New England Patriots

A Timeline: How Brady replaced Bledsoe and sparked Pats dynasty

The story of the Patriots dynasty can't be properly told without Drew Bledsoe.

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Apple TV+'s new "The Dynasty" docuseries tells the story of the New England Patriots' incredible 20-year run led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. However, that story can't properly be told without Brady's predecessor.

The first two episodes of the series explain how Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots' No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, went from face of the franchise to benchwarmer. A devastating injury just months after signing a 10-year contract cost Bledsoe his job in New England as head coach Bill Belichick stuck with Brady as his starter.

That decision sparked an unprecedented run for the Patriots, who won six Super Bowl titles in 20 years with Brady under center. But what happened to Bledsoe? And what were the events leading up to that franchise-altering injury?

Learn all about the former Patriots quarterback's career and more below:

1993 - 2000: New era in New England

The Patriots owned the first overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft after a brutal 2-14 season that marked their sixth straight year without a playoff berth. They were the black sheep of the Boston sports family with only 14 wins across their last four seasons, all ending with a losing record.

New England used the top pick to select Drew Bledsoe out of Washington State, where he earned a reputation as a gunslinger with 7,373 yards, 532 completions, and 46 touchdowns in 34 starts. He represented a fresh start in Foxboro and instantly earned the starting job, helping to up the Patriots' win total from two to five as a rookie.

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The 1994 season -- headlined by Robert Kraft purchasing the team in January -- began poorly for Bledsoe and the Patriots. After a 3-6 start to the season, they found themselves down 20-3 to the Minnesota Vikings at halftime. Bledsoe led New England to a miraculous overtime comeback victory, 26-20. He set single-game records in pass completions (45) and attempts (70). Both records remain intact, though Jared Goff has since tied the completions record.

From there, Bledsoe left his mark by leading the Patriots to victories in their final six games to finish with a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. New England fell to the Cleveland Browns in the wild-card round, but Bledsoe inspired hope in a Patriots organization that had lacked success for the better part of a decade.

After a 6-10 campaign in 1995, Bledsoe and the Patriots bounced back in 1996 with an 11-5 record, the franchise's first division title since 1986, and a trip to Super Bowl XXXI. Bledsoe completed 25 of 48 passes for 253 yards, two TDs, and four interceptions in the 35-21 loss.

Following the Super Bowl defeat, the Bledsoe-led Patriots started to trend downward. They won the AFC East again (10-6 record) in 1997 but fell in the Divisional Round to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1998, they went 9-7 and lost in the wild-card round to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They finished last in the division in 1999 and 2000, finishing with 8-8 and 5-11 records, respectively. The latter season marked Belichick's first as Patriots head coach.

Despite the team's lack of success, they were committed to Bledsoe as their starter going forward. At least, until the unthinkable happened.

2001: Tom Brady takes over, Pats win Super Bowl XXXVI

New England signed Bledsoe to a record-setting 10-year, $103 million contract in March 2001. However, a shocking event just months later altered the direction of Bledsoe's career and the Patriots organization.

In the second game of the season on Sept. 23, 2001, the Patriots were down 10-3 to the New York Jets in the fourth quarter. On a third-and-10, Bledsoe ran toward the sideline where he was met by Mo Lewis. The Jets linebacker laid a massive hit on the Patriots' franchise QB that nearly proved fatal.

Bledsoe was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital where it was discovered he suffered internal bleeding in his chest. While he was being treated for the life-threatening injury, second-year QB Tom Brady finished the game in his place.

Brady remained the Patriots' starting quarterback while Bledsoe recovered. In his first career start, the Michigan product led New England to a 44-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts. He went 5-2 as the starter before Bledsoe was medically cleared to return to the field in Week 10.

It was widely expected Bledsoe would resume his starting duties when he was ready, but Belichick had other plans. The second-year Patriots head coach named Brady the starting QB for the team's Week 11 showdown with the St. Louis Rams, a decision that was met with plenty of controversy.

A 24-17 loss to St. Louis gave Belichick a chance to change his mind and make Bledsoe the starter, but he stuck to his guns. Brady was named the Patriots' starting signal-caller for the remainder of the regular season, and the bold move paid off as the Patriots won their final six games of the campaign and clinched the AFC East title.

Brady and the Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders in the legendary "Snow Bowl" Divisional Round game. In the AFC Championship Game, however, the QB controversy crept back into the conversation. Bledsoe replaced an injured Brady during the second quarter and took advantage of his opportunity, propelling his team to a 24-17 victory that punched their ticket to Super Bowl XXXVI.

Brady's ankle healed in time for the Super Bowl and Belichick stuck with him as the starter vs. "The Greatest Show on Turf," the St. Louis Rams. The matchup was an instant classic with Brady leading a clutch last-minute drive to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal as time expired.

2002-2004: Bledsoe to Buffalo

Two months after the Super Bowl victory, the Patriots committed to Brady as their QB and traded Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills.

Bledsoe went on to produce one of the best statistical seasons of his career. In 2002, he totaled 4,359 passing yards with 24 TDs en route to his fourth Pro Bowl selection. However, those numbers didn't translate to team success as the Bills went 8-8 and finished last in the division.

Bledsoe regressed in 2003, throwing 11 TDs and 12 INTs while Buffalo went 6-10. The Bills went 9-7 with Bledsoe under center in 2004, but that was only good for a fourth-place finish in the division. Bledsoe was released in the offseason.

The Brady-led Pats, meanwhile, won their second and third Super Bowl titles in '03 and '04.

2005 - 2006: A reunion in Dallas

Bledsoe signed a three-year, $23 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys one day after being released by Buffalo. The move reunited Bledsoe with his former Patriots head coach Bill Parcells and go-to wide receiver Terry Glenn.

In his debut season with Dallas, Bledsoe threw for 3,639 yards with 23 TDs and 17 INTs. He led the Cowboys to a 9-7 record, a three-win improvement over their previous season. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to clinch a postseason berth.

Bledsoe was inconsistent in 2006, going 3-3 as the starter with seven TDs and eight picks before being replaced by Tony Romo. He was released by the Cowboys after the season and announced his retirement from the NFL in April 2007.

Awards and records

  • Super Bowl champion (XXXVI)
  • Four-time Pro Bowler
  • 1994 NFL passing yards leader (4,555)
  • Patriots Hall of Famer
  • Most pass attempts in a game (70)
  • Tied for most completions in a regular season game (45)

Where is he now?

In 2008, Bledsoe launched Doubleback, an estate-focused winery that harvests grapes from McQueen Vineyards and Flying B Vineyards in his hometown of Walla Walla, Washington. He also founded the Bledsoe Family Winery, as well as the Bledsoe-McDaniels Winery alongside his business partner and winemaker Josh McDaniels (not the former Patriots offensive coordinator).

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