It wasn't anything Brady did on the field. Rather, it was how he separated himself from Drew Bledsoe and the other QBs on the depth chart with his actions off of it.

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To see his work ethic in practice and everything he did to prepare for when the opportunity came, he was doing all the right things. He was saying all the right things from a competitive standpoint. In practice we used to tear him up, you know, but he's coming right back at you. And we loved that about him.

But I think the thing that stood out the most -- and this wasn't even football related -- is that we would get in before with everybody jumping up before we go out to the game, everybody headbutting and stuff like that. And don't get me wrong, Drew is a great teammate, but he right here. You know what I mean? 'Make sure you don't hit Drew too hard.'

Tom is coming over there headbutting everybody. I'm like, 'a quarterback?' You know what I mean? That was the moment I was like, 'this kid is special.' He didn't even play in the game yet. It was just before the game how focused and zeroed in and just being a part of the team and taking hits before the game.

Whether he was a fourth-string underdog looking for a chance to start, or a six-time Super Bowl champion known as arguably the greatest QB to ever play the game, Brady's ability to fire up his teammates never changed throughout his 20-year Patriots tenure. There's no reason to expect anything different when he joins his new teammates in Tampa Bay, either.

Law also chats with Holley about why he didn't finish his career as a Patriot, his thoughts on Brady leaving New England, which other Pats players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, and much more. To listen and subscribe, check out the full episode on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network and on YouTube.

Why the Drew Bledsoe to Tom Brady transition wasn't a huge surprise

Why the Drew Bledsoe to Tom Brady transition wasn't a huge surprise

Here we are again at the edge of the volcano. A Patriots player we thought irreplaceable is nearing replacement.

Why are we here? The usual. Age, money, future performance projections, a combination of all three. A legend is poised to be nudged over the edge. After that? Bill Belichick will return to business.

If history is our guide, the loss won’t stop the onward march of the Patriots dynasty. We won't know for a few years if the possible departure of Tom Brady will yield a different result. But there’s no room for sacred cows in Belichick’s empire. Not even sacred GOATs.

Belichick has had the mettle to move on from a long list of players — from very good to legendary — and stoically taken the ensuing hits. Every instance — we've already looked at some of them — is rich in backstory. What happened? Why did it happen?

As Brady approaches free agency, these stories are a reminder we've been here before. Many times. It's just business.

DREW BLEDSOE

Mo Lewis might have sped things along but – given the offseason Drew Bledsoe turned in prior to the 2001 season and his performance in the first two games – it was inevitable he was going to get the hook for Tom Brady.

Glossed over and all-but-forgotten in the romanticizing of Bledsoe as a hard-luck figure who may have held his job had Brady not won a Super Bowl?

All the circumstances surrounding the team in 2001, especially the fat contract the team signed him to and the way Bledsoe played over the final 30 months of his Patriots career.

Even though he signed a 10-year, $103M deal in March of 2001, Bledsoe was a quarterback in decline at that point. He took 100 sacks combined in 1999 and 2000. Literally 100. He threw 36 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. His quarterback ratings were 75.6 and 77.3. The Patriots record was 7-19 in his past 26 starts.

Belichick more than anyone knew Bledsoe’s limitations, routinely undressing him when he coached against him with the Browns and Jets. The Patriots were building CMGI Field, set to open in September of 2002. A slumping team with a dour coach needed a recognizable hood ornament to create optimism. That’s really what Bledsoe was.

Think about it, Bledsoe signed the richest contract in NFL history – outpacing the one given to Brett Favre – after two sub-mediocre seasons. He then went out and was a complete dud in training camp and the preseason.

Bledsoe was outplayed by Brady at Bryant College and during games – a 70.7 QB rating to Brady’s 91.9. Anyone paying close attention could see the gap between them wasn’t great. Actually, Bledsoe’s glacial decision-making was even more noticeable with Brady continually getting the ball out on time for positive plays as opposed to pat-pat-patting the ball looking downfield. Brady’s ability to move around the pocket and throw on the run was far superior to Bledsoe’s.

In the team’s final preseason game, Bledsoe played well into the second quarter before a pair of touchdowns before the half got him to the sidelines. Playing a $103M quarterback that long in a meaningless game? It meant something.

So too did the fact the Patriots negotiated options into Bledsoe’s deal, the first coming in November of 2002. The team had a trapdoor. It also hadn’t leveraged itself too badly. Bledsoe’s signing bonus was just $8M. That was spread over six years. Their first payment of $1.3M was paid in 2001. They only had to eat $6.6M in dead money if they released or traded him.

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And a trade was what happened. Bledsoe went to the Bills on a manageable deal and the Patriots got Buffalo’s first-round pick in return. That Belichick traded Bledsoe within the AFC East was an added indignity, although the dearth of interest in Bledsoe kind of forced Belichick’s hand.

“We're flabbergasted that there weren't more teams that got involved in it," Bills general manager Tom Donahoe said after swinging the Bledsoe deal. "Everybody talks about the need for quarterbacks. ... All we know is, we're happy to know that we were in that position and had a chance to do this."

Bledsoe spent three seasons in Buffalo, took 103 sacks in his first two seasons there, compiled a 23-25 overall record, threw 55 touchdowns and 43 picks and made the 2002 Pro Bowl. He was as advertised. Strong-armed. Tough. Smart. Good leader. Mobile as a birdbath and decisive as a chipmunk.

The day Bledsoe signed his extension, he said, “I’ve expressed over and over again my desire to play my entire career with the New England Patriots,” Bledsoe said. “It looks like that is a very real possibility.”

Robert Kraft (he was “Bob” back then) said that day Bledsoe had a chance to be remembered in Boston like Ted Williams, Bill Russell and Larry Bird, each having played his career in the city.

It’s surreal to look back and realize that – within a year – Bledsoe would be on the block and the Brady Era would begin. More surreal to realize that, by the time 2020 came, not only would Brady be superior to Williams, Russell and Bird in so many different ways, he’d find himself exactly where Bledsoe was in 2002.

Drew Bledsoe reflects on losing job to Tom Brady in 2001: 'A tough pill to swallow'

Drew Bledsoe reflects on losing job to Tom Brady in 2001: 'A tough pill to swallow'

You know the story by now. In Week 2 of the 2001 NFL season, New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe gets injured on a hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, sixth-round draft pick Tom Brady takes over, and the rest is history.

As a proven veteran with New England for eight seasons, it took Bledsoe a while to adjust to watching his team from the sideline with a young QB at the helm. And when Brady and the Patriots miraculously went on to win Super Bowl 36, it didn't get much easier.

On his E:60 special that aired Sunday night, Bledsoe opened up about how it felt to lose his job to Brady.

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“That was a bitter pill to swallow,” said Bledsoe. “I thought I was entitled to get my job back, and it turns out I wasn’t, and it doesn’t work that way.

“I did some soul-searching, and decided that the only proper way to handle it was to go back to work and be the best teammate I could,” he added. “I always liked and respected Tom, and I was proud of him, but at the same time it was a tough thing to deal with.”

Bledsoe revealed it took time for him to wear his Super Bowl 36 ring without feeling a sense of resentment.

“Truth be told, I didn’t wear it for quite a while,” Bledsoe said. “I didn’t know where it was for a long time. But now I wear it, every now and then.

“I’m proud of it, partly because I could've torn down the whole show if I wanted to be an idiot. And instead, I tried to be a good teammate. So I’m proud of it, but it took a little while.”

It's definitely crazy to think about how different the Patriots franchise, and the NFL as a whole, would look today had the Bledsoe injury not happened. But it's also worth thinking about how different things could have gone if Bledsoe wasn't as supportive of Brady.

Bledsoe covered a variety of topics on his E:60 special, including Brady and Belichick's unique relationship and thinking Brady would be a career NFL backup.

You can watch the full E:60 episode here.