Back in January 2002, when the plucky and upstart New England Patriots were preparing to face the juggernaut St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, Bill Belichick had a decision to make at quarterback. Should he start Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe?
A quarterback debate that had mostly been regionalized to the New England area during the regular season became an international one before the game's biggest stage. It was, we figured, a difficult call. During the regular season, Brady had performed pretty well as a virtual rookie, but he also had moments when the lack of experience showed. When Brady left the AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh with a sprained ankle, Bledsoe closed out the win. Even though the coaches were underwhelmed by his performance, he was the veteran, and the Patriots were double-digit underdogs against the Rams. If Belichick started Bledsoe and lost, nobody would have criticized the head coach. If he started Brady and lost, for years to come, critics would wonder what could have happened. In another coach's hands, the decision might have been what Belichick's legendary father, Steve, had once termed a CYA call -- cover your ass.