Former quarterback Drew Bledsoe has become one of the most obvious choices to be a candidate for the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, as he played such a prominent role to get the franchise back on track during the 1990s.
The Patriots announced three finalists Friday for their Hall of Fame, and Bledsoe joined former head coach Bill Parcells and former defensive tackle Houston Antwine who will enter the stretch run of their campaign for enshrinement. The winner of the fan vote will be announced May 15 and inducted prior to the Patriots' preseason home opener.
"It's a great honor to be considered for the Patriots Hall of Fame," Bledsoe said. "Great company to be in. I appreciate the honor."
Bledsoe, the first overall pick in the 1993 draft, led the Patriots to three consecutive playoff berths for the first time in team history, and he set the franchise record with 29,657 passing yards, 2,544 completions and 4,518 attempts.
While Bledsoe's numbers always stuck out, he was more important for the way he revolutionized a battered franchise. The Patriots only had six playoff appearances during their first 34 seasons (1960-93), but they advanced to the postseason five times during his nine-year tenure, which included Tom Brady's run in 2001.
"I think we all probably recognized the state of the organization when I was drafted in '93," Bledsoe said. "It was not an organization that had a lot of success, but under the stewardship of Bill Parcells, and then moving on to obviously the ownership of the Kraft family, it's become one of — if not the — marquee franchises in the NFL. I'm certainly very, very proud of whatever part I played in that, that rise to prominence of the organization."
The Patriots strung together some good seasons in the late-1970s and mid-1980s, but they've fallen below .500 just three times since Bledsoe was drafted, including his rookie year, when they closed the season with four consecutive wins and knocked the Dolphins out of the playoffs during the final play of the season — a 36-yard touchdown pass from Bledsoe to Michael Timpson in overtime.
The Patriots won 75 games during Bledsoe's nine-year run. In the four seasons before he joined New England, the franchise won 14 total games and had two last-place finishes and two fourth-place finishes in the AFC East.
Bledsoe played a major role in overhauling a beaten team, and he returned to Foxboro, Mass., last year to tour Gillette Stadium, Patriot Place and the new-look Hall. His contributions throughout the 1990s helped build the Hall at Patriot Place, and he might soon be its newest resident.
"During my time there, the organization went from one place to a much better place," Bledsoe said. "From there, once I left, it's continued to go onward and upward. I'm certainly very proud to have been a part of the resurgence of the Patriots, and I also take some degree of pride in seeing where they've gone since I've left."