With the 49ers in the Super Bowl that’s just days away, attention has been turned to how Alex Smith has accepted his new role as mentor to Colin Kaepernick, when just one year ago he led his team to the NFC Championship.
One quarterback who can relate to the feeling, Drew Bledsoe – who was replaced by a then-unknown Tom Brady prior to Super Bowl XXXVI – told The Junkies on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday that the role change was tough for him to accept.
“You look at it and you’re like, ‘Am I really going to coach this guy up after he just took my job?’ Bledsoe said. “There’s a little soul-searching that goes on. But ultimately, you do the right thing. You’ve got a choice. You can do the right thing or you can go the other way with it, and that’s what Alex has done. He’s elected to step up and do the right thing for his team.”
Prior to the 2001 season, the Patriots had signed Bledsoe to a 10-year, $103 million contract. He was replaced by Tom Brady when he suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest, and was not given a chance to regain his job upon his return.
“It was really hard man, I got to be honest,” Bledsoe said. “When you go through eight years of giving everything you have for an organization and when you get hurt some other guy comes in and plays well, and all of a sudden when you come back your job’s not there for you anymore.”
The Pats went on to defeat the Rams 20-17 in the Super Bowl that same season, signaling the birth of Tom Brady’s legacy in New England, and the end of Bledsoe’s.
“I remind Brady all the time that I taught him everything he knows and he’d be nothing without me,” Bledsoe joked. “I embraced that role, and for awhile, before I had the pads back on, I was actually the guy on the sidelines that was sending the plays in to him.”
Similarly in 2012, after leading the 49ers to a 6-2 record, Alex Smith went down with a concussion in the second quarter of San Francisco’s Week 10 tie to St. Louis. He was replaced by Colin Kaepernick, who would not relinquish the job after Smith was cleared to play the following week.
Bledsoe commended Smith for making the decision to accept his role in helping the young Kaepernick along, despite how “bittersweet” any victories may feel.
“The ultimate goal is at hand, you’ve got a chance to win a world championship and you’ve got all these guys you’ve gone to battle with, but when you don’t get to be the guy that goes on the field, that stings a little bit,” Bledsoe said.
Although it won’t feel as sweet winning a championship as the on-the-field leader, Bledsoe enlightened the audience that it’s still better than the alternative.
“As a matter of fact, I have still never watched that 1996 Super Bowl that we played against the Packers,” Bledsoe said.