Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback that lead this Patriots team when I first really started following the club back in 1993 and visited Foxboro Stadium for the first time in 1994, which inspired the first version of this site back in 1996. WEEI’s Kirk Minihane recently had Bledsoe on his podcast “Enough About Me” and he put together a terrific interview that provided a ton of great interesting moments during the podcast. After noticing it hasn’t been getting a lot of play online, I took a couple of hours and transcribed the entire interview for those who don’t have time to sit down and listen to it. Minihane’s podcasts have been entertaining thus far and this was certainly one of the best yet, and I highly recommend checking them out and subscribing if you haven’t done so.
Here’s a full transcript of the interview:
So I thought of you when the draft was going on and they showed you in some highlights a few times during it as a former number one pick. What was the process after you left school before you were drafted by the Patriots? How far in advance did you know that [Bill] Parcells was going to take you?
You know, we thought he was, but he played his cards really tight to the vest. He didn’t know if he was going to take me or if he was going to take Rick Mirer. We felt like he was, but usually, especially in that day, if you were going to be the number one overall pick they would have the contract all negotiated and everything done prior to the draft and Parcells, he wouldn’t do that. So we didn’t know for sure until they actually said my name that I was going to go first.
So that’s, like, legitimate? The afternoon, the night of the draft, when the first pick came up, you didn’t know if it was going to be you?
Well, we thought it was, but we didn’t know for sure. They hadn’t come out and said, “hey, we’re taking you.” So, yeah, we thought that was going to happen but we weren’t 100% positive.
How was your dealings with Parcells leading into that?
I only had met him one time, I met him at the combine and met him in a hotel room, went up to do just kind of a one-on-one interview and yeah, that’s pretty intimidating as a 20-year old kid. You know, you walk in there and you’ve got this kind of “Godfather” type from Jersey in the hotel room and you’re a small town kid out of Walla-Walla Washington and you’ve got to go sit down with this guy. It was a little intimidating but I tihnk it was a good meeting and obviously he must have thought it was also because he went ahead and pulled the trigger.
You guys have a lot of history together in two different places. When you look at it now and it’s, whatever, 22-years later, how do you look at your relationship overall with Parcells? I mean, do you like him today? If you run into him today somewhere, is it a good relationship?
You know, honestly, I haven’t seen him or talked to him since I retired from the Cowboys.
So you haven’t talked to him in 10-years?
No, haven’t seen him, haven’t talked to him. You know, those relationships are always…they’re not always warm and fuzzy and it wasn’t warm and fuzzy with Bill but I’m glad I got a chance to play for him, particularly when I was a young player. But the end of the deal down there in Dallas, wasn’t…it wasn’t super friendly.
Yeah, so it ended and obviously [Tony] Romo came in, they pulled you, you sat for Romo and from that point on, it was pretty much done with Parcells?
Yeah, at that point it was a professional relationship, but he hasn’t reached out to me since that point and I haven’t needed to reach out to him.
|“At that point it was a professional relationship, but he hasn’t reached out to me since that point and I haven’t needed to reach out to him.” – Drew Bledsoe on Bill Parcells
How about your relationship with [Bill] Belichick? I mean, I know it sort of ended the same way and it’s been a long time as well, you’ve known him for a long time too, and you’re more involved obviously with the Patriots today than you would be say with Dallas or with Parcells, how’s your relationship with Belichick?
You know, it’s interesting. You know, Belichick, he’s such an interesting guy because when you work for him, it is all business and everybody knows that. I mean, there’s no warm and fuzzy, there’s no small talk, there’s none of that. But since I retired, I’ve been back there a couple of times just for wine deals or to come to a game and he’s an entirely different guy when it’s not a business relationship. He smiles and he’s engaging and interesting. You know, I came back and did a wine presentation at the wine shop there at the stadium and he came over for that and hung out and we talked for a while afterwards and you know, it’s actually a pretty decent, pretty friendly relationship.
Did you push, were you a voice in bringing in Belichick after [Pete] Carroll? Was that someone that you wanted to come in there? At that point, did you have that sort of say, or would you speak up in that situation?
I’m obviously not making those decisions, but I was in favor of that. As much as anything, I just didn’t want to compete against the guy anymore. I just didn’t want to play against him, he was such a pain in the butt as a defensive coordinator and obviously Mr. Kraft felt the same way. He brought him in and obviously he’s gone on to be probably the greatest coach that’s ever coached.
