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Archive for April, 2011

Talking Patriots With Bertrand And Gasper

On the weekend their is a Boston radio show that is gives you truly objective and balanced discussions on the New England Patriots. The Bertrand and Gasper Show airs on 98.5 The Sports Hub between 8 AM-11AM EST on Saturdays.

Marc Bertrand along with co-hosting this show is a sports anchor weekdays giving live sports updates during the Felger and Massarotti Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Chris Gasper along with being a co-host is a Boston Globe Sports Columnist.

The day before a Patriots game their isn’t a better show to get you ready for each match-up. I asked both hosts the same ten questions about the Patriots. They range from their thoughts before last season began, up to the NFL draft and beyond. The hosts have not seen how the other has answered my questions. Will they agree or have completely different opinions on the Patriots? It is time now to find out as we are “Talking Patriots with Bertrand and Gasper.”

Before last season began what was your prediction for the Patriots?

MB: I predicted that the Patriots would finish the regular season at 11-5. After I made that prediction Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden were both placed on IR and I said they may be a 10-6 team due to those injuries.

CG: My prediction was 10-6 and AFC East champions. I felt they were the best team in a very tough division. They obviously exceeded my expectations record-wise. My basis for that prediction was two-fold. On the plus side, I felt that Tom Brady and Jerod Mayo had both been affected by injuries in 2009 and were capable of playing better. They did, as Brady was the league MVP and Mayo led the league in tackles.

On the negative side, I had real concerns about the pass rush, run defense and whether Wes Welker would be the same returning from his torn ACL. He was close enough. The pass-rush was still disappointing, and the Patriots ranked 30th in the NFL in pass defense last season. However, the run defense was sound, and the Patriots were able to negate their pass-defense problems by accumulating turnovers. The Patriots led the NFL in interceptions with 25 and forced 38 turnovers, second in the league.

Tom Brady was widely criticized by many media members for not being a constant presence in the off-season program in Foxboro? Did you have concerns about his play before the season began?

MB: I absolutely had concerns about his play because in 2009 he never quite looked 100%. He had a great statistical year that season but anybody who has watched every game of his career saw that he was still adjusting to coming back from the knee injury. However, none of my concerns were related to his commitment to off-season training with or without the team. I have never been one to believe that an OTA or mini-camp is going to make you better during the playoffs and that is when Tom Brady has recently failed.

CG: No, I thought this line of thought was ridiculous. If there is one guy on the Patriots whose work ethic is above reproach it is Tom Brady. He proved that off-season theory to be utterly absurd with the season he had (36 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, NFL-record 335 passes without a pick) – one of the greatest ever by a QB. This team has more pressing issues than playing Where in the World is Tom Brady in the off-season.

Were you worried about the fact that the Patriots did not name an offense or defensive coordinator before the season began?

MB: Yes, my biggest concern was that Bill Belichick was creating an environment that lacked people willing to question him or bring new ideas to the table. When the Patriots were winning Superbowls they did it with some very intelligent and capable coordinators.

Those coordinators were not afraid to tell the head coach that his was wrong or that something needed to be changed. I think Belichick values that kind of working atmosphere but started to get away from it. If you have ever seen an NFL film with the Giants of the 80’s, you have seen Bill Belichick tell off Bill Parcells. Having open communication is not a foreign concept to Bill, but I think his coaching staff was a little thin last year.

In terms of running the offense, Bill O’Brien was better in 2010 than he was in 2009. I also think he improved after the trade of Randy Moss. Randy Moss’ abilities can easily seduce a play-caller into sending the ball his way more than it should be sent his way. Randy Moss’ attitude in the locker room could likely intimidate a play-caller into doing the same. We know that Randy Moss was traded after an incident with Bill O’Brien. I don’t think it is unfair to speculate that a combination of Moss’ ability (perceived or real in 2010) and attitude affected Bill O’Brien and because of it, Bill Belichick decided to trade Moss.

O’Brien had a very impressive college coaching career before coming to the Patriots in 2007. He didn’t take over a major position until 2009 when he became the quarterbacks coach. This is when we assume he started calling plays and so he is judged on it. (Unfairly or not) I think that the offensive play calling job is one of the hardest in football. One former NFL player recently told me that if you put on a headset during a game it sounds “like a 911 call”. It is a very fast-paced job that requires a lot of focus. I think having a vision for a complete game is required heading into it.

So, do I think Bill O’Brien is great? No, but I think he has proven that he is capable of doing the job at the NFL level. That doesn’t mean that he is good enough to help the team win a Superbowl. He has done a poor job in the playoffs and that showed against the Jets. Bill O’Brien is the architect of the “Drive to Nowhere” during which TV cameras caught Belichick yelling at him to speed things up.

CG: Defensively, I was more surprised that coach Bill Belichick didn’t bring in a veteran defensive voice to help him run the defense and provide a different perspective. I wasn’t surprised that after not doing that he didn’t name a defensive coordinator since he basically filled that role on his own. I found it more disconcerting that Bill O’Brien didn’t receive the offensive coordinator title after his first season as the primary play-caller. That bucked the Bill Belichick/Bill Parcells tradition, and made me wonder if Belichick was sure that O’Brien was the guy. Obviously, O’Brien proved he deserved the job with the work he did in 2010. Only the record-setting 2007 Patriots (36.8) averaged more points per game in franchise history than the 2010 version (32.4).

Were you surprised how the defense progressed during the season?

MB: Yes because I thought they were going to be awful. In terms of yardage they were, but being able to make timely stops was huge. I still think consistency is a problem for that unit. They still have player needs on that side of the ball that I think will get better with players returning from injuries and possibly through the draft as well.

CG: No, I consistently said from the beginning of the season that this defense will be better in December than it is in September. With all of those first- and second-year players contributing and Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden out for the season, it was going to take some time for the defense to coalesce.


Moss looked unhappy against Miami, and was traded following that game. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

The Randy Moss trade seemed to be a turning point in the Patriots season. At the time did you feel the trade was a mistake?

MB: I felt that if Randy Moss had been traded something very serious had to have happened behind the scenes. I also immediately thought that there had to be some kind of corresponding move that they had already been working on. I didn’t feel that it was a mistake, but I felt that it was an admission that the Patriots didn’t expect a lot from their team this season. I figured that without Randy Moss the team would probably lose 1 or 2 extra games and would likely miss the playoffs. I was expecting mediocrity the rest of the way, but I viewed the Randy Moss trade as a necessity.

CG: To me the turning point was the Miami game, when the Patriots stopped forcing the ball to Moss. I understood the reasoning and rationale for the trade. I had even predicted that Moss could go rogue back before the start of the season due to his uncertain contract situation. What bothered me though was that after the trade people acted like Moss had never done anything while he was here. They made jokes about not needing the deep ball. Whatever you want to say about Moss – and I still feel he checked out of the Carolina game in 2009 – he was incredibly productive while he was here (50 TDs in 52 games). It wasn’t his fault that the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII. If the defense holds he has the winning TD. He made some very poor decisions this season, and he had to go. It was a brilliant move by Belichick to bring back Deion Branch, who was revived playing with Brady. Maybe the lesson here is that with the Patriots it’s not about who is catching the ball, but rather who is throwing it.

The Patriots ended the season 14-2. Do you think the season was a failure because they lost in the divisional round of the playoffs?

MB: Well, I think success is relative. The Patriots clearly exceeded my expectation of a 10-6 season, but does my original expectation in August decide whether or not they succeeded? Had they went 10-6 and met my expectations; I still would have been calling this season a failure. With Tom Brady and Bill Belichick a 10-6 Patriots team is usually a team that didn’t reach their goals.

