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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Benching Bledsoe Far From Knee-Jerk Reaction for Bill Parcells

Drew Bledsoe

Drew Bledsoe was 12-10 as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.  His twenty-second and final start in a Dallas uniform concluded with him on the bench and Tony Romo under center.  That the time had come for a quarterbacking change was obvious to everyone.  Bledsoe was the captain of a train-wreck stuck on the vanilla tracks of mediocrity.  Through 5 ½ games, Bledsoe had seven touchdown passes, eight interceptions and was sacked 16 times.  The Cowboys, 3-3 at that point of the 2006 season, were going nowhere with him at the controls.

The reason head coach Bill Parcells made the switch to Romo when he did is one of those little unsolved mysteries that taunts an unintelligent public in the face. Some say Parcells’ decision was the result of a halftime fit-to-be-tied rant that was more of an emotional resolution than anything else.  The illiterate like to think that Parcells was simply fed-up with his old New England cabin boy.  Yeah, well who wasn’t?
But why at halftime?  Why then? “Based on everything we thought we knew about Parcells, it made no sense for him to yank Bledsoe, go with Romo to start the third quarter, and then stay with Romo for the rest of the season,” observed Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway in his column later that same week.

So what was it in Bledsoe’s performance that told Parcells it was time to make a change?  The circumstances surrounding Bledsoe’s final pass is certainly conducive to answering that question.
The Cowboys looked to be in business when Demarcus Ware forced a Tiki Barber fumble that was recovered by linebacker Bradie James at the New York 14-yard line.  This came just moments after Bledsoe dove across the goal-line to cut the Giants’ lead to 12-7.  Now, the Cowboys were poised to enter halftime on top.

But Bledsoe, like he had done too often before, threw it all away.  Dallas had reached the four-yard line, and lined-up three receivers (Terrell Owens, Jason Witten & Anthony Fasano) to the offense’s right side, while Terry Glenn was lone opposite them.  The play was designed to go to one of the three options to the right.
Bledsoe took the snap from center, and dropped back with plenty of time.  The offensive line had done their job, for once.
Bledsoe overwhelmed
 But, apparently, a little extra time in the pocket unnerved Bledsoe, for he never saw a wide-open Fasano in the front of the end zone, and didn’t even think to look for Witten coming open outside of him.  Owens?  He was double-covered from the start.
With only one option remaining, Bledsoe quickly turned to his left and fired a bullet to the front-corner pylon…right into the arms of Giants cornerback Sam Madison, ending the scoring chance, and ending his career.
The situation, the area on the field, and the poor decision-making shown by Bledsoe on this play are reminiscent of several others he made during his brief stay in Dallas.
Bledsoe, Romo & Parcells
It was the fourth game of the 2005 season in Oakland that Bledsoe ignored a wide-open Jason Witten in the back of the end zone during the final minute, opting instead for the well-covered Terry Glenn at the goal-line.  The fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and the Raiders walked away 19-13 winners.  Three weeks later, an errant sideline pass in the game’s waning seconds found its way into the arms of a Seattle defensive back, setting up the game-winning field goal for the Seahawks in a game that the Cowboys had no business losing.
And only two weeks before Bledsoe’s final gaffe against the Giants, the Cowboys trailed Philadelphia by seven, when he tossed a last-minute interception by forcing a pass into double coverage in the end-zone.  Witten was the target this time, but Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard snatched the ball out of the air and returned it 102 yards for a score.  Dallas fell to 2-2 with that 38-24 defeat.
The Cowboys hired Bledsoe to, at the very least, manage a game.  Too often, they found themselves watching as No. 11 threw games away.  In one form or fashion.
So for Parcells, it was really a no-brainer.  Was it better to risk a possible meltdown with Tony Romo at quarterback, or a certain conflagration down the road somewhere with Bledsoe at the helm?  The unknown factor around him said that Romo could win some games for the Cowboys where Bledsoe was definitely losing them.  

Bledsoe landed on the bench next to Parcells
Any gambler knows where to place his bet with those odds.