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New England Patriots: How Bill Belichick ignored the unwritten NFL rule


There’s an unwritten rule in the NFL, for years coaches have followed it but one came along and decided to throw caution to the wind. In 2001 Bill Belichick forever changed the landscape of the NFL, the New England Patriots, the careers of Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe and ignored said rule.

The rule was, no players, especially a QB would lose their position due to injury but 4 Super Bowl championships later Belichick is looked upon as a genius. But what if he never decided to buck that trend, would they still have won? No one knows the answer to that and we never will but what he did may not have sat well with Bledsoe or the players, but he took a chance, and no one is complaining now.

In 2001 Bledsoe was the guy, he just signed a 10 year $100M deal and was set to lead the Pats to new heights, but an injury changed everything. Bledsoe went down and in came a 2nd-year player that was not a first round pick, but a 6th rounder out of Michigan, who had thrown all of three passes in his NFL career, ready to lead a contender. Brady took the reigns and never looked back, leading the Pats to their 1st ever championship.

But…

With Bledsoe fully healed entering the 2002 season, Belichick made the decision that shook the NFL. Instead of giving the ball back to the $100M man, he decided to stick with the young kid, ignoring that unwritten rule. While Bledsoe’s feeling and pride may have been hurt he had to admit to himself that he wasn’t that great, to begin with. It’s not like the Cowboys or Steelers watching Troy Aikman or Ben Roethlisberger go down and watch their replacements throw for 500 yards a game; this was a man who was a turnover machine, the first Mark Sanchez.

Many view Belichick as a genius, cheater or a bender of rules, I see him as an innovator and a strategist. What he did took guts and to be successful in this league, you need a person like that leading your team. It could’ve blown up in his face, but it didn’t. It took years for Bledsoe to get over it but what Bledsoe needs to remember is that, hey, you may have been able to play for the Pats but be honest with yourself, there was no way you would’ve done what Brady did. At least he got a ring out of it.

Belichick is many things, but without that gut call we would never know how special he is.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]