In the end, the 2011 edition were much better in the regular season than I thought they would be. Over the course of that regular season they proved that they were better than anybody in the NFL. When a team reaches that point, expectations change. I repeatedly said throughout December that if the Patriots do not win the Superbowl they will have failed. I believe that to be true. For a second straight year they choked in the playoffs, and this season they didn’t have any excuses.

CG: Absolutely not. Most people regarded last season as a bridge year to 2011. The team retooled on the fly and went 14-2, winning the last eight games of the regular season. Was the ending to the season disappointing? Sure because our expectations changed during it. But to label it a failure is off base in my opinion. The post-season was a failure, and it’s remarkable that the Patriots have now gone three seasons without winning a playoff game. But viewed singularly, last season overall was a big step in the right direction, especially with the development of players like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

One of the biggest off-season issues for the Patriots will be Logan Mankins situation. Who do you think is to blame for the impasse with him not having a new contract with the Patriots?

MB: I don’t think I have enough information to place blame solely on one of the parties involved. I do think it is unfortunate that the Patriots insisted on Mankins playing out the final year of his rookie deal. I understand that it is well within their rights to do that as part of what I believe is an unfair collective bargaining agreement. It is hard not to feel that the team hasn’t been jerking around one of their best players. However I think Mankins’ actions during this situation have been less than admirable. We have learned that Mankins believed a brand new contract was on the horizon after he had a conversation with Robert Kraft. When he did not receive a deal to his liking he called out Kraft and demanded a trade. That was not the best way to handle what was still a negotiation between him and the team. Mankins said at the time “Right now, this is about principle with me and keeping your word and how you treat people.” (Insert joke about Matt Cushman telling Jerry Maguire “What you do have is my whole word, and it’s stronger than oak.”) In September, ESPNBoston reported that both sides were ready to sign a deal similar to the seven-year, $56.7 million deal that Jahri Evans signed with the Saints. Apparently the deal fell apart over the lack of a public apology. This led to Mankins continuing his holdout. I have already stated that I think the CBA is unfair but Mankins signed his name on a contract and is a part of a Union that signed a contract with the NFL. He was quick to call out Robert Kraft for supposedly not owning up to his word. What about legal contracts? Are those not applicable in Logan Mankins’ world? A lot of people want to make Mankins out to be some kind of hero for standing up for what he believes in. If you do the math, Mankins believes in losing a lot of money. His orginal tender of $3.16 million was cut to $1.54 million and then he only played in 9 games. Mankins was paid $815,294 to play last season. He missed 7 games and lost more than $2.3 Million and in my opinion he proved nothing. When the league returns, there will still be a franchise tag and Logan Mankins will still be under the control of the Patriots.

CG: I think it’s more on the Patriots. They took a risk by telling Mankins to wait a year for a new deal. He could had squawked and held out in 2009. He didn’t. He waited—and risked injury doing so. Then the Saints overpaid for Jahri Evans (seven years, $56.7 million) and the market changed drastically for guards in 2010. The Patriots balked at paying the new market rate, somewhat legitimately so. But a changing market is the risk of waiting to do business. Mankins, who comes from a small ranching community in California where business is done on a man’s word and a handshake, felt his trust had been betrayed and spoke out. At that point, it went beyond money and became more about principal. I’m not sure if Mankins will re-sign with the Patriots strictly on principal at this point.

The Patriots have been criticized for their approach to contract negotiations with players. Do you feel this criticism is justified and why?

MB: I think it is a fair criticism. I understand that they have the right to hold players to rookie deals, but when they have what is clearly a star player (Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins) I often wonder why they take that route. The price will always go up when it takes longer to get a deal done. It certainly has alienated players at times and I think it hurts when it comes to getting a long-term deal secured to keep players with the Patriots. However I do not believe the Patriots are cheap. The Patriots love a good deal, and they have been the best of finding players who can fit into their system and come at a good price. The only time the Patriots not spending money has aggravated me was in the Asante Samuel situation. Samuel was a quality player that they let walk away due to their value system and it hurt them for the following 2 seasons on the field.