We’ll get back to Belichick maybe in a minute or two, but people talk about [Rob] Gronkowski all the time and he’s great, I mean there’s definitely a chance he could go down as the greatest tight end of all time. But I do feel like people around here, I grew up here, I watched all these games, I do feel like people forget how great Ben Coates was. There was a short time, there’s no doubt, but for a three or four year stretch, he was as good as any tight end who ever played?
He was and he broke the mold a little bit. There weren’t a lot of guys…now it seems like everybody’s got a big time tight end, but there were not a lot of guys in that era that were doing what Ben was doing. [Shannon] Sharpe in Denver, he was catching a lot of balls but he was more of just a receiver. Ben was actually a true tight end where he was blocking in the running game and then was just a deadly weapon in the passing game. He wasn’t a giant guy, he wasn’t big like Gronk, I mean I think Ben was like 6’4″, probably 250lbs, but he played giant. I mean, he could catch anything, he could run over safeties and then if he got free, he was as fast as anybody on the field…just was a game-breaker. So he was pretty special and as a young quarterback, having a tight end like that that was so reliable and that you could throw to the ball to even when he was covered and he would catch it, was a great security blanket. I remember there was actually was a time, there was one play that we had and we would run it and it was very effective and Parcells was saying to Ray Perkins, “Well don’t call that, all he’s going to do is throw it to Coates!” And I looked at him and I was like, “Well, he always catches it, so why wouldn’t I throw it to him? It always works.” And Ben, he was just great from that standpoint. If there was nothing else that we could find that was working, I’d just throw it at Ben and we’d get the offense moving.
|“He could catch anything, he could run over safeties and then if he got free, he was as fast as anybody on the field…just was a game-breaker.” – Drew Bledsoe on former tight end Ben Coates
It’s a lot different today than even when you were playing. You were always a hot-button guy in Boston in radio and in print because, you know, you’re the quarterback and if you struggle, they kill you, if you play well, they love you. But it’s even more intense now. Looking back 10-15 years ago, did you like dealing with the Boston media? Did you not like it? Did you find it different in other markets? Was it more intense, less intense? I mean you played in, whatever, three different markets, how did it match up?
It was different, certainly at first. [I was] a small-town kid, I was used to being covered by one newspaper and out west, you know, they might try to get after you but it’s never going to have kind of that same tone. But to be honest with you, I enjoyed it. I mean, they’ll get after you and I knew that was the case. I remember after we played the Steelers my rookie year and I threw 5 picks, I went and grabbed the papers because I just wanted to see how bad it could get. I think one of the writers, I don’t remember who it was, but one of the writers said, “It was the worst performance by a quarterback in the history of the New England Patriots.” So I was like, “O.K., well good, we can only get better from here.” But it’s part of the job and when you play in Boston you know that sports is more serious than it is in most other places. So I understood that and embraced that challenge and became part of it. So I didn’t not like it, I just knew that it was part of the job. But comparing Boston to the other markets, I went from there to Buffalo…
I guess Buffalo wouldn’t work as a comparison, right?
No, not really. I tell people, playing football in Buffalo is like playing pro ball in a college town. The fans were great, they were very loyal to you, but it didn’t have the same edge to it as a place like Boston. And then when you get to Dallas, in Dallas, you play quarterback for the Cowboys, it’s like pitching for the Yankees. Everybody loves you or they hate you and the media down there, the one thing that I think they had in common with the Boston media is they really feel like that they know more than other fans and the sportswriters feel like because they’re in Dallas, that they know more than other sportswriters do, which is kind of interesting because, you know, obviously they don’t. But it was different. Football is number one in Texas and when I got to New England, football was probably #4 and then we had an amazing run over a good run of success and got all the way up to #2 behind the Red Sox. But when you’re in Texas, football is religion, so that puts you at the top of the sports page all the time.
I think you’re underselling it, to be honest with you. Because, I’d say the average listener of this podcast, the ones we’ve done so far, are like 25, maybe late 20’s. I’m 41, I grew up here, when you say Patriots were #4, you’re right, but they were such a distant #4. I would go to the games at the old stadium and I would go, in high school a bunch of my buddies and I would go and watch the game, the years before you got there, the years with [Dick] McPhearson or whatever. We’d go, and Hugh Millen would be playing quarterback, Tommy Hodson, there would be 9,000 people in the stadium. You’d start up top at half time, they’d let you come down, you’d be 3-4 rows away from midfield. I watched [Scott] Zolak win a couple of games in front of nobody. You came here, Parcells came here, you guys might not have won a Super Bowl but everything changed. You went from #4, which is probably right, to #2 in about a second and I would argue even when you were still here, that Super Bowl year, even that first 10-6 year, I think you guys went from #4 to #1 to be honest with you, even ahead of the Red Sox, I think it changed the game completely.
