- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

Drew Bledsoe was the NFL’s golden boy. The first choice in the 1993 draft, Bledsoe quarterbacked New England to the Super Bowl at 24. He played in three Pro Bowls in his first five years.

Now, however, Bledsoe is with his third team — the Dallas Cowboys — in four years. He is as derided for his penchant for taking sacks as he is lauded for being one of just 10 quarterbacks to pass for 40,000 yards.

Bill Parcells once built the New England Patriots around Bledsoe after drafting him out of Washington State as a junior. Reunited with Bledsoe this year, the Cowboys’ coach didn’t exactly gush about his two-time quarterback.

“There aren’t enough quarterbacks to go around,” Parcells said. “Since I’ve been here [2003] I’ve been trying to get [a quarterback] we could live with for a while. I’m hopeful this is it.”

Bledsoe’s Dallas debut couldn’t have gone much better. Bledsoe earned a 143.3 rating by completing 18 of 24 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns as the Cowboys upset host San Diego 28-24.

“Drew played very, very well,” said Redskins defensive boss Gregg Williams, Bledsoe’s coach in Buffalo in 2002 and 2003. “We have our work cut out for us. Drew has a big arm, and when he’s hot, he’s really hot.”

Bledsoe was no longer hot in New England after failing to have winning seasons in 1999 and 2000. And when the Patriots took off with previously unknown backup Tom Brady under center after Bledsoe was hurt in Week2 of 2001, he became the forgotten man. Bledsoe did replace the injured Brady in the AFC Championship game, but the Super Bowl belonged to the kid. Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason and had to watch the Patriots win two more titles while he was with the Bills.

“I felt I was part of … getting us back to the brink of having success, and for Tom to step in and have all that success after I was gone was kind of hard to watch,” Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe might not have been so jealous if he had maintained his terrific start in Buffalo. He had a 16-5 touchdown-interception ratio and a 5-3 record during his first eight games. But during the next 21/2 years, Bledsoe had a 39-38 ratio while the Bills went 18-22. Despite rallying the Bills from an 0-4 start to a 9-7 finish last year, Bledsoe was dumped in favor of the untested J.P. Losman.

“I was really proud of what we accomplished last year, and then to be cast aside for a kid who has never taken a snap, I didn’t like that very much,” the 33-year-old Bledsoe said. “That certainly has been a motivator this offseason and to try to win down here.”

The Cowboys were just 6-10 last year, but neither Parcells nor Bledsoe has endured consecutive losing seasons.

“Going into my 13th year, I wasn’t looking to be part of a rebuilding process,” Bledsoe said. “With the talent on this team, the relationship I have with Bill and the confidence I have in him made this a very attractive situation. I think I can make a difference in terms of making good decisions, making good throws at the right time and making the big plays without taking too many unnecessary chances.”

While Bledsoe was sacked an average of 48 times in his last five seasons as a starter and went down four times last week, he has missed just 13 games in his 13 seasons.

“Drew has a very youthful body,” Parcells said. “Even though he has been playing a long time, he doesn’t look any worse for wear physically. He can still make some good throws.”

While Parcells has his reservations, Redskins safety Pierson Prioleau, Bledsoe’s teammate the past three years, is a believer.

“Drew’s a good quarterback, a very confident guy,” Prioleau said. “He definitely has a strong arm. This isn’t his first rodeo. Some of things didn’t go well in Buffalo. You have to be afraid of a guy playing with a chip on his shoulder.”

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