Don't look back
Not enough room for both of them. M.David Leeds/Getty Images
By Peter King
It's easy, with New England on a four-game losing streak and the Bills looking as stunningly good as last year's Patriots, to say the Pats choked on their own hubris when they traded Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo last April.
It's easy, and it's wrong.
Let's go back in time, to the weeks after the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick's hand-picked guy, Tom Brady, has just led the Patriots to a Super Bowl upset of the Rams. Bledsoe is so mad at Belichick for picking Brady over him when he was healthy enough to play that he skips all the New England festivities after the Super Bowl and quasi-divorces himself from the team.
Naturally, the Pats look at trade options. Washington doesn't want Bledsoe. Nor do QB-needy Houston, Cincinnati, Chicago or Detroit. Try as they might, the Patriots scare up interest in only one team: Buffalo. Eventually, on Day 2 of the draft, the Bills offer to send their 2003 first-round pick to New England for Bledsoe.
So here are the Patriots' four options when this offer is made:
1. Trade Bledsoe and get value for a player who, for whatever reason, had put up pretty average numbers for a mediocre New England team the previous three-plus years.
2. Waive Bledsoe after June 1 to soften the salary-cap hit and get nothing for him. Under this scenario, Buffalo, with the fourth pick in the offseason waiver priority order, would probably have picked up Bledsoe for nothing because the three teams above the Bills had no interest in him.
3. Keep both. Take an unhappy star to a post-Super Bowl training camp and have the media and the fans scream for him to play the first time Brady throws five incompletions in a row.
4. Keep Bledsoe. Trade Brady. Trade a precocious, hard-working, humble 24-year-old kid (a more mobile kid, too) with a Super Bowl MVP under one arm and bright future under the other. With one other thing, in all probability: a much lower cap number for the next three or four years than Bledsoe.
You make the call.
Did the Patriots want to trade Bledsoe within the division? Of course not. It just so happened that of the 31 other teams, the one that wanted Bledsoe was in the AFC East. Bad luck.
Trades are funny things. The easiest thing in the world is to see Bledsoe on pace to throw for 5,000 yards and say the Patriots blew it. They didn't. They did what they had to do, and it might come back to bite them in the rear end.
That's life in the big city, folks.
Drew the man
Bledsoe and the Bills are back. AP
By Don Banks
Halfway through his first season in Buffalo, Drew Bledsoe is playing like a 30-year-old quarterback who is in the prime of his career and capable of carrying a team to the playoffs.
The Bills are a surprising 5-3, and the rejuvenated Bledsoe has completed a career-best 64 percent of his passes, has 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions, and is on pace to join Dan Marino in the 5,000-yard club.
He's not playing like the Bledsoe of 1994-97, his glory days in New England. He's playing even better. And Buffalo has the Pats to thank for that.
Just as quickly as Tom Brady's meteoric rise unfolded last season, that's how quickly Bledsoe has re-asserted his reputation as one of the game's best passers. Bledsoe is performing at an inspired level for the Bills, and it's not hard to figure out where that inspiration came from.
In New England, despite a weak supporting cast of skill-position players and an offensive line that allowed him to be sacked an amazing 136 times from 1998-2000, Bledsoe unfairly had come to be seen as a large part of the Patriots' offensive problems.
His numbers had declined to middle-of-the-pack range, and his skills appeared headed in the same direction. Then, in Week 2 of 2001, he was injured and replaced by Brady, who proceeded to catch lightning in a bottle during the team's improbable Super Bowl run.
Even so, the Patriots still had some offensive problems with Brady. But they were masked by winning. Remember, with just three postseason offensive touchdowns, New England arguably was the weakest offensive team to win the Super Bowl.
When it came time to make the QB decision, New England was blinded by the success of last season and convinced itself that the Bledsoe magic was gone and Brady was the miracle cure. The thinking seemed to be that the Pats' sluggish offense of pre-2001 was all Bledsoe's fault and Brady's play had forever changed the equation.
Ah, but New England's offensive struggles of the past month vindicate Bledsoe. Though still playing well, Brady is having the same problems that Bledsoe did. Namely that he has too few reliable offensive weapons.
While Bledsoe lights up the division with a star-laden receiving corps behind a sturdy offensive line, Brady looks more and more like a talented but slightly befuddled second-year starter who doesn't know how to right the ship and pull his team out of its offensive funk. New England's current troubles are nowhere near all his fault, but then again, they weren't Bledsoe's, either.
And look where it got him.