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Tom Brady number retirement: Drew Bledsoe calls Patriots legend ‘worst backup QB in the history of the NFL’

On a night Tom Brady was honored as the greatest player to have played for the New England Patriots franchise, the Pro Bowl quarterback he famously replaced provided all the fireworks. 

Drew Bledsoe, whom Brady took over the starting quarterback position from in 2001, beginning the the Patriots dynasty, arguably provided the quote of Brady’s number retirement ceremony.

“You were the worst backup quarterback in the history of the NFL,” Bledsoe said with a smile. “You never understood that when I got healthy, you were supposed to go sit the hell down.”

Bledsoe was the franchise quarterback in New England for nearly a decade, leading the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI, and in the first year of a 10-year, $103 million deal in that 2001 season. He suffered a chest injury on a hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis that caused internal bleeding and a partial tearing of the rib cage.

Brady, a 2000 sixth-round pick, stepped in and didn’t relinquish the job for the rest of the regular season (even though Bledsoe was healthy by Week 10). He led the Patriots to an 11-3 record in his starts, resulting in the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. 

“With Tom it was bittersweet — love the guy,” Bledsoe said, per NESN. “But at the same time, that’s my job that he’s got. And that’s my team that he’s leading. And I don’t get to go out there and do that.”

The Patriots actually had a decision to make prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. Bledsoe relieved an injured Brady in the 2001 AFC Championship, going 10 of 21 for 102 yards with a touchdown in a 24-17 victory. There was some consideration about handing the job back to Bledsoe, but the Patriots ultimately went with Brady.

The rest is history. 

“The fact that I actually got to go on the field and play in that game has allowed me to wear that Super Bowl ring from time to time with some pride,” Bledsoe said, via the Patriots website. “It made the whole thing feel a bit better.”

Bledsoe and Brady remain close friends to this day, and both do have a Super Bowl ring from that 2001 season — even if their paths toward the championship were significantly different. 

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Author: Jeff Kerr
June 13, 2024 | 1:00 pm

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