CG: Yes. Part of the reason is that they seem to have a philosophy of making guys wait for their deals, unless they can convince them to sign a team-friendly contract a la Ty Warren’s. That’s fine, but often what happens in the meantime is that the price goes up because other less fiscally-responsible teams inflate the market, which happened with Mankins and Deion Branch back in 2006. Has there been one high-profile contract situation where the Patriots made a player play out his contract and then got him for less than what they were originally offering him in a new deal the prior off-season? Perhaps, there is, but I can’t think of it.

Furthermore, you risk alienating the player either temporarily or permanently because he is unhappy with his contract situation. This has happened with Mankins. It happened with Asante Samuel in 2007. It happened with Vince Wilfork in 2009 and affected the locker room that season. There were reports from Michael Silver that Tom Brady was frustrated with his contract situation over the summer before signing his extension in the fall. You can go back to Ty Law’s contract contretemps in 2004 and Richard Seymour’s brief holdout in 2005; and there was acrimony. It just seems players have to bang their shoes on the table to get a new deal that isn’t team-friendly.

What are the Patriots needs going into in this year’s draft?

MB: The Patriots need impact players no matter what position they play. If the Patriots can somehow get the same production out of their rookies this year as they did last year they will win the Superbowl. I know that a lot of people would like to see outside linebackers or a defensive end be a high priority. I really don’t know how soon a rookie can make a major impact at those positions within Bill Belichick’s defense. As I always say, the Tom Brady window is closing and the time to win is now. I would love for the team to draft a running back within the first couple of rounds. I also think the team needs to address the offensive line considering the turnover that might have to happen there. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if the team selects a cornerback or safety sometime early in the draft as well.

CG: The No. 1 need is outside linebacker/pass rusher. It’s been that way for a while. NFL scouts will tell you the lifeblood of a 3-4 defense is the outside linebacker position. Those are your playmakers in that defense. They have to be. The Patriots need to upgrade that position beyond the Eric Moore’s and the Rob Ninkovich’s. But the Patriots were in the sub-package so often that even a pass-rusher who does not fit the traditional 3-4 OLB mold might be worth a look.

After that I’d say offensive line. Stephen Neal has retired. Matt Light is a free agent. Mankins’s situation is tenuous, and Dan Koppen is entering the final year of his contract. Then I’d go defensive line and running back. I know most people don’t see running back as a need. But the Patriots didn’t have a single rushing play of 40 yards or more last season. I think Danny Woodhead is an excellent third-down back and BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a great season, even if he did fatten up his numbers a bit on the Bills, who had the worst run defense in the league. The Patriots would benefit from a home-run threat for Brady to hand off to.

Do you think we will see a season of football in 2011?

MB: Yes. There is no doubt in my mind that the NFL will play a full season in 2011.

CG: I do. I think there is simply too much money at stake for both sides to miss the entire 2011 season. It’s easy to posture and litigate in March, April and May, but when it gets to late August and September the players are going to want to be getting paid and the owners are going to want the revenue from games. The owners wanted an 18-game season to help their pockets. It’s hard for me to imagine them accepting no season at all or a diminished season of between eight to 12-games this year. The players have traditionally folded in these labor situations the longer they drag on. Maybe we lose a game or two to the labor struggle and end up with 14 games, but I can’t see fewer games than that.

I want to thank Marc Bertrand and Chris Gasper so much for answering my questions. This Saturday they will be doing their “All Draft show” live from Foxboro. I would highly recommend listening as they will be breaking down who the Patriots had picked in the first two days of the draft, and also looking forward to the final day.

You can also follow them on twitter at Marc_ Bertrand and cgasper.

This Is The Year To Maximize Patriots Draft Picks

When the Patriots traded Richard Seymour over 2 years ago for the Raiders #1 draft pick in the 2011 draft, I knew this particular draft would be important. Well, we are getting very close to the draft, and all eyes will be on the Patriots. They have 6 picks in the first 3 rounds, and have a tremendous opportunity to build the future of the Patriots. This is the year to maximize the Patriots draft picks.

The Patriots are incredible in picking up extra draft picks each year, and stockpiling them for the future. At some point you need to cash in your chips. This is the year the Patriots need to take advantage of everyone of these high picks. I do not want to see the team this year trading one of them for a high pick next year.

This happens to be a very good draft at many positions of need for the Patriots. I am not saying they need to pick at the spots they are now. If they feel they can trade up or trade down, and it gets them quality players, I am all for it.

The Patriots needs include offensive line, outside linebacker, and defensive end. As long as they address these areas of concern, I will feel this was a successful draft.

With the uncertainty of the Logan Mankins situation, along with Matt Light being a free agent, the Pats could probably use two quality lineman.

I think the Patriots need another outside linebacker to compliment Jermaine Cunningham on the other side. They need a player that can rush the passer and drop into coverage. This linebacker really needs to be a three down player. The days of Tully Banta-Cain as a starter need to be switched to a back-up role.

The Patriots also need another defensive end that can hold up blockers, and has the ability to rush the passer.  Ty Warren is returning and will bolster the line, but in the future they need to transition to another defensive end.

I know there are many fans that want the Patriots to draft a running back and a wide receiver early in the draft. I am completely against this philosophy as it has backfired on the Patriots time and time again. Do I have to bring up Bethel Johnson, Chad Jackson, and Laurence Maroney to convince you? You can find players for these positions  in the mid to later rounds.

For me in the first 3 rounds I think it is necessary to get 5 or 6 players that could be building blocks for many years to come. Nick Caserio and his staff have had two quality drafts back to back. If they can do it again in this draft, the Tom Brady window of opportunity could be extended for awhile.

This is not the year to trade picks for next year’s draft. The time is now to take advantage of this deep draft. Again, I go back to the Richard Seymour trade. The Patriots were targeting this draft when they made that trade. It is time to cash in those chips, and continue to build the future of the team.

 

Drew Bledsoe Should Be In The Patriots Hall Of Fame

The New England Patriots announced this year’s finalists for the Patriots Hall Fame which will be voted on by the fans. The voting continues online at Patriots.com through May 15th. The three finalists are Houston Antwine, Bill Parcells, and Drew Bledsoe. These are three quality finalists for the honor. However, I believe there is one finalist that really deserves to be the inductee and it is Drew Bledsoe.

Bledsoe was the overall number 1 draft pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. He came to the Patriots at a time when the organization was really in shambles. They just hired Bill Parcells as the head coach, but there was very little talent on that team at the time. The NFL is a quarterback driven league, and I think Parcells knew at the time he needed a player that would lead the Patriots for seasons to come. Bledsoe was that franchise quarterback.

Bledsoe struggled at times in his first season with the Patriots, but you saw glimpses of what the future could bring with this quarterback. I remember watching the last game of that season against Miami, and thinking we really have something with Bledsoe. He really gave me hope for the future.

The next season really stood out for me with Drew. You could see the improvement in his game.  Bledsoe showed he was on his way to becoming an elite quarterback in a game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Patriots were trailing going into the second half 20-3. Bledsoe went on a passing spree that still leaves chills down my spine thinking about this game.  He would eventually lead the team to an overtime 26-20 victory. He ended the game with 45 completions in 70 attempts. Both of these statistics are NFL records that still stand.

Bledsoe would lead the Patriots to winning their last 7 regular season games. The Patriots would lose in the playoffs that season to the Cleveland Browns, but the franchise at that point was back on the rise.


While he didn’t finish his career in New England, Bledsoe definitely helped bring the Patriots back into the spotlight before Tom Brady came to Foxboro. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Bledsoe had a great deal to do with the resurrection of the New England Patriots . He became the face of the franchise.

Another highlight of Bledsoe has to be the 1996 season, where he led the Patriots to the Super Bowl. To lead the team to a Super Bowl, he deserves a good amount of credit for being one of the main reasons they got there.

