PHOENIX – To look and listen to Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, you wouldn’t readily assume they have much in common beyond being NFL coaches about to face each other in the Super Bowl.
That, and the fact Carroll coached the New England Patriots until Belichick replaced him after the 1999 season.
But take it from Drew Bledsoe, who quarterbacked the Patriots for all three years that Carroll was their coach and for Belichick’s first two seasons in New England before Bledsoe was traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2002: “Hoodie” and Carroll have far more in common than meets the eye.
“They’re really very similar guys,” Bledsoe said. “It’s just that Pete smiles a lot and appears to have a little more fun while he’s doing it. Their differences are purely stylistic. The substance of who they are and the reasons they’re both so successful are very, very similar.
“They preach great discipline. They both created extremely competitive cultures within their own team. When they hit the practice field with the Seahawks or with the Patriots, the practices are very, very competitive. Guys know that there’s always somebody looking for their job, and both of them have shown a great willingness to turn their roster over and refresh it with younger players. And they preach discipline, great defense, great red-zone defense. They preach special teams, eliminating turnovers.”
Bledsoe, who after retiring from football in 2007 founded Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla, Wash., has noticed a bit of mellowing in Belichick. He was a bit stunned last month when he visited Foxborough, Mass., for a Patriots game against Miami and a smiling Belichick jogged over to him on the field before the game to give him a hug and engage in some small talk.
“I was really confused,” said Bledsoe, who spent three seasons with the Bills before finishing his career with Dallas. “I thought somebody had taken Bill Belichick and replaced him with a guy that looked just like him, because all of a sudden he was smiling and laughing a little bit. I do think Belichick is enjoying the ride a little bit more now maybe than he has in the past, which is cool to see."
Bledsoe touched on other topics:
On “Deflategate”: “Never once in 14 years did I know or even think about what the PSI in those footballs was. It was just simply, ‘Well, that feels good. That one doesn’t.’ I may have played with underinflated footballs my whole career and I just don’t even know. So to think that there’s a conspiracy where the footballs were checked by the referees and then it was altered after the fact, it just doesn’t make sense. That’s not something that you do. But the part that bothers me is now people have taken this and they’re trying to accuse Tom Brady of being a cheater and then being a liar after the fact. That’s the part that really has gotten me fired-up because I think it’s a non-story and the fact that people have taken this to that level where they’re saying that this is going to tarnish Brady’s legacy and all that is really pretty ridiculous. And he’s done nothing but conduct himself with class for his whole career.”
On the matchup for Super Bowl XLIX: “It’s strength-on-strength. It’s a great Patriots offense against one of the best defenses now of all-time where they led the league in total defense two years in a row. You’ve got great players on both sides, extremely well-coached football teams. The way I see this one going, I think it’s going to be tight in the fourth quarter, even into the last couple of minutes, and then you’re going to see one of these great players – whether it’s Marshawn Lynch or Russell Wilson running the football for the Seahawks or Ron Gronkowski for the Patriots – you’re going to see one of these really unique athletes step up and make a defining play that’ll win the game. It’s going to be a great Super Bowl.”
On going from football to running a successful winery: “I was really, really concerned when I started looking toward retirement because you see the statistics for what happens with bankruptcy, divorce and all that crazy stuff. And I knew for me that I couldn’t be 35 years old and just be retired. I needed something that kept my mind working, kept me engaged, kept me going forward and competitive and all of those things. I think that there are a lot of reasons that guys struggle when they make that transition. Number one, you’re coming from a life that’s completely structured. You’re told where to be, when to be there, what to eat, what to do. You’ve got a great support system around you. You’ve got fame and fortune and all that stuff. And when it stops, it stops immediately. And it can be a really tough transition if you don’t start planning for it and preparing for it. And a lot of guys do struggle with that transition.
“I was one of the very lucky few that got to choose to retire; there were opportunities to continue to play the game. But I started planning for that next part of my life. It’s really been everything that I hoped it would be. I get out of bed fired-up on the morning to go work the business. I hope more guys start to pay attention when they transition out. They’ve got to have something to transition to. If you just retire in your 30s, you’re going to get in trouble.”