Bledsoe sacked by his own team
(February 17, 2005) — ORCHARD PARK — Just like so many of those pass rushers who sacked him during his three-year tenure as the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe never saw it coming.
The Bills announced Wednesday that they will release the 33-year-old Bledsoe Tuesday, officially turning the page on a disappointing era that produced a middling 23-25 record and no playoff appearances.
Bledsoe learned of the news late last week and admitted Wednesday via a conference call from his off-season home in Oregon that he was shocked by the news that coach Mike Mularkey was going to hand his job to 2004 first-round draft pick J.P. Losman.
"When I had the conversation with Mike and first found out the direction they were going to go was with J.P., I was beside myself," Bledsoe said. "I was very disappointed, very angry, all those things. But since then I've kind of gotten around to where I'm excited about finding out what the future holds and moving on to the next challenge."
Mularkey offered Bledsoe the chance to remain in Buffalo and serve as Losman's mentor and backup, but the former Washington State star declined.
"I did talk to Drew and we discussed a lot of situations," said Mularkey. "We felt the ideal situation for our football team was to have him as a backup and to work with J.P. Everything he's seen would be a real benefit to a young quarterback. Drew did not feel that way. He feels he can still be a starting quarterback in this league, and I felt that would possibly be his response knowing the competitor he is."
Bledsoe, who had a passer rating of 76.6 this past season, which ranked 25th in the league, said he simply isn't ready to hold a clipboard.
"Backing up anybody is not something I foresee for me,"
he said. "I don't see myself ever being a backup in this league and particularly for J.P. "If it comes to that you'll probably see me just tip my hat and head back to the Northwest. Do I think this is fair? No, I don't think this is fair, but I'm also aware that that's how it works."
Bledsoe arrived in Buffalo to a hero's welcome in April 2002, greeted by hundreds of fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium who were eagerly looking to him to be the savior for a team that was coming off a miserable 3-13 season.
Tom Donahoe, then in his second year as the Bills' president and general manager, sent Buffalo's first-round draft choice in 2003 to New England to acquire Bledsoe.
At the time, he expressed the opinion that Bledsoe was one of the elite quarterbacks in the league.
"Our feeling is that we acquired not just a star quarterback in the NFL, but one who we feel is one of the top three or four quarterbacks in the league," he said.
Team owner Ralph Wilson was so excited that he said "I've been around this team for many years, and this trade is one of the most exciting we've ever made, maybe the most exciting."
However, the Bledsoe Era proved disappointing.
During his eight full years in New England, Bledsoe produced 26 300-yard passing games, then tacked on seven more in his first season with Buffalo in 2002 as the Bills improved to 8-8 and Bledsoe earned a Pro Bowl berth.
But over his final two years Bledsoe regressed badly.
He surpassed 300 yards just once, and did not do it in his last 30 games in Buffalo.
Overall he completed 59.1 percent of his passes and threw 55 touchdowns compared to 43 interceptions during his time in Buffalo.
While Donahoe credited Bledsoe with helping to get the Bills back on track, he said the team needs more production from the quarterback position.
"When Drew came here we were in a big black hole with this football team," said Donahoe. "He certainly helped us get out of that. He brought respectability back to the Bills, he brought credibility to our football team, and we owe him a debt of gratitude. But this just doesn't speak to Drew Bledsoe, I think it speaks to our offense. Our offense isn't good enough. We're not good enough on that side of the ball.
"We're just going forward to try to take that next step with our offense to make us a more complete football team."
To be fair, Bledsoe was not the only problem.
In 2003 the offensive line played poorly, the Bills had no deep threat receiver after Peerless Price was traded to the Atlanta Falcons, and Eric Moulds was severely hampered by a hamstring injury.
And last season Bledsoe's numbers were affected by rookie coach Mularkey's decision to establish a power running game with up-and-coming star Willis McGahee as the focal point.
While it is true the Bills scored 152 more points than they did in 2003, Donahoe correctly pointed out that the numbers were a bit deceiving as the defense and special teams scored 10 touchdowns and their combined outstanding play often gave the offense favorable field position to work with. Bledsoe was caught off guard by the team's decision, but some of his teammates were not.
"I've seen a lot of changes on all the teams I've been on," said offensive guard Ross Tucker. "I've seen Darrell Green go in Washington and Emmitt Smith go in Dallas, so from that standpoint nothing surprises me in the NFL. "I always knew that when they drafted J.P. he was going to get the opportunity at some point and it was a matter of when."
As of Wednesday, when has arrived.
Sorry if this has been posted before, but doesn't that sound just a bit whiney to anyone?