Well, I know we at least got into the conversation but one thing you do learn when you come to Boston is that, the other sports are sports, but the Red Sox, that’s church. Going to Fenway is going to church if you’re from Boston. So I don’t know if the Patriots, ever even now, could supplant the Red Sox.
Especially the last year and a half, with all the insanity, I think now the game has totally changed…
Sure, sure, yeah…sure.
What is your take on that? Now you’ve obviously been paying attention to it, the whole DeflateGate thing.
Yeah, the whole thing just drives me crazy…
What was your pregame preparation with footballs?
Yeah, with footballs, all we would do if we had a Sunday game, on Saturday we’d go out for a walk through and then I’d get with Donny Brocher, Johnny Hildebrand, we’d get the bag of footballs out and I would grab them, I’d grab each football and, “that one feels good…don’t like that one…that one feels good…” and the ones that I liked would go into the good bag and the ones I didn’t would get tossed or they’d re-work them some more. But I never even knew what the psi of a football was, I just knew what felt right. To me it was far more important that the balls were broken in than it was how they were inflated. You know one thing, and I was actually talking with my brother just yesterday, one thing I’ve noticed in watching these guys on the field now, is that the footballs that they’re throwing, the quarterbacks, they’re almost, like, black. They’re so broken in and worked in and to me that was far more important than how inflated the ball was, that never really even entered the conversation. So because of that, this whole deal, this whole thing, the fact that it’s risen to the legal level that it’s risen to…the next step I think is the Supreme Court…
There’s a chance, right. So if this second circuit doesn’t agree to do the thing and this en banc thing potentially with 13 judges…but you’re right, there’s a chance that the deflation of footballs or not is going to be in front of the Supreme Court.
Yeah, it is so ridiculous to me and has zero impact on the game and I just…I don’t know, man, the whole thing just drives me crazy.
You said you didn’t know the psi but was the term psi ever discussed in your life in the preparation leading into a game, around the field, ever?
No, never. I just kind of assumed that the referees would grab the footballs and, “Oh yeah, that feels like a football.” The only thing I ever did hear, I know that they would check to make sure that the kicking balls weren’t over-inflated. I did know that they would check that and that to me was the only thing that I ever was aware of that they would check because the kickers wanted the balls over-stuffed so that they could kick them farther. But outside of that, no it was never a thing. It just never ever happened.
When did you start figuring it out as a starting NFL quarterback? The first year obviously you struggled, you were out for a little bit and [Scott] Secules was in, then you won your last four games, you had that game at Miami to end the regular season. Then you started the next season, you had that shootout with [Dan] Marino, was it about then that you started figuring it out, or was it the Minnesota game the second year? When did you say, “O.K., I know what I’m doing now. I’ve figured it out, I know what I’m doing as an NFL quarterback?”
It’s a progression, I continued to learn for a number of years but certainly the jump from rookie year to second year in terms of how comfortable you are and how well you know things, was a pretty dramatic jump, that was the biggest jump in that progression. And then from there on, I continued to learn and continued to get better all the way through the end of my career. But I did get to a point, and I remember the year that I was hurt when Tommy [Brady] came in, at the end I would sit with Damon Huard as we were preparing for the games and Damon, I remember, he would ask me, “Alright, well how is this game going to go?” And I could break it down for him to the Nth degree as to exactly how the game was going to go and what was going to decide the game. So I got to a point where, particularly when I was not on the field but when I was watching, I could tell you exactly which match-up was going to determine the outcome of the game and how the flow of the game was going to go based on that match-up. So I did get to the point where I could understand the game very, very completely and to be honest with you, toward the end of my career, that was one of the things that made it easier to make the decision to retire. It wasn’t quite the same challenge at that point and I was really looking forward to a new challenge intellectually. I got to the point where I knew that if my guys did their job, that I was going to execute my part of it at a very high level of precision. But I was also at the mercy of the guys around me because I wasn’t going to go run around and create stuff.
|“I had an interesting deal that happened about once a year my entire career where if I got hit in the back of the head, I would lose peripheral vision out of the left side of my head. So I’d go back on the field and if I was looking straight forward, I couldn’t see the entire left side of the field.” – Drew Bledsoe talking about concussions.
