Looking back at the 2003 season, one of the defining moments of that year came in Week 1 following the Patriots blowout loss to the Bills in Week 1.
For anyone who remembers, that season started with the surprising release of former safety Lawyer Milloy, who refused to take a pay cut to remain in New England. What made matters worse is it happened just four days before the opener, with a trip to Buffalo on tap to face the Bills and former quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, who was traded following Brady’s championship run two seasons earlier.
But to throw salt in the wound, Milloy shockingly landed with the Bills ahead of the game, which certainly stunned everyone here in New England. Given the relationships the veteran safety had in the locker room, players were said to be upset by the team’s decision to jettison Milloy right before the start of the season.
It didn’t go well. The players looked completely out of sorts and the offense couldn’t get anything going. Tom Brady passed for just 123-yards and was picked off four times in a 31-0 loss, while Bledsoe threw for 230 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, ESPN’s Tom Jackson later made his famous quote, “They hate their coach”, referring to Bill Belichick and there was concern that his decision to let Milloy go would fracture the locker room and affect the rest of their season.
Instead, that year ended in Houston with the Patriots beating the Panthers to win Super Bowl XXXVIII. According to the new book, “The Dynasty” by Jeff Benedict, Belichick had the last word in this one, telling Jackson off after initially refusing to talk to ESPN’s reporters following the game.
“Belichick was hounded by reporters seeking interviews, including two different people who approached him from ESPN,” writes Benedict. “He said ‘no’ to both of them. He hadn’t forgotten what ESPN’s Tom Jackson had said about him back in the first week of the season.”
“But when Chris Berman personally appealed to him, Belichick didn’t want to say no to a friend. The two of them walked across Reliant Field toward ESPN’s stage, where Jackson was already on set. As Belichick approached, Jackson extended his hand. Belichick glared at him and said, ‘F&*k you’. Jackson walked off. Belichick sat for a one-on-one with Berman.”
On the show today, we aired an exclusively-acquired paragraph from the audiobook version of "The Dynasty," in which Bill Belichick confronts Tom Jackson. pic.twitter.com/5KCvpjzNNQ
— Dale & Keefe (@DaleKeefeWEEI) September 9, 2020
It’s an interesting look back at what ended up being a fitting end given how that year started, although this anecdote has been mentioned before in Michael Holley’s “Patriot Reign”.
Nevertheless, Benedict’s book was a nice reminder of one of the moments in Patriots history that helped spark another championship run, with the team winning their second title in three years.
Posted Under: Patriots News