NEW ORLEANS — There’s a problem brewing here in the Big Easy. Maybe I can help. Tom Brady? Drew Bledsoe? Come on over here, guys. Let me whisper two words in your ears:
Remember him? He was the quarterback for your team back in 1986 when the Patriots, on a previous Super Bowl trip, faced the mighty Chicago Bears.
The Bears that year were favored against the Pats the way Donald Rumsfeld would be favored against Don Knotts. That didn’t stop Eason. He felt sharp.
He trotted out to start the game.
And before you could say train wreck, he was done.
He tried six passes. None of them was caught. He was so pathetic, fans in the stands began passing a plate.
Eason was benched.
And his career was never the same.
Fast forward to today. Here you are, Tom, the Patriots’ young gun, and here you are, Drew, the Patriots’ expensive veteran, and you were both just bursting to start Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, a team that is favored to beat you by the gross national product of Belize.
But ever since you got here, there have been rumor and speculation. That’s because you, Tom, hurt an ankle in Sunday’s AFC championship game and you, Drew, shaking off the rust, mopped up pretty darn well and led the Pats to the win.
Now, Tom, you have been telling reporters, I can’t imagine not playing in this game.
And you, Drew, have been saying, I want to play as badly as anything I’ve ever wanted in my life.
On Wednesday night, your coach, Bill Belichick, announced that Tom would start.
Which means you, Drew, must be unhappy.
Come here, fella. Lean in. Two more words.
What’s the hurry?
What’s the hurry to start against the Rams? They tend to embarrass almost everyone they face. Their most common score is We Win.
The Rams don’t defeat people, they disappear on them. You think you’re playing the Rams, and suddenly they’re downfield, accepting a trophy.
Did you see what they did to Brett Favre in the playoffs? They beat his Packers, 45-17, and forced him into six interceptions. Six interceptions? And Favre is one of the best. He came in with a swagger. He left with a limp.
To make matters worse, Super Bowls are traditionally more lopsided than playoff games. The better team starts a rock slide and the rock slide turns to an avalanche. The losing team doesn’t go down, it gets submerged.
Consider some of the scores from Super Bowls past: 52-17. 55-10. 42-10. Heck, last year’s score was Baltimore 34, New York Giants 7, and Baltimore didn’t have an offense!
What, in plain English, is the rush?
After sitting out so long, I got a taste last week, Drew said. But it doesn’t satisfy the hunger.
You’re hungry, Drew? Have a banana.
But failing to start the Super Bowl may not be the death sentence you make it out to be.
For one thing, with a gimpy quarterback and a fast pass defense, the odds of another injury to Brady are pretty decent.
Which means you, Drew, could come off the bench. And coming off the bench has its advantages. You enjoyed some of them last week.
Better off not playing
Besides, Drew, even though you aren’t starting — and even if you don’t play
— you have done yourself a great service with your mini-miracle last week. Teams that had forgotten about you now remember you. Teams that thought you were done are now thinking deal.
Next season, you could find yourself on a hot new team as the hot new thing without some young stud sitting on your throne.
All without playing a down on Sunday.
But — and consider this — if you go in there Sunday, and the rocks start falling and the avalanche comes and you end up swallowed like many a good quarterback before you, the buzz disappears, the hype dries up, and you’re back on the New England sideline next year, holding a clipboard.
Now, I know this is not the traditional approach. I know the traditional approach says you want to play every game, damn the odds, damn the opponent. I know this.
I’m just trying to make you feel better.
But if that’s not working, then consider this. In that Bears-Pats Super Bowl, when Eason went down, a guy named Steve Grogan came in. Grogan, like Bledsoe, was older. Grogan, like Bledsoe, was slower. But whereas Eason lasted only six passes, Grogan lasted 30. He played the rest of the game. He even produced points.
Unfortunately, two of them came when he was tackled for a safety.
The Bears won, 46-10.
On second thought, can either of you play defense?
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).