How is your head now? How is your brain? I mean, you took you were a tough quarterback, man, you took a hell of a beating for a long time, to your credit. How many concussions would you say you’ve had?
I don’t know, it was probably a couple a year. But at that point, then you got dinged and you just kept playing, that’s what it was. I had an interesting deal that happened about once a year my entire career where if I got hit in the back of the head, I would lose peripheral vision out of the left side of my head. So I’d go back on the field and if I was looking straight forward, I couldn’t see the entire left side of the field.
Now is there a part of you, at that point, where you’re thinking, “You know, I probably shouldn’t be out on the field, this isn’t smart…” or do you just say, “I’ve got to do it, it’s part of the job?”
What I would do is, we had a plan, and I would tell whatever coordinator that I had, and I had 8 coordinators my last 10-years and so each coordinator, I had to tell them, “Hey, this is probably going to happen at some point this season and what he have to do, number one let’s run the ball, but number two, you need to call pass plays to the left because if I’m looking left, then I can peripherally see the rest of the field to the right. But if I’m looking to the right, now I can’t see 3/4 of the field and so we would call things where I was looking to the left so I could see what was going on on the right.
How long would this last for?
It lasted about 20 minutes, so a series, maybe two and then it would come back. So I had those kinds of things that went on. But you know, all things considered, I feel pretty good every day. I don’t have any, so far anyway, I don’t have any ill-effects from the hits. It was funny though, one of my sons got whacked on the lacrosse field and I had to take him in to get him cleared to go back on the field and so I’m talking to this neurologist and he’s checking Stu out and kind of giving the whole protocol, “You’ve got to sit for a few weeks and come back and see me” and the whole deal. Then he looks at me and he goes, “How you doing?” and I’m like, “Good.” And he goes, “Well, how old are you?” And I think at that point I was 42. I said, “Yeah, I’m 42.” He goes, “Oh, well, you know, the symptoms don’t really kick in until 45.”
I was like, “O.K. great, I’ve got three years and then I’m drooling in a cup.”
But obviously you got out, you’ve made a lot of money, you’ve been really successful with the wine business, is there part of you though that when you think about it, and you’ve seen, I mean listen, you’ve played with Kevin Turner, you’ve seen these guys, not that that’s going to happen, but is there part of you that is scared about what could be happening 15, 20 years from now?
You know, yeah, but I can’t control it. I do do everything that I can to kind of make sure that I’m staying as healthy as I can, I think that’s one thing that seems like common sense but I think is really true. If you stay healthy and eat right and exercise and then you keep your brain active, I think that just regardless of whether you’re playing football or just living your life, if you continually challenge yourself and you’re always learning, I think that you give yourself a better chance that your brain’s going to function well for longer. So I worry about it, but it doesn’t keep me up at night and so far, so good. I forget where my keys are, can’t come up with somebody’s name from time to time, but I think that has more to do with getting old more than it does getting hit in the head. So far, so good. I’ve been really fortunate, man, I got out of the game after 14 years and as you said, I certainly got hit plenty, but everything, so far, functions fairly well.
I was going to ask, I guess it’s a dumb question, but I was going to ask what the worst hit you ever took was and maybe the question is, what’s the second-worst hit? You know, the weird thing about the [Mo] Lewis thing, and obviously, it’s no joke, I mean, you were really seriously injured, is if you watch it, it looks like a hell of a hit but you see hits like that a lot, if that makes any sense?
|Drew Bledsoe during the game against the Jets in Week 2 Back in 2001 – GETTY IMAGES
So, I mean, if you’re watching a football game, that stuff can happen all the time, I guess it’s just the speed and the angle and where the hit was, right? I mean, do you remember it, or no?