Bledsoe owns many Patriots records. His records include 4528 passing attempts, 2544 completions, and 29,657 yards.

His numbers are impressive, but what separates him from others is the positive identity he gave the Patriots when they desperately needed it. When he came in James Orthwein owned the team and was trying to sell the franchise. Having a coach like Bill Parcells and a franchise player like Drew Bledsoe were huge factors in turning the club around.

When Bob Kraft then purchased the team in 1994, Bledsoe was the superstar quarterback. Drew would be the face behind the Patriots logo for many years to come. In fact, having a player of Bledsoe’s ability and name recognition probably helped trmendously the worth of the franchise. Make no mistake that Bledsoe had a hand in the ability for the Krafts’ to eventually build Gillette Stadium.

So when you are talking about the Patriots Hall Of Fame, I think many will point to Parcells as being the candidate to vote for. He had a huge role in the Patriots history. Antwine also had a major part in the Boston Patriots, and can make his case for being in the Hall.

However, Drew brought serious interest and notoriety to the Patriots over a long period of time(1993-2001) that I think separates himself from the other candidates. Robert Kraft owes a debt of gratitude to Bledsoe.

Now, do I think Drew should be in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame? The answer to that question is absolutely not. In fact, my very first article was entitled “Drew Bledsoe Is Not Worthy Of The Pro Football Hall Of Fame”.

I just don’t think he was one of the best players of all time in Pro Football. However, in regards to the Patriots franchise he deserves to be in their hall.

Bledsoe is an important figure in New England Patriots history. He took the team up from despair, and made it a valuable franchise. In 2001, he passed the torch to Tom Brady who took it to the next level and a dynasty. But, Drew was the foundation before there was a Brady. He should be honored, and always remembered how much he actually meant to the Patriots.

The Rise Of Tom Brady Through My Eyes

I had the pleasure of watching the documentary on ESPN Tuesday night called the Brady 6. This hour long show revolves around Tom Brady, and the six quarterbacks that were drafted before him in 2000. It was a fascinating look at Brady and I would highly recommend watching it. But, it also helped me remember his journey and how hard it was to get to the top.  Here is the rise of Tom Brady through my eyes.

I remember first watching Tom Brady in 1998. I’m a big Syracuse fan, and Syracuse was playing Michigan, and Brady was the quarterback. Syracuse shockingly won that game, and Brady was replaced by then freshman phenom Drew Henson.  There was nothing special that I saw in Brady in this game.

The next season, Syracuse and Michigan once again met, and this time it was at the Carrier Dome. I made the trip to Syracuse for this game. Brady started the game, but it was Henson who came in for Brady and led Michigan to the victory.

A friend of mine who went to Michigan kept telling me that Brady was the superior quarterback at Michigan, and to forget the hype surrounding Henson.  He told me to keep watching the games, and you will see the difference. Well, my friend was right.

I continued to check out Michigan’s games, and I noticed a quarterback that was very calm and in control of his offense. I watched his last game at Michigan when he played in the Orange Bowl against Alabama. He was the dominant player in that game. His success in his senior season should have led to a higher pick in the draft.


Nobody had any idea just how good Tom Brady would be when the Patriots drafted him at #199 back in 2000. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Honestly, when he was drafted by the Patriots, it was an afterthought in my mind. I thought of him as no different than a quarterback like Scott Zolak or Tommy Hodson that the Patriots had drafted over the years. They were good college quarterbacks but nothing incredibly special.

His first season with the team I only saw him during the pre-season, and in mop up duty on Thanksgiving against the Lions which the Patriots lost. At this point there was nothing I saw that told me he would be a future Hall of Famer.

That all changed the next pre-season. I started reading in the papers that the coaching staff were incredibly impressed with Brady’s development, and that he could be a player to watch. I still had my doubts, but it was very noticeable from the first pre-season game that he made a huge leap. In fact, that pre-season he was hands down the best quarterback. Drew Bledsoe had a horrible pre-season.

