The Tuna: Bledsoe Takes the Helm

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The 1993 New England Patriots were a year of promise.  They welcomed the arrival of Drew Bledsoe.  Bledsoe had the pressure that comes with being a number one overall pick in the draft.  The 6-foot-5 gunslinger from Washington State was ready to get to work under Head Coach Bill Parcells.  There was finally hope in New England and fans were ready for a mastermind head coach with a history of winning and the young Bledsoe. 

Photo courtesy of boston.com

Besides the new franchise quarterback, the Patriots drafted other talent like defensive end Chris Slade, wide receiver Vincent Brisby and another wide receiver who wouldn’t really become the player we’d know and love until later in his career.  The team drafted Troy Brown in the eighth round out of Marshall.  Parcells brought in young talent that would help augment the roster with the free agent pickups the team made. 

The Patriots brought back key players in 1993, tight end Ben Coates, running backs Kevin Turner and Leonard Russell, fullback Sam Gash, linebacker Vincent Brown and tackle Bruce Armstrong.  The Patriots kicked off the 1993 season with four straight losses including an overtime loss to the Lions and a game against the Seahawks that featured the top two picks of the NFL Draft.  The Patriots ended up losing the game when a field goal attempt in the last minute of the game bounced off the crossbar, yielding a tough loss for Parcells and the team. 

If you remember watching the Patriots that season, you will remember a red-faced Parcells who was always dishing out his wrath on the young Bledsoe.  The Patriots started the season 1–11 and the fears of the 1992 season began to rear it’s ugly face.  The Patriots finally began to turn the curve when they beat the Bengals 7-2.  The fans at Foxboro Stadium celebrated the win like they had just won in the playoffs.  

The Patriots would go on to win their last four games of the season, including a wild finish at home against the Miami Dolphins.  A game that would set the tone for the Patriots moving forward and let fans know they truly had something in Bledsoe. A win for the Dolphins would have assured them a spot in the playoffs; the Patriots had the task to play spoiler.  A win for the Patriots would alter their draft position but anytime the Patriots could beat the Dolphins was a good day in New England.

The majority of the scoring in this game came in the fourth quarter.  Prior to that, it was a defensive battle between the two teams.  Bledsoe had a great game completing 27 pass attempts for 329 yards, tossing four touchdowns and throwing one interception.  In the fourth quarter, the Patriots and Dolphins were tied at 17 and that score was broken by a 37-yard Matt Bahr field goal giving the Patriots a 20-17 lead.  The Dolphins answered back and Terry Kirby rushed for 15 yards and gave them a 24-20 lead, but not before Bledsoe and Coates connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass late in the game to give the Patriots the lead.  Foxboro Stadium was rocking and the thoughts the Pats would pull this win off was causing a buzz around the stadium that was never seen before.

The Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich tied the game and sent it to overtime with a 24-yard field goal. The Dolphins were denied twice on offense and it opened the door for Bledsoe and the Patriots to do something special.  The Patriots were in field goal range thanks to Brisby who fumbled, but it was picked up by Russell who took the ball and ran.  On the following play, Bledsoe took the snap and fired a 36-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Timpson and the Patriots won the game.  The Patriots would finish the season 5-11 and a few weeks later the organization would change forever. 

It was January 21, 1994, Patriots owner James Orthwein and Robert Kraft finally came to an agreement on selling the franchise.  Kraft bought the Patriots for $172 million, a record price at the time in the NFL.  Kraft holding the rights to the lease on the stadium and the physical stadium itself, Orthwein had no choice but to sell the team to the local businessman.  On February 25, 1994 it became official and Kraft became the fourth owner in franchise history.  

Fans in New England quickly responded to the purchase by Kraft and the team saw over 5500 season ticket packages. The fans finally had hope, they had a head coach in Parcells, they had a quarterback in Bledsoe and an owner in Kraft.

The New England Patriots finally had direction and Kraft made it very clear at the opening press conference what his intentions and expectations were.  “My objective is to bring a championship to New England”. He would follow up by saying “We didn’t do this to be a doormat for other teams.”  Kraft was ready to begin building a winner in Foxboro, and to do that he would need to establish a relationship with The Tuna. 


Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisHenrique

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Tuna: Bledsoe Takes the Helm
The Tuna: Bledsoe Takes the Helm
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