Sept. 23, 2001, Foxboro Stadium. New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe is flushed out of the pocket and drilled by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. Bledsoe, suffering from internal bleeding after taking the ferocious hit, is removed from the game and replaced by an unknown sixth round draft pick out of the University of Michigan, Tom Brady. Having thrown only three passes in the NFL, the inexperienced Brady fails to lead the Patriots to a victory over the division rival Jets. Any knowledgeable sports fan knows the rest of the story. The upstart Brady goes on to lead the Patriots to a Cinderella season and an eventual Super Bowl victory over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams blah, blah, blah … but what is the real significance of this fateful day?
p. Yes, Sept. 23, 2001 marks the beginning of a Patriots dynasty. Yes, it marks the emergence of a future Hall of Fame quarterback. However, the date represents something far more significant, something far more momentous. Sept. 23, 2001, marks the dawning of “The Curse of Bledsoe.” As the curse goes, a franchise quarterback will miraculously emerge from the bottom of the depth chart of any team that starts Bledsoe at the outset of the season. Some might argue that the magical occurrence should be dubbed “The Blessing of Bledsoe,” but that is beside the point. The point is, the curse is very real and can can affect any NFL team. However, there exists many a foolish doubter of the storied curse.
p. After the curse failed to materialize in Buffalo, cynics across the nation denied its existence. “Who cares if just this one time an amazing quarterback rose from obscurity to become arguably the greatest QB in the NFL? Bledsoe went to Buffalo, and look what the Bills ended up with — J.P. Losman.” Granted, Losman is an incredibly mediocre signal caller. However, all those doubters failed to realize that the Bills are obviously impervious to the curse for two reasons. First, the Buffalo Bills, well, they’re just the Bills. They are so bad that even the mighty curse had no effect upon their franchise. The second explanation is that the curse takes a break on a set schedule. The curse did not touch the Bills because it only affects every other team that Bledsoe quarterbacks. So, as legend would have it, the curse must fall upon Bledsoe’s next team.
p. October 23, 2006, Texas Stadium. After throwing a terrible interception in the New York Giants red zone, Drew Bledsoe is pulled from the game by Coach Bill Parcells. The dejected Bledsoe can do nothing but watch from the sidelines as an undrafted nobody, who has never even thrown a pass in the NFL, enters the game. To the chagrin of Parcells and the Cowboys, Tony Romo, the undrafted quarterback out of Eastern Illinois University, trots onto the field and on his first NFL pass promptly throws a pick as the Cowboys go on to fall to the Giants 36-22. Sound familiar?
p. In his first NFL start against a formidable Carolina Panther defense, Romo suddenly transformed into Joe Montana, using his athleticism to evade defenders, leading the Cowboys to a franchise record 25 fourth quarter points, and more importantly a decisive victory. Romo hasn’t slowed down since, posting a 5-1 record as a starter and a league-leading 102.4 quarterback rating. However, Romo’s most impressive attribute goes beyond the statistics. Romo’s constant air of confidence gives him that intangible element that you don’t see in just any average NFL quarterback. Romo seems to have that ability to, even when he is down, make that game-changing clutch play. The Giants were firsthand witnesses of such playmaking ability last weekend. With one minute remaining and the score knotted at 20, Romo rolled out to his left and uncorked an off-balance, 42-yard laser to tight end Jason Witten. Romo’s perfect pass put the Cowboys into field goal range, and the recently-acquired Martin Gramatica booted a 46-yarder home to give the ’Boys a 23-20 victory.
p. After witnessing Romo’s emergence, it is essentially a proven fact that the Curse of Bledsoe exists. Although Romo’s accomplishments are partly due to his own physical ability and mental toughness, he owes most of his success to Drew Bledsoe (and possibly to his own high mojo levels after going on a date with Jessica Simpson). As for the rest of the season, the NFL has never seemed more predictable. Aided by the curse, the Cowboys will go on to easily capture a NFC east title, coast through the playoffs and win Super Bowl XLI behind a game-winning drive by field general Tony Romo. As for Bledsoe, he’ll be seen on the sidelines, wearing a smug smile, contemplating which lucky NFL team he will lead to the Promised Land next.
p. Graham Williamson is a sports columnist for The Flat Hat. His assistant editor wishes he wouldn’t make fun of the Bills.