It was obvious to me that Brady had grasped Charlie Weis’s system much better than Bledsoe. Brady was making all the right decisions while Bledsoe looked uncomfortable in the offense. I actually thought Brady should have started when the season began.

It is not accurate to say that Brady wouldn’t have gotten his shot if it wasn’t for the hit on Bledsoe by Mo Lewis. I thought it was just a matter of time. Based on the documentary “The Brady 6″, the major obstacle for Brady according to Bill Belichick starting the season as the number 1 quarterback was his lack of experience.  Here is a quote below from Belichick courtesy of the documentary “The Brady 6″ which aired on ESPN.

“By the end of training camp, Tom beat out Damon, and really had a better pre-season than Drew did,” said Belichick. “What held us back from making that decision was just Tom’s experience.”

I remember vividly Brady’s first start as a Patriots quarterback. I was at that game at Foxboro Stadium against the Colts. I was excited before the game to see the difference between Brady and Bledsoe and how they handled the offense.

For anyone that was at that game, it was very obvious that Brady was extremely comfortable running the Patriots offense.  It was his decision-making and his command of the offensive unit that stuck out like a sore thumb. He was able to lead the Patriots to an upset victory of the heavily favored Colts. I knew at that point that Brady was the right quarterback moving forward for the Patriots.

Everything that Bledsoe could not do with the Patriots, Brady really excelled at. Bledsoe had the rocket arm, but honestly often made poor decisions, and at times was not comfortable in the pocket which led to mistakes. Brady was far superior to Bledsoe in the pocket, and at an early stage of his development it seemed he read defenses better than Drew.  The torch was passed in that first start. I never wanted to see Bledsoe as the Patriots starting quarterback again. I got my wish because Bledsoe never started a game again for the Patriots.

Let me be clear that Bledsoe was an important player in Patriots history. I thought he was a good quarterback that lacked some intangibles to be great.  I never felt that he could win you a Super Bowl.

After the Patriots won their first Super Bowl title in the 2001 season, the big question was all about Brady. Was his first season as a starter just a fluke?

Brady continued to develop the next season, but the Patriots struggled to a 9-7 record, and did not make the playoffs. It would be the next season where Brady became a complete quarterback.

There were high expectations in 2003 for the Patriots. They struggled in the beginning of the season and saw themselves at 2-2. I would attend the next game which would be at Gillette Stadium against the Titans. This was a great game, and it was back and forth affair. In the end Brady and the Patriots did enough to win the game. But, what I noticed in that game was Brady’s ability  to lead the Patriots to a victory against a quality opponent when the team absolutely needed the game.

It was that resolve and determination that would show up each week that season. How about that Miami game on the road when Brady threw a touchdown pass to Troy Brown in overtime? Well, I will tell you the one game that told me that Brady had taken another step in his development.

It was Monday Night Football at Invesco Field In Denver Colorado. I was lucky enough to have seats on the 50 yard line, 10 rows back from the Patriots bench. The Patriots had struggled over the years to beat Denver. This was an incredible game to watch. It did not look like the Patriots would find a way to win. However, on their final drive, Brady drove the team down the field. He threw a game winning touchdown pass to David Givens. There is nothing better than being a visiting fan watching the home team’s fans go home in disgust. I will always remember this game.

But, the most important thing I got out of that game in Denver was that Tom Brady in my mind became simply a “winner”. He was able to lead his team in a very difficult situation to a victory. That season he did this time and time again. Eventually he would show that winning mentality with 2 more Super Bowl trophies.

The rest as they say is history. I have watched Tom Brady with my own eyes become one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

In my eyes there are qualities that make Brady different, and probably the main reasons why he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round. Scouts can’t measure determination, football intelligence, and the belief that you will find a way to win. Only the rare players have the ability to lead with your head and your heart, rather than your body.