Mankins isn't Pats' first front officefootball squabble

Mankins isn't Pats' first front officefootball squabble
March 7, 2011, 2:20 am
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By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

In March of 2001, the Patriots called a press conference at Robert Kraft's downtown offices to announce a 10-year, 103 million contract extension for Drew Bledsoe. That day, Kraft suggested Bledsoe would follow in the footsteps of Ted Williams, Bill Russell and Larry Bird. He'dspend his entire career in Boston. He'dbe an icon. Alittle more than a year later, he wasa Buffalo Bill. Bill Belichick wasn't at the Bledsoe photo-op that day. None of the Patriots football brass was. It was a Kraft production, a dog-and-pony show Belichick didn't carve out time to be a part of. (CORRECTION: Ohhhh, yes he was. The CSNNE regrets the error. DAMN!)Bledsoe was too inaccurate, too indecisive, too unaware of pocket pressure for Belichick's tastes. The coach had rarely had difficulty defending Bledsoe when he was an opponent and nothing Bledsoe showed during the 2000 season or the first two games of 2001 changed his mind. But Belichick knew that with CMGi Field (later to be renamed Gillette Stadium) being built and Foxboro Stadium being torn down, keeping Bledsoe -- the franchise hood ornament -- was a business decision as much as a football decision. Would people buy luxury suites if Michael Bishop were the starter? Or Tom Brady? Even though the Patriots were 7-17 in Bledsoe's previous 24 starts, and the fact that Bledsoe had thrown 31 interceptions and been sacked 90 times in the previous 32 games, Belichick had to roll with it. By the end of the preseason, Bledsoe and his 103 million contract were on thin ice because he was playing so poorly. Belichick considered starting Brady in the third preseason game against Carolinathat August. And Bledsoe was so ineffective throughout the summer, Belichick made him play significant time in the fourth preseason game. A serious showdown between coach and quarterback loomed and when quarterback got benched, he would have headed straight for the owner. Then Mo Lewis intervened. We bring you this moment in Patriots' contractual history because of something Greg Bedard wrote in Sunday's Boston Globe. In discussing the ongoing Logan Mankins Affair, Bedard fires in a paragraph that reads, "And for those wondering whether there's a disconnect between the football staff and ownership on Mankins, there isn't. The two have been in agreement for 11 years on contracts, and now there might be a rift over a guard (albeit a darn good one)?"Eleven years of contractual bliss, huh? Head nods and high fives for better than a decade? Remarkable. Even more remarkable if it were true which, it isn't. Who's been talking about a disconnect, anyway? Well, me. Right here.Bedard, who was in Washington last week, said he hadn't seen my story when I asked him if his passage was a veiled rebuttal to me. I believe him because A) I'm not required reading and B) Bedard's a good guy and a writer I respect. But I predicted at the end ofmyarticle that my observation of a business-football disconnect would be pooh-poohed and here's the pooh-poohing. Which doesn't change the reality. The Mankins issue hasn't been strictly a football one. It did get personal when Mankins questioned Robert Kraft's honor. And the dislike for Mankins' agent Frank Bauer remains. I believe Bauer when he says Bill Belichick has worked extremely hard to facilitate a deal. So for those wondering if there's a disconnect between the football staff and ownership on Mankins?There is. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran