good health, and ready to spend autumns at my kids' games instead of my own.
"I'm excited to start the next chapter of my life."
Now here's hoping the previous chapter does not linger much longer. No one wants to be remembered for having his last NFL pass thrown intercepted, you know, the way Roger Staubach is known for having his last NFL completion of a Hall of Fame career inadvertently land in the hands of an offensive lineman or how Aikman is known for getting sacked and knocked woozy on his last NFL play.
Bledsoe deserves better than that, and no matter what anyone thought of his 22-game career with the Cowboys, he was a good soldier. Sure, he faded down the stretch in 2005, right along with the Cowboys. Sure, he got sacked too many times, his pocket stubbornness getting the best of him late in his career. And I don't know, maybe he could have integrated himself more into the locker room, become a better leader, but then remember, with Parcells' shadow everyone up in there, there might not have been room for another leader.
But the guy did provide the team with the best 22-game stretch of quarterback play since the days of Troy Aikman, and remember, Aikman ended up retiring following the 2000 season. He did have a hand in leading this club to its first back-to-back winning seasons, all be them just 9-7, since 1995-96. He did accumulate the second highest total of passing yards (3,639) during a single Cowboys season in 2005, the most by a Cowboys quarterback since Danny White set the club record (3,980) in 1983. His 23 touchdown passes in 2005 were the most by a Cowboys quarterback since Troy Aikman threw 23 in 1992.
So please, pause to let some of that sink in.
Most of all, he did allow the Cowboys to run a legitimate offense, not some scaled-down version to either hide the inexperience, limitations or incompetence of so many of the quarterbacks to follow Aikman. On top of even that, he was a stand-up guy.
Now did Bledsoe relish the backup role he was relegated to last season after Parcells made the excruciatingly tough decision to bench him and go all in with Romo? Hell no. But then had he, my guess is he never would have played the 14 seasons in the NFL he did, nor pass for 44,611 yards, the seventh most in NFL history. Nor would he have completed the 3,839 passes, fifth most in NFL history nor throw the 251 touchdown passes, the 13th most in NFL history. Nor would he have been a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
Bledsoe always said he would never accept the mentoring role that usually lands in the lap of an aging veteran quarterback, and that doesn't make him much different from Aikman, who also realized he wasn't cut out to sit and watch. They were doers. And maybe they could afford to take such a stance since they both made so much money during their careers.
But Bledsoe could have made more had he wanted to caddy for Romo or caddy for another one or two teams he says approached him this off-season. Yet, he was true to the words he spoke in the locker room that one afternoon during the 2005 season, saying he would never hang in the league as a backup just to collect a paycheck. And that's no knock on anyone who does or on him for not doing so. Some guys just aren't the nurturing type. Nor do they remain attentive if they're not competing for something tangible.
So Bledsoe now rides into the sunset, and it's funny what lingers in our memories of some people. To this day I can remember watching him play quarterback for Washington State in a driving snow storm against, I believe Washington, with my dad nearly 15 years ago. Had heard a little about the junior, not all that much, but his arm and accuracy under such conditions that day certainly made an impression on us.
I remember watching him play at Texas Stadium in 1996 for the Super Bowl-bound Patriots, who will return this year for the first time since, and how the Cowboys eked out a 12-6 victory that day.
And I'm telling you, I will always remember Bledsoe's final pass of his NFL career, trying to hit Glenn on one of those back-shoulder throws in the front left of the end zone at Texas Stadium only to have Sam Madison sitting on the route for the pick that sort of ushered him out the NFL door.