Yeah, and what happened was, and it was not a malicious hit by him. I don’t think even in today’s NFL it’s probably not flagged or flagrant. But what happened was I was running out of bounds and it was 3rd down and I knew that I was just a couple yards short of the third down marker and I wasn’t going to just run out of bounds short of the first down marker on third down. And so I turned back in and when I turned back in toward the field, I just exposed my entire rib cage to this very big, fast football player. And when you do that, because there are hits that happen in every game that probably have a similar level of violence, but in this instance, it was a violent hit on a very exposed area rather than on my pads and that’s really what made that one such a dangerous deal. But I got whacked pretty good a few other times. I remember my rookie year after I came back off my knee injury, we were playing the Bills and started to kind of run up the middle, scramble up the middle, and was even slower with the knee brace on and Phil Hansen hit me from the side and Marcus Patton hit me right in the face with the top of his helmet, hit me hard enough that he bent my face mask wide open. I think I took a quick little nap on the field for a second and then got up. I remember being on the sideline stomping on my helmet trying to get my face mask back in line. But you know, at that point you just go back and play.
You played in the next series after the hit against the Jets, you came back out. Do you have any memory of that, or no?
“No, I remember coming back out. I remember the reason that I ended up out of the game was because I had a concussion, not because, we didn’t know that I had the bleeding situation in my ribs. But I had a concussion and I remember being on the field and we had a ‘check with me play’ where it was either going to right or go left and I knew that we needed to go left but I couldn’t come up with the word. So I turned around to Marc Edwards, “Hey Marc, how do I go left?” He goes,”Say Odd.” and I was like, “Alright. Odd, odd.” Then between him and Damon Huard, they ratted me out and let the staff know that I wasn’t thinking clearly.
Obviously you came back in the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh and in that very first series, you kind of took a hit similar to the hit in the Jets game. Do you remember that?
Yeah, it was, it was similar but in that one, they did initially throw a flag and then they picked it up. That one should have been flagged because I was running out of bounds, I didn’t turn back in on that one. And that one I left myself exposed because I was running out of bounds. They threw a flag on the hit and then they picked it up, which I didn’t think they should have.
At what point during that season did you realize, “Well, O.K. obviously this isn’t going to be happening here for me anymore”? Or did you have it?
While I was recovering, I thought kind of after all the blood, sweat and tears and all that that I’d put into the organization that there was going to be a chance to get back on the field when I got healthy. But then when Bill made the decision to stick with Tommy after I was healthy, obviously I wasn’t happy with that situation, but that’s when I kind of knew that it was probably not going to be a good long-term situation. I would’ve welcomed the chance to come in and compete for the job the next year in training camp. But then really when the Raiders game happened and that call got overturned and all of that, that’s kind of when I knew, “O.K., this thing, I guess, is just gonna happen.” At that point, it feels like there’s something larger at work than just playing football.
There’s got to be part of you, you’re standing there in the snow in Foxboro against the Raiders, I think you went out for the overtime coin flip, I could be wrong, as one of the captains, there must be part of you that thinks, you’re happy for your teammates, you’re happy for Brady, this is great. But there’s got to be part of you, it’s human nature, that is like, “Jesus, I can’t believe this is happening.”
Well, yeah, I mean, I’ve been pretty honest about it. That was emotional for me and that was a really tough season. Really happy for my teammates and for the organization and tried to do everything that I could to support Tommy and to support the team, but on a personal level, it was tough. And when [Charles] Woodson comes in and hits Tommy and to everybody that was watching looked like it was a fumble, I remember kind of taking a knee and thinking, “O.K., this is over. This whole thing is over and I can unwind a little bit and try to kind of just process everything that’s happened.” And when they overturned the call, I was like, “Oh, O.K., this thing is…something different’s happening here so I better embrace it” and I did.
When you saw Brady, you know, you saw him for that year before and then you saw him that training camp and the start of the year, did you ever think, you didn’t think he was going to be this, we know that, but did you ever think you were looking at a guy who was going to be a good starting quarterback in the NFL, or you just didn’t know?
I felt like what Tommy was going to be was a guy that was going to be a really good back-up quarterback in the league for 12, 14, 15 years. He was a guy that worked so hard, he was a smart guy, was a good team guy, all of those things that everybody knows so well. But especially his rookie year, man, he was just so skinny, just a skinny little twerp and he didn’t look like a guy that was going to be a big time starting quarterback. But obviously in his mind, he had different plans and we all know what he’s gone on to become. But I felt like he was going to be around for a long time, I was certainly going to be cheering for him, but certainly had no concept that he was going to go on to be a starter, let alone one of the guys that’s at the very top of the game.
What didn’t you know about him then that lead him to do this. What couldn’t you see?
