Revisting Bledsoe's legacy

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Revisting Bledsoe's legacy

By: Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Its not every day that you have a reason to talk about Drew Bledsoes legacy, but today I come bearing two:

1. Bledsoes on the verge of election into the Patriots Hall of Fame.

2. Its either that or we talk about the lockout.

So lets stick with Bledsoe, at least for now. Then its back to brainstorming ways to spend our Sundays this fall. (So far all I have is: Crawl into a hole and cry myself unconscious.)

Anyway, last Friday, the Patriots HOF committee began the process of selecting nominees for the Class of 2011, and while nothings official yet, its a pretty safe bet that when alls said and done (after the committee names its finalists, and the fans vote for their favorite) that Drew Bledsoe will be the last one standing.

The reasons are obvious.

At the end of the day (for all he was, and certainly all he wasnt), there are very few players whove impacted the Patriots organization quite like Bledsoe.

Beginning in 1993, he (along with Bill Parcells, whos also up for a spot but may have burned too many bridges on his private jet out of town) rescued the team from the darkest stretch in franchise history. Before Bledsoe, the Pats were all about bad jokes, black outs, and Dick MacPherson. In the four years before Bledsoe, the Pats won a total of 14 games. There was no leadership. No direction. No hope. The only time anything exciting happened, it involved Irving Fryar and the police.

But Bledsoeagain, and Parcellscame in and changed that. After his rookie season, the buzz around the team helped inspire Robert Kraft to make the leap into ownership. By Bledsoes second season, the Pats had a winning record and were back in the playoffs. By his fourth season, they were in the Super Bowl. In the meantime, at least until Nomar came along in the late-90s, Bledsoe became the most popular athlete in town. He was the star of a franchise that had gone forever without one, especially on offense. He put up big numbers. He had the golden arm. He won games like that famous comeback against the Vikings. After so many years a pathetic Patriot football, Bledsoe made passes like that game-winner to Kevin Turner, and, in the process, he made the Pats cool again. He made people believe that this franchise had a chance.

The truth is that right now, theres an entire generation of Patriot fans who exist because of Drew Bledsoe. That alone makes him worthy of the Hall, and its on those meritshes also second all-time in passing yards, and third all-time in wins and touchdownsthat hell see his number retired, either this August or whenever the season starts.

And when that happens, as hes up on the podium with his family and former teammates and all the Krafts, well give credit where credits dueto a guy who changed football in New England, and who, for eight seasons, meant a lot to a lot of people around here.

Well stand, and well applaud

And after, every single person in that stadiumfrom Kraft to Belichick to Brady to the super fan with tattoos all over his face, to the weird guys with the musketswill take a second and collectively have the same exact thought:

Man, thank God he got hurt.

And thats unbelievably strange. But its OK.

Because while it may feel wrong to stand and cheer for a guy, knowing that you still consider the day he was nearly killed on the field to be one of the greatest days in Patriots history, theres also this.

The injury wasnt only the best thing that ever happened to the Pats, it was the also best thing that ever happened to Drew Bledsoes legacy.

The truth is that if that injury never happens, things werent going to end well.

Not that his Patriot career had a storybook ending anyway, but this would have been worse.

Bledsoe stays healthy that year and more than likely flushes another season down the toilet. He continues to play in the shadow of a 100M extension that he couldn't live up to. At the time, Belichick was already unhappy. He didnt like Bledsoes game and it wasnt getting any better. His touchdown total had gone down in each of the four seasons since the Super Bowl; his decision-making was getting worse. He was as good as he was going to get, and it wasnt good enough. If Bledsoe stays healthy, maybe theres still a controversy; after all, Belichick wanted Brady running the show, but it would have been a mess. It wouldnt have been any sweeter than what happened, only this time the season would have already been lost. Maybe Brady never catches that initial lightning in a bottle, maybe the Pats never catch that mystique.

So many different things could have happened from Drew Bledsoe escaping Mo Lewis, but relative to what actually did happen, all of them would be negative. And Bledsoe wouldve been the target. He could have dodged Lewis, but his brand would have continued to take a hit with every Pats loss, and who knows where it would've gone from there. Bledsoe finished his Patriots career with a record of 163-160. If he doesnt get hurt, theres a very good chance he goes below .500. And again, it wasn't getting any better.

And then what do we make of his career? What happens to that legacy? Are people rushing to vote him the first time hes eligible for the Patriots Hall of Fame?

Thankfully, the answers dont really matter, because reality worked out so much better. In reality, the injury happened, and the Patriots future was saved.

As was that legacy.

Believe it or not, this September 23 will mark 10 years since Bledsoe last started a game for the Pats; it will be 10 years since he took that hit from Lewis, triggered a storybook season and one of the most dominant decades in NFL history.

And in the end, that injury, and that decade, are the reason we're now able to appreciate all that Bledsoe accomplished over his eight years here, and not get bogged down by what he didnt.

Its why even though New England once dreamed of seeing Bledsoes jersey on display in Canton, Ohio, well still be more than happy to settle for celebrating it in Foxboro.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Hayward scheduled to meet with C's, Jazz, Heat when free agency begins

Hayward scheduled to meet with C's, Jazz, Heat when free agency begins

Coveted free agent Gordon Hayward reportedly has three teams he is interested in signing with this summer. The Celtics, as you might expect, are one of them.

The other two are the Heat and his team for the last seven years, the Jazz.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Hayward is scheduled to meet with all three teams when free agency begins, starting with the Heat on Saturday and then the Jazz on Monday. His day to meet with the Celtics has yet to be announced.

All three teams are likely to offer Hayward max contracts, but expect the C's to push extra hard to land him as they attempt to "sequence acquisitions" for both Hayward and Pacers star Paul George.

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

The Bruins should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. They really shouldn’t. 

Yet they might. Pierre McGuire said on TSN Radio Tuesday that his guess is that Shattenkirk, arguably the best free agent defenseman on the market, will end up in Boston.

It is remarkable how universally against a Shattenkirk megadeal B’s fans have seemingly been. A Twitter poll with over 3,600 votes this month had Bruins fans preferring Boston sign 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to a two-year, $8 million extension than the 28-year-old  Shattenkirk to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. 

That is obviously the correct conclusion, but considering how hard the false “Chara is old and bad” garbage is pushed in this town, it’s telling that 64 percent would rather he stick around than the team build the defense around Shattenkirk. 

Of course, Shattenkirk is not a bad player just because he’s been overrated in recent seasons. He’s a decent second-pairing defender and strong power play asset who can be penciled in for 40 points a year. The Bruins already have that in Torey Krug, and he makes less than Shattenkirk figures to command. Shattenkirk is also a righty who plays on the right, which is not a need for the Bruins, whereas Krug is a left shot who plays both sides. 

Add in the Bruins’ cap situation due to some bad contracts and they why of Shattenkirk would be a bad signing doesn’t need to be re-hashed. By this point, the explanation’s been given a few times in a few different places. 

So what would the Bruins’ actual case for signing Shattenkirk be? 

TO KEEP IT MOVING 

Last season was encouraging for Bruins fans because it saw them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years while also seeing young talent emerge. Yet they still only made the playoffs by two points, something of which Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are undoubtedly aware. 

So for all the good signs, this could be a fringe playoff team again if more improvements aren’t made, and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years would mark a step back in the eyes of ownership, perhaps putting jobs in danger. It would be a shame if money were spent irresponsibly for the sake of saving jobs, but Shattenkirk would definitely make the Bruins better next season, even if it crippled them financially down the road. 

TO PULL A CHIARELLIAN FREE AGENT SWITCHEROO

With McAvoy set to be a top-pairing player and Brandon Carlo a good second-pairing option, the Bruins do not have a need for a highly paid right-shot defender. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli made the controversial move of trading Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings on the planet. He did it to get Adam Larsson to help build Edmonton’s blue line up, then he went out and signed Milan Lucic in free agency to replace Hall. 

If the Bruins truly have designs on adding Shattenkirk, perhaps they could have something similar in mind: Trade someone like Carlo for either a left-shot defenseman or a left wing, then replace Carlo with Shattenkirk. 

This would still not be financially palatable, however. When the Oilers traded Hall for Larsson, they swapped a player with a $6 million cap hit for a player with a $4.16 million cap hit and replaced the original player (Hall) with a player in Lucic who carried a $6 million cap hit. So essentially they netted one player for an additional $4.16 million. 

Carlo is on his entry level contract, so unless the Bruins traded him for a player on an entry-level deal, they’d be spending a lot of money in any maneuver that involved replacing him with Shattenkirk. 

TO GO ALL-IN ON POST-CLAUDE LIFE

Claude Julien’s detractors lamented his affinity for responsibility. They loved it when Bruce Cassidy was more open to trading chances. 

Well, you like trading chances? Shattenkirk’s your guy. He’s a good skater, a good offensive player and a sub-par defender. You put Krug, Shattenkirk and McAvoy as three of your four top-four defenseman and you’ll be a long way from the days of Chara, Seidenberg and Boychuk, for better or worse. 

BUT, KEEP IN MIND . . . 

They for sure should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk.