In week 13 of the 2001 New England Patriots season, the Patriots were set to take on the Cleveland Browns on New Englands home turf. The Patriots record was 7-5 and the playoff buzz was beginning to get started in earnest. Tom Brady had guided the team to victory the previous week by beating the New Orleans Saints 34-17. He threw the ball a very efficient 19 of 26 for 258 yards and four TDs and no INTs. This performance was fodder for his growing throng of supporters, and the QB controversy that ensued between fan factions and media factions began to grow raucous. Arguments about who was the best QB to be playing for the Patriots were as common as a tinker's damn and just about as meaningless.
As I was reading some more of Clint's Corner, some of his comments made me think of our 'discussions' here concerning Brodie Croyle and Matt Cassel. The parallel is about the division of the fan base (and the media). In the Patriots case, Brady had taken over for an injured Drew Bledsoe and played well enough to give the team the opportunity to win. And win they did. As they began to pile up win after win, the fan base began to feed on those wins and a growing number of them were adamant in their admiration of, and demand of playing time for, Tom Brady.
At the same time, many Bledsoe supporters were unhappy because they felt like Bledsoe was not getting his duly deserved respect in the form of resuming his starting activities once he was physically able to play again. This group was just as adamant in their support for 'their' QB.
Sorta sounds like the cannon volleys crossing bows around here the last couple of days, huh?
I understand that some Chiefs fans believe that Brodie Croyle has never been given the appropriate opportunity to succeed as a Chief. I felt the same way when comments were being slung around about Matt Cassel's ineffectiveness from last season and the very beginning of this season. I, and others, support Matt Cassel. They support Brodie Croyle. We all support the Kansas City Chiefs. Rarely in the last 5 years have Chiefs fans had so much to be proud of and argue about. We should be thankful. I know I am, and I am glad too that we have as many dyed in the wool, "don't talk bad about my Chiefs or I'll smack you in the mouth" fanatics right here on AP. We all want the Chiefs to succeed, we just don't necessarily agree about how they should do that. It's ok. We don't have to. The battle will be fought on the field regardless of what we say and think.
I am still more excited than ever about this season. What happened to the Patriots 9 years ago is one reason. Speaking of that, what exactly did Clint have to say about the Brady/Bledsoe controversey? I'm glad you asked.
With the team on the verge of their biggest regular season game in at least 3 years, I for one could care less if Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe starts the next game. Way too much time has been dedicated to this subject over the past few weeks. If Bledsoe, Brady, the coaches, or players spent as much time worrying about this subject as the fans and media, there's no way the team would be 9-5 at this point.
Clint made this comment after the Pats had gone on to beat the Browns 27-16 and then sqeaked by the Buffalo Bills 12-9. The interesting thing was that even though they were winning, the fan base was poised to pounce on every game in relation to who the QB should be rather than being happy about the wins. The Browns game was the first of two wins 'in spite of' Brady. His numbers in that game were not great. He completed 19 of 28 for 219 yards and had two interceptions. The difference in this game was a Troy Brown 85 yard punt return that gave the Patriots a 17-10 lead in the second quarter that they would not relinquish. The balance of their 27 points were two rushing TDs by Antowain Smith (1yd and 5yd) and two Vinatieri FGs. Brady struggled and the Blesoe supporters were grumbling like union workers on strike.
The following week they went on the road to take on a Buffalo Bills team that was 2-10 on the season. The results? Less than Fabulous. Brady once again was unable to score with his arm, and this time the running game went nowhere either. If not for the kickers, this game could have ended in a scoreless tie. The Pats held on and won 12-9, but the Bledsoe supporters were building up momentum. They smelled blood in the water as in, it's only a matter of time before Brady loses one that we can't afford.
Here was Clint's take:
Brady supporters point to the team's record since he's taken over, while Bledsoe supporters are doing what Bledsoe bashers have done for the past 9 years - point out every shortcoming of the QB's performance in every single game. To the Brady supporters who think #12 can do no wrong, ask yourself this question: What if last Sunday's game was played exactly the same way with #11 back at quarterback making his first start coming back from injury? How would you have graded Drew's performance?
Clint even finds himself perplexed as to the proper course going forward.
I said this about 6 weeks ago and I'll say it again: Ask me who should start next week and I'll say Tom Brady. Ask me who should start in CMGi Field on opening day and I'll say Drew Bledsoe. I've been a Bledsoe supporter since day 1, even through his recent struggles, and the remarkable Tom Brady story has not lessened my opinion of Drew Bledsoe.
This really speaks to the fact that Clint loves his team. Go with the hot hand while necessary, but don't forget about the guy who got us where we are. I think that more important than this however is the fact that through all of this fan and media squabbling, the TEAM continued to win. Interestingly, before the Super Bowl was won that year, Brady and Bledsoe would ride the see-saw of who to start. Could we be getting ready to experience the same thing in KC in 2010? If Brodie Croyle lives up to the hopes of his supporters, anything could happen. It would seem that it is all about the wins afterall.
So, what should we take from this parallel? Is there anything here to give us a continued and renewed sense of hope for the Chiefs this year. I think there is. For me, it boils down to philosophy. Haley and Belechick share the same football philosophy and to me, that equates to the same style of football. It's all about the team and it's all about the WHOLE team.
Recent reports would indicate that the Chiefs won't be changing much because Brodie is stepping in to take the reins. Our OC Mr. Weis (who incidently was right there during the Brady/Bledsoe inquisition) took aim on this subject today.
While the starting QB may be different, coordinator Charlie Weis said the game plan won’t be: "No change in the offense. The system is the same for all the guys. Matt (Cassel) may have some favorite plays that might be a little different than Brodie’s (Croyle) plays, but the core doesn’t change."
The Patriots won a Super Bowl by winning games. Those games were won in various ways and the difference was sometimes provided by the offense, sometimes the defense and sometimes the special teams. Every player and every unit was coached all season long to look for opportunity on every play. Haley and our coaching staff are doing the same thing. We are not a team that says give the ball to Mr. football and let him win it. We are a team that expects to win because we take every opportunity given us and don't beat ourselves.
Brodie is just as much a part of that team as Cassel. And Brian Waters. And Eric Berry. You can go down the list. The truth is that we have already been winning this way. We take what the other team gives us and don't beat ourselves.
I'm pulling for Brodie Croyle on Sunday. He's part of our team. That doesn't mean that I think he necessarily gives us the best chance to win for our future. Frankly, I don't care how the W makes the board, as long as it does.
Clint's words about the future are fun to discuss. He is somewhat prophetic and a bit understated. I hope his good karma still has a little juice in it for our Chiefs.
Perhaps over time, with time being the operative word, Tom Brady will indeed prove to be the better quarterback. The Patriots have that time as both QB's are under contract in 2002, and Tom Brady could not be easily lured away from the Pats in 2003 as a restricted free agent with a decent tender offer. Tom and Drew have proven that they can co-exist, and any team with serious aspirations of contending benefits greatly by having more than one "starting" quarterback.
Brady has been slumping a bit as of late, and his performance in Buffalo was very sub-par. However, I'm squarely in his corner for the rest of this season as he and the team continue to defy preseason predictions and march toward the post-season.
We certainly have the last part in comon with the 2001 Patriots. Few gave us a chance at a winning record in their preseason predictions, much less a shot at a playoff game. In spite of Brodie's record and his "brittleness" and all the rest, I feel a win coming on in San Diego. We have a team that will win as a team, rather than winning the way San Diego thinks they will win--riding on Rivers arm.
I wonder if the final score will be 12-9?