Who Was the Patriots’ Quarterback Before Tom Brady? Revisiting Drew Bledsoe’s 14-Year NFL Career

Tom Brady has become legendary for his exploits with the New England Patriots, but he'll forever be tied to Drew Bledsoe for the unlikely way his career began.

Tom Brady became synonymous with the New England Patriots‘ quarterback position after having one of the most successful runs in NFL history with the franchise. Prior to Brady’s tenure, however, New England had another successful signal-caller at the helm who helped pave the way for his success with the Patriots.

Looking Back on Drew Bledsoe’s Career

Drew Bledsoe was Brady’s predecessor in New England and had something of a storied football career himself.

Bledsoe played for three seasons at Washington State University from 1990-92, including two where he played all 11 games. He threw for a combined 6,897 yards, 44 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions with a 53.8% completion rate across his career, including 2,770 yards, 18 scores, and 14 picks in his final collegiate year.

That production made Bledsoe a highly touted QB heading into the 1993 NFL Draft and evidently sold the Patriots and head coach Bill Parcells on his skill set — taking him No. 1 overall.

“I met one-on-one with Parcells, which was pretty interesting for a 20-year-old kid just sitting in a hotel room with Parcells, who was this major figure in professional sports,” Bledsoe told The Athletic.

“I talked with him for a little bit. He had some pretty in-depth questions about football and things that I liked and what I felt I was good at, areas I felt like were weaknesses. That was a pretty crazy time being there with this Godfather figure who was larger than life, and I’m a 20-year-old kid from Walla Walla. It was a little crazy.

“I left feeling like there was a pretty good chance that I had done well enough that he’d feel comfortable enough taking me if he chose to.”

MORE: Drew Bledsoe’s Net Worth: How Much Did the 14-Year Veteran Earn?

After some ups and downs across 13 appearances his rookie year, including 12 starts, Bledsoe found his footing in 1994 with a season of experience under his belt. He completed a career-high 400 of 691 pass attempts for 4,555 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 27 interceptions amid a 10-6 year for New England that got it into the playoffs for the first time since 1986.

Bledsoe’s Patriots missed the postseason in 1995 before he led New England back to the playoffs in 1996 after throwing for 4,086 yards, 27 touchdowns, and just 15 interceptions across 16 regular-season starts.

New England made it all the way to Super Bowl 31 that season before falling 35-21 to Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers. In the game, Bledsoe threw for 253 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions.

The Patriots reached the Divisional Round the next season and the Wild Card round in 1998, but they weren’t able to return to the big game. They missed out on the playoffs in 1999 and 2000 as well, despite solid years from Bledsoe.

New England selected Brady 199th overall in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, perhaps an early signal of the end of the Bledsoe era approaching. Few, if any, expected it to come to an end so soon, however.

Bledsoe suffered a gruesome injury during New England’s Week 2 game against the New York Jets in the 2001 season. He took a hard hit from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis and was later revealed to have suffered internal bleeding in his chest cavity along with a partial tear of his rib cage.

The injury left Bledsoe inactive for the next seven games. Meanwhile, Brady had impressed enough to hold onto the job by the time Bledsoe was able to play again.

The rest is history, as Brady led the Patriots to a win in Super Bowl 36 that year and was solidified as the man in New England from then on out. Bledsoe left to join the Buffalo Bills in the offseason and made the Pro Bowl in his first of three years with the franchise before wrapping up the final two years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

While getting benched for Brady after a gruesome injury had to be tough, Bledsoe can joke about it years later. Bledsoe recently appeared in Netflix’s ‘The Greatest Roast of All Time’ and poked fun at his benching. The roast opened with former Patriots head coach Bill Belichick informing Bledsoe that this wasn’t his night, essentially benching him for Brady once again. Later, Bledsoe took the stage and had some hilarious barbs directed at Brady.

Bledsoe ended up with a solid career résumé. He threw for 44,611 yards, 251 touchdowns, and 216 interceptions across 14 professional seasons. Also, it’s worth noting that Bledsoe ranks in the top 25 all-time in terms of both passing yards (44,611) and passing touchdowns (251).

KEEP READING: Best of the Tom Brady Roast: Hilarious and Shocking Moments

Yet, he’ll forever be tied to Brady due to how that 2001 season and Brady’s career played out.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles