Former New England quarterback reflects on what might have been
On Wednesday, as Tom Brady was preparing to quarterback New England in Sunday's Super Bowl matchup with Carolina, the Patriots' former quarterback was at Pumpkin Ridge, hitting a bucket of golf balls.
Drew Bledsoe has been a Portlander in the offseason since last year. His wife, Maura, is from Beaverton. The Bledsoes and their four young children made the trip west to their Portland home on Monday.
'We have a place in Whitefish, Mont., that is a great summer getaway,' Bledsoe says. 'But we will spend most of the spring in Portland.'
The 2003 season was not a lot of fun for Bledsoe, in his second year with Buffalo after eight with the Patriots, the team he directed to the 1997 Super Bowl. The Bills won their first two games of 2003 convincingly, then lost 10 of their final 14 games to finish 6-10.
'It was a bummer, really,' Bledsoe says. 'Not a very good season. We started off pretty hot, couldn't do much wrong the first two games. Then things just kind of caught up for us. We'd lost a few players on the offensive side, and that ended up having a huge impact on our success. The year before, we could score a ton of points but had a hard time stopping people. It was just the opposite this season.'
Bledsoe's numbers reflected as much.
In 2002, the former Washington State standout had career bests in completion percentage and passer rating while throwing for 4,359 yards and 24 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1997.
This season, he passed for 2,860 yards and 11 TDs with 12 interceptions. His passer rating was 21st in the league and his lowest since 1995, his third year in the league. And he was sacked an NFL-high 49 times.
'Frustrating,' he says. 'The style of offense we were forced to play was dramatically different than a year ago. We were set up personnelwise to play a lot more conservative style, but at times we tried to play the same style as last year. We just didn't have the personnel for it.'
Happy with new coach hire
Bledsoe got along fine with coach Gregg Williams, who was fired at the end of the season and replaced by Mike Mularkey, offensive coordinator with Pittsburgh the last three years.
'Gregg is a terrific guy who did a really good job staying focused through a difficult season,' Bledsoe says. 'He is going to get a $200,000 pay raise to be coordinator for Joe Gibbs with the Redskins, so I am happy for him.
'But I am very excited about playing for Mike. He is a young guy and a smart guy, widely respected around the league. This will be the first time since college I will be playing for an offensive head coach. And he is putting together an outstanding coaching staff.
'The league is so balanced, the littlest advantages can make a huge difference, and that is going to help us through the close games.'
Bledsoe, who turns 32 on Valentine's Day, isn't at all disenchanted with Buffalo. After next season, his contract allows both him and the Bills the right to exercise an option to keep him there an additional three seasons.
'If that doesn't happen, I will be a free agent,' he says. 'But I anticipate I will be there until I retire, maybe three or four years down the road. Hopefully we can get going on something special and win ourselves a championship.'
'A little jealousy'
Bledsoe isn't picking a winner in Sunday's game but sees it as everyone else does Ñ a defensive struggle.
'I don't see either team putting up a bunch of points,' he says. 'One of the keys will be field position and what happens with the special teams. The other thing Ñ and you always say this, but in this one even more so Ñ the team that turns the ball over the least will have a great shot to win.'
Bledsoe admits to mixed emotions on whom to pull for.
'I have a lot of buddies on New England, guys I would like to see win a Super Bowl ring,' he says. 'But I have mixed feelings a little bit. There is a little jealousy there. I would much rather have it be myself in that game.'