- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

Only a few laws in the NFL are inviolable unless you're Al Davis, I mean. One of them is: Don't eat the yellow snow in Green Bay. And another is: Never trade a starting quarterback to a team in your own division.
The New England Patriots completely ignored the second one the other day when they dealt Drew Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills for a first-round pick. Granted, Bledsoe is seen as a surplus commodity in Boston, what with Tom Brady leading the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory, but he's still a dangerous QB and, at 30, figures to have several good seasons left. If the Pats had to unload him and the realities of the salary cap dictated that they did you'd think they could have found a more distant trading partner than the Bills.
Like the Baltimore Colts did when they got rid of Johnny Unitas at the end of his career. Since the NFL didn't have a franchise in Tibet, the Colts did the next best thing: They shipped him to San Diego, at the time one of the worst teams in the league. This is or was standard practice in pro football. If you had to trade a starting quarterback, you traded him as far away as possible so he'd have less opportunity to make you look dumb.
Where did the Jets send Joe Namath? Los Angeles. Where did the Colts send Bert Jones? The same place. Where did the 49ers send Y.A. Tittle? New York. Where did the Rams send Norm Van Brocklin? Philadelphia. Where, for that matter, did the Redskins send Stan Humphries? Chargerland, of course.
George Halas was so careful about dealing quarterbacks that he included a no-trade clause of sorts when he sold Bobby Layne to the New York Bulldogs in 1949. As part of the agreement, the Bulldogs promised not to trade Layne to the Bears' cross-town rivals, the Cardinals. Nothing prevented them, though, from trading him to the Detroit Lions which they later did, to Halas' eternal regret. With Layne calling the plays, the Lions went to three straight title games from '52 to '54, winning two.
A few years earlier, the Redskins tempted the fates by sending Frank Filchock, Sammy Baugh's able backup, to New York. Filchock took the Giants to the championship game that very season (1946). In the '50s, Green Bay dealt Tobin Rote, one of the league's top passers, to Detroit. He, too, led his team to the title game the same year (1957) and won it, 59-14, over the mighty Browns.
That's why, when Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson heard the Patriots were willing to trade Bledsoe to the Bills, he couldn't believe his ears. "You just don't get quarterbacks like Drew Bledsoe," he told the Buffalo News. "You can go over 40 years and not get a quarterback like that. I'd been through that here until we got Jim [Kelly]."
Jack Kemp, who quarterbacked the Bills to two AFL championships in the '60s, could not be reached for comment.
But seriously, folks, the Pats are going out on a rather slim limb here. Yes, dealing Bledsoe has some advantages; it clears cap space in the future, avoids a potential quarterback controversy and gives them another No.1 pick to work with. But if Drew is reborn in Buffalo, Bill Belichick may wish he'd taken a No.2 from somebody else rather than hold out for a first-rounder which only the Bills were willing to pay.
Buffalo might have gone 3-13 last season under first-year coach Gregg Williams, but it played New England tough both times (losing 21-10 and 12-9). It wouldn't have taken much, offensively, to turn those games into Ws. Also, Bledsoe probably has a better receiving corps with the Bills Eric Moulds, Peerless Price, rookie Josh Reed, tight end Jay Riemersma and running back Larry Centers than he ever did with the Patriots. What's more, the team drafted Texas offensive tackle Mike Williams with the fourth overall pick to watch Bledsoe's back (and to join forces in the line with Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown). Did you see that picture of Williams (6-6, 375) standing with some of the other first-rounders? He made Julius Peppers look like one of the Buffalo Jills.
Perhaps the Patriots are inspired by the Dallas Cowboys, who traded Craig Morton to the Giants in '74 and actually lived to tell about it. Like the Bills, the Giants were a last-place team and they continued to be a last-place team. This was swell for the Cowboys, since they'd gotten a No.1 for Morton. They used it the following year to select a fellow named Randy White.
The Pats are asking for trouble, though. They should have found a nice, safe place in the other conference for Bledsoe like the Niners did when they packed off Joe Montana to Kansas City. At the very least, Bledsoe will make football in Buffalo watchable again; in fact, he could turn out to be the Bills' Sonny Jurgensen.
Sonny Jurgensen. Yikes, almost forgot about him. Think the Eagles would like to have
that trade back?

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