I think the thing that happened for him, you know, first of all, it was the right place, right time. When we get midway through the season and the rest of our offensive line gets healthy, defense is playing well, special teams is stepping up, all of those things are happening, it was a really good situation for him at that point. I remember that year, the biggest thing that happened that year, I stepped into the huddle the first day of training camp and I remember looking around going, “Oh, man, we’ve got a shot. We’ve got an offensive line here”. You’ve got [Damien] Woody, and [Mike] Compton and [Matt] Light, they looked like five blocks of granite. But in training camp, the guys all started getting hurt. That starting five offensive line, I don’t think they all played together again until like week five or week six and that’s really when things started to click. You know, we lost the first two, and then we won one and then we lost the fourth one, and so we were 1-3. But then all of a sudden those guys all get healthy and they’re back on the field and that’s when things started to change, particularly on the offensive side was when that happened. So Tommy played well that season but the team really, really rallied around and there’s a thing that happens with a team if your quarterback goes down, then everybody feels like they’ve got to do a little bit more and I think in that season in particular, guys really stepped up and took that thing to heart because they knew they had this young guy that they had to support. And then obviously Tom just continued to just grind and work, and he’s put in the time and the effort and that’s part of the reason that this whole delflate thing pisses me off is because I know the kind of work that he’s put in to become one of these guys. That didn’t just happen. He’s a grinder, he works his butt off to get there and he’s done that continuously and that really to me is the legacy of what he’s done with the Patriots has been his work ethic, his leadership and his relentless desire to win. Far more than anything than he’s done throwing the football, has been his legacy.
Was there ever, maybe not during that year, but a couple years after that, was there ever sort of a frost in your relationship with Brady? Did you guys always get along? Have you gotten closer more as you’ve retired?
I mean, there was always great mutual respect there between the two of us. But a guy takes your job, you know, you’re not just going to love that dude right away.
|“There was always great mutual respect there between the two of us. But a guy takes your job, you know, you’re not just going to love that dude right away.” – Drew Bledsoe on his relationship with Tom Brady after the 2001 season.
There was always great mutual respect and all that. But we’ve been better friends I think since I’ve retired from the game and obviously I’m a big fan of Tommy and everything that he’s done. But we’ve had a chance to hang out a little bit over the past, I don’t know, 3 or 4 years, and it’s a very good relationship. We keep in touch and he was really kind two of the last three years. I reached out to him as I’m coaching this high school football team out here and for a couple of big games asked him if he’d send a video to the team to get them fired up for the game and both times he did and our guys just loved that, which was really cool. He’s been great, and we’re good friends.
Did you ever deal with, and it’s a guy we have on our show all the time too, did you ever deal with [Curt] Schilling at all individually? You sold your house to Schilling, right?
Yes, sold the house to him and I think that’s the only time we’ve ever…oh, two times that we talked. Once when we were selling the house, and then on the video game, he called and wanted to pitch that thing to me and I decided not to participate which obviously I’m happy that I didn’t jump in on that one. But, no, haven’t really spent a lot of time with Curt.
It seemed like that team that lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl, and then Parcells left, listen, a lot of those guys went on to win a couple more Super Bowls with the Patriots, but it seemed like that ’96 team that went 11-5 and was loaded, it seemed like you guys were about to sort of explode and go on a run. What happened? Was it Pete Carrol, was it guys leaving? Or…
There were two things that happened. Number one, that next year, especially toward the end of the season, we were plagued with injuries, which all of a sudden we get late in the season and that’s no small thing. That makes things really difficult. I forget the entire list of guys that were hurt, but it was a lot as we got late in the season. But the biggest thing that happened that prevented that team from going on and being somewhat of a dynasty – and I remember saying that at the time because people obviously would ask, “Hey, is this a one time thing, or can you guys go on and really make a run?” – and I remember saying, “Well, it’s going to depend on what we do with these draft picks” – because we got a bunch of draft picks when Parcells left and then Curtis [Martin] left, we had a bunch of draft picks in the first couple rounds for, I think, three years and I remember saying “Alright, well, if we use those wisely, then we’ve got a chance”, because if you’re drafting, it’s even more important now than it was then. But if you draft well, then you have depth and you have replacement guys that can replace guys that get priced out of the market and so on. And of those, I think there were seven draft picks in the first two rounds, I think Robert Edwards was the only one that ended up playing a significant role, and then he got hurt. So those draft picks really didn’t pan out and I think that that, more than anything, kept that team from just rolling forward. That’s why when Pete went to Seattle, he made sure that he had front office control so that he didn’t allow that situation to repeat himself.
