Bledsoe, Warner share boat
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 22, 2005 12:00 AM
In this season's first meeting of 30-something former Super Bowl quarterbacks trying to resurrect careers with a third NFL team, the Cardinals' Kurt Warner won.
Not that the Cowboys' Drew Bledsoe cared. It was, after all, just a preseason game
that ended 13-11 in favor of Arizona on Aug. 13.
The Cardinals and the Cowboys, and their quarterbacks, enter this season in eerily similar situations.
Like the Cardinals, the Cowboys finished 6-10 last year, in part because of an offense that couldn't score. The Cowboys put up 293 points in 2004, just nine more than the Cardinals.
Both teams set about changing that, starting with the quarterback position. The Cardinals brought in the 34-year-old Warner, who had lost his starting job with the New York Giants to rookie Eli Manning.
The Cowboys signed 33-year-old Drew Bledsoe, who had lost his starting job in Buffalo to J.P. Losman, also a rookie last year.
"I definitely think it's a similar situation," Warner said. "He (Bledsoe) had a lot of success in this league, has done some great things, now bouncing around. There are a lot of questions out there: Can he still play? Can he still do what he used to do? A lot of the same questions and the same challenges in regards to what we want to accomplish."
With their new teams, all Warner and Bledsoe want is a clear opportunity, not one clouded by a franchise's desire to play a first-round pick.
Bledsoe wasn't happy with what happened in Buffalo, which offered to let him stay as a backup, but he also knows that not many quarterbacks stay with one team their entire careers.
"Listen, as a player, you're always, always being judged and compared against other guys," Bledsoe said after the game against the Cardinals. "The only part of it you can control, the only part of it I can control is what I do on the field, and so I'm doing everything I can to make sure my play is at a very high level. After that, I'll let the pieces fall where they may."
Since signing Warner in March, Cardinals coach Dennis Green
has continually emphasized that improving a moribund offense is not on Warner's shoulders alone.
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has a similar mantra: just driving the bus, he calls it, a phrase he has used for years.
Like Warner, and every other player who ever took a snap from center, Bledsoe would be aided greatly by a competent running game.
Parcells thinks he has the makings of that in a large offensive line and second-year running back Julius Jones, who gained 819 yards in just eight games last year.
Developing the running attack was what Parcells had in mind with a conservative game plan against the Cardinals. Bledsoe passed just eight times in five series, completing four passes for 27 yards, as Parcells tried, and failed, to establish the run.
"He wanted to play small ball," Bledsoe said.
"I didn't let him throw much," Parcells said.
The Cardinals tried to run, too, but also were stuffed. Warner, however, was allowed to throw, and he completed 14 of 19 attempts for 151 yards and a touchdown.
If the Cardinals employ a similar defensive strategy when the teams meet Oct. 30 in the regular season, Bledsoe is confident Parcells will take off the shackles.
"He wants me to protect the football, first and foremost," Bledsoe said. "As we progress and we get into a game like that, where they are going to put eight or nine into the box and have receivers in one-on-one matchups, you can expect us to be on the attack."
Parcells drafted Bledsoe with the first overall pick in 1993 as the coach of the New England Patriots. Twice in his four years under Parcells, Bledsoe threw for more than 4,000 yards and had at least 25 touchdown passes. That included the 1996 season, when the Patriots went to Super Bowl XXXI, losing to Green Bay.
For now, Parcells prefers a quarterback with the mentality of a bus driver, not a fighter pilot. It's a similar philosophy to the one he imparted on Bledsoe as a rookie. Gradually, as the offense developed, he put more faith in his quarterback.
He's not to that point yet in Dallas.
"I told him that now it's come full cycle," Parcells told reporters at the beginning of training camp. "We want to go back and be a good game manager, try to avoid the bad plays, be a good decision-maker.
"If the cast is good enough around (Bledsoe), then we may never have to deviate from that. If it's not, then we may have to go somewhere else with it."