So you never got the sense, and that was the perception around here, while he was here – and I think that it’s because he followed Parcells, who was such a towering figure – that Carroll was in over his head. That wasn’t the case?
No, and I think if you talk to guys that played for him at the time, I think everybody liked playing for Pete and he was a good coach then. But I think that the personnel side of things and the fact that we didn’t draft well enough to replace the guys that became high-priced free agents, that was more the story than anything else. There were nuances to Pete, and obviously his personality when he was following Parcells, you’re not going to follow that kind of personality, especially in Boston, it didn’t play well. But I always felt like Pete was an outstanding football coach and he’s certainly has gone on to prove that both at the college and pro level now.
|“To build a team that makes it to the Super Bowl and then immediately jump ship and to be talking to another organization while you’re on your way to the Super Bowl, I really didn’t like that whole situation.” – Drew Bledsoe on Parcells leaving after the 1996/97 Super Bowl
Did you get the sense that those couple of weeks, were you pissed off the way it ended? Did you feel like that Parcells was not completely focused on that Super Bowl while he was kind of flirting with the Jets?
You know, the thing that was disappointing about that was that we really had kind of come out of nowhere to make this run to the Super Bowl and we get there, and the stories weren’t about the great and unlikely run that our team had made to get to the Super Bowl, it was just all about Bill and him leaving to go to the Jets and that whole deal. That part was frustrating. And then, you know, to build a team that makes it to the Super Bowl and then immediately jump ship and to be talking to another organization while you’re on your way to the Super Bowl, I really didn’t like that whole situation.
Did you think, so you played in that Super Bowl, you lost to Green Bay, did you think after coming off, Brady hurts his ankle you play in the second half, you come in the second quarter, play well in the game, you win the game. That was actually, I could be wrong – you might correct me – I think that’s the last one week break in-between the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl was that year, right, it was just a week in between the games? Did you think you were going to start that week for Brady against St. Louis?
I didn’t know. Obviously I certainly wanted to and was hopeful that that was going to be the case. I forget if it was Tuesday or Wednesday or something like that that Bill called me in and said that Tommy was going to start, which I wasn’t very happy about it. It was like one of those deals, “O.K., well you went through this whole thing, got hurt, did the right thing, stood by the team, and then get a chance to play, play well, and then you just go right back to the bench.” The whole thing was really…it was an emotionally taxing year to say the least.
But now it’s been 15-years or whatever, and whenever you come back here – you got voted into the [Patriots] Hall of Fame I think by the largest percentage ever – you come back here now, and I know it ended bitterly, but from a fan perspective, I think most fans feel like they don’t think of about that part when they think of you, they think of the 8 or 9 years before that. That’s what happens I guess over time, right?
Sure, and that’s how I view it too. The end of it was bittersweet, but, man, I loved the time that I got to spend out there and wouldn’t trade that for the world. It feels so great to come back and actually when I come back now to Boston, it’s kind of a really cool relationship with the fans where it’s almost like everybody feels like we’re buddies as opposed to this big quarterback guy. If I’m walking down the street, you know, somebody will see me, “Hey Drew, what’s up, man, how are ya?” – “Hey, great, how are ya?” And it’s a very cool thing when I come back there. It’s obviously very welcoming but it’s less of a football star kind of a relationship and more of a, just like, people have a sense that we’re just friends, which is a very cool thing to be able to feel like.
So how long as this Doubleback Wine been going on for, what’s the history with this?
Yeah, man, we’ve been at this Doubleback thing for quite a while now. We’ve recently released our 7th vintage, it’s going very, very well for us. My little hometown out here, this little small town of Walla-Walla, has sort of been producing some of what we really feel like and I think the critics would agree with us, some of the best wine grapes in the world are being grown in Walla-Walla and we’re the beneficiary of that. So we’ve been having a ton of fun with it and it’s also given me a good excuse to come back to Boston a little bit. My wife and I, I mean, shoot, we were out there for 9-years. When we got there, I was single and she came out and moved in and we ended up having three kids, while we were out there. All three boys were born at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, so we grew up out there. So it’s really fun to have this wine deal be an excuse to come back and spend more time back there where we really grew up. As a matter of fact, as we’re sitting here talking today and I don’t know when this will run, but today is our 20th wedding anniversary.
Look at that, congratulations! What better way to spend it than on a podcast with me?
Yeah, exactly. [Laughs] But no, the wine business is going really, really well. We’re enjoying it and it gives us an excuse to go travel and call it work and it’s been really nice as an excuse to get back to Boston a bit.
It’s an insane business. I was looking before we had you on, I was reading some stuff, from different reports, it’s a $40 billion, not your business obviously, but the wine business in the U.S. is $40 billion per year?
Yeah, and growing. A lot of the younger generation they’re getting into and learning about wine and seeking out different stuff. But because it’s such a big business, it is highly competitive and in order to be successful at it, you’ve got to do everything right. You can’t just get the wine in the bottle right, that’s not enough. You’ve got to have a story. You’ve got to get out and work the market and talk to people. At our end of the spectrum, it’s a very personal business, if you want people to buy wine from you, not just once, but year-over-year. I’ve got to go see people and talk to them and tell them the story and all of that and I enjoy that part of it. It means quite a bit of travel, but I enjoy that part of it.
But is it a legit, for you, like, full-time job? Or are you just sort of the guy who runs it, and you’re famous, and you show up and shake some hands and everyone’s like, “Oh, it’s Drew Bledsoe.” I mean, because if I’m you, right … so if I make X amount of money, whatever, tens of millions of dollars, my natural reaction would be just to say, “Screw it, I’m going to play golf, I’m going to hang out with the kids, I’m not going to push myself, I’m going to enjoy retirement.” But at the same time, I mean, we’re virtually the same age, what do you do if you retire when you’re 35 or 36-years old I guess, right? You’ve got to do something?
Yeah, well that’s the problem, right? You know, you’re 35-years old, all you do is get in trouble if you just retire and hang out. But for me, the intriguing part of this business has been to take on the challenge of growing something literally from the ground up and seeing if I can make a successful business. I mean, it would be very easy to just throw a bunch of money at a winery and end up with your name on a bottle and do that, that would be the easy way to do it. But I took it on, I wanted to see if I could build a really successful and thriving business as well. That’s a much different kind of challenge, then you’re actually watching your bottom line. You’re actually taking your marketing seriously and trying to build the structure around your company properly so that you can function and all of those things. Having to register as a lobbiest and go work in Boston to get shipping legalized. So that part of it, it’s more the challenge of, “can I take on something new?” “Can I start something that’s not entirely reliant on my right arm and build that from the ground up?” And that’s been the challenge and that’s the part that gets me out of bed and gets me going in the morning. And we’re getting there, we’re actually a profitable business that’s doing well and want to continue to grow that and do it responsibly. But it’s been a good challenge, been a lot of fun.
How many takes was it for Jerry McGuire? How many takes was it for you?
Jerry McGuire? I nailed that first take.
You did, really, one and done?
I’m a great actor [Laughs]. I came back from that after the movie was released, I remember Bruce Armstrong telling me, he goes, “Yeah, I watched the movie, I just didn’t buy it, man. You as an NFL quarterback? That’s a stretch, not authentic at all.”
I don’t even remember, were you with [Tom] Cruise, were you on the phone with him or something?
My part, I was on the phone with him. We weren’t acting together. I think he was afraid that I would steal the scene from him and tarnish his name.
You know the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game, right?
Oh, of course, yeah.
Can you tie yourself in to Kevin Bacon? I can do it for you if you want?
This will be one degree, yeah. It’s like me and Tom Cruise and then Tom Cruise and Kevin Bacon in what was the military …
Yeah, A Few Good Men
A Few Good Men, yeah, so it’s only one degree.
That’s your only acting credit on IMDB, nothing else? You weren’t every offered…[You were offered] Something About Mary, right?
I got offered the Something About Mary deal from the Farrelly Brothers…
Why didn’t you do it?
You know, they wanted me to give up part of my summer and when your summer is so short, I just didn’t want to go travel to Florida to go shoot it, so just didn’t go. In retrospect, certainly should have. I think Brett [Favre] was actually the third choice for that one, which I know he probably hates to hear. I think it was me and Steve Young were the first two, the Farrelly Brothers being Boston guys wanted me in there and then Cameron Diaz was a 49ers fan so she wanted Steve Young and then Steve couldn’t do it. So Fav-re was actually the third choice for that movie which I don’t know that he loves to hear that.
Well, Drew, I appreciate it and thanks for joining us on the podcast.
Yeah, man, absolutely. It’s been fun.
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