Wednesday night I stumbled upon an excellent ESPN E:60 documentary about former New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
It made me think about how times have changed in sports and then it made me think of USC quarterback JT Daniels.
There was a time in athletics when injured players did NOT lose their starting jobs because of an injury. It was a time-honored tradition and the sort of the chivalrous thing most everyone could respect.
But that paradigm shifted and/or ended in 2001 when Bledsoe, the Patriots' star quarterback, was knocked out of an early-season game against the New York Jets.
To say Bledsoe nearly gave his life for his team, on that hit by linebacker Mo Lewis, was not an understatement. Bledsoe nearly died on the way to the hospital from internal injuries. Bledsoe was young, popular, had already led New England to a Super Bowl. He was a former No. 1 pick out of Washington State in 1993.
There was nothing Bledsoe said or did to deserve a demotion after he recovered from his injuries in November. In fact, he did the opposite. He praised and supported a young Tom Brady, a sixth-round choice out of Michigan.
Bledsoe even had Brady over to the house for dinner.
But when it came time for Bledsoe to return, he was stopped at the office door.
"We're going with Tom," Coach Bill Belichick told him.
It was outrageous and only changed the course of history because it worked, even though Bledsoe, the same year he was benched, had to rescue the team to the AFC title over Pittsburgh (after Brady was injured).
Brady returned to lead a shocking upset of the Rams in the Super Bowl and the fates of both talented quarterbacks were cemented.
It's still wrong what happened to Bledsoe except for all that Super Bowl winning.
Bledsoe deserves huge credit for handling it like a man and a professional.
"I could have torn down the whole show if I wanted to be an idiot," he says on the documentary.
Instead, Bledsoe (seriously) started drinking more and learned he had a keen sense for grapes. Bledsoe ultimately chose wine over whine and now makes very high-end cabs. Good for him.
But what of the precedent Bill Belichick set? It made cut-throat coaching easier for everyone.
The day after I watched the Bledsoe doc, quite coincidentally, the USC Trojans announced quarterback JT Daniels was entering the transfer portal.
It was, 19 years later, the "Brady Effect" in effect.
Daniels was like Bledsoe, in a way, the can't-miss chosen one. Daniels was a five-star out of Mater Dei who was as destined to become a star at USC as much as any recruit in program history.
Daniels started as a true freshman and was poised for a big sophomore year when he tore his ACL in last year's opener against Fresno State.
I was there...it was sad.
Next man up, right. Kedon Slovis, a lower-tiered recruit out of Arizona, took over and then took off in Graham Harrell's new offense.
Slovis was (sort of) like Brady, out of Michigan, taking over for Bledsoe. Slovis had a record-setting season with four more years of eligibility.
Daniels, recovered from his ACL, was not going to get his job back after an injury.
Damn you Brady, damn you Belichick.
But that is today's reality. So Daniels, the kid who dreamed of playing for USC, is now seeking other options.
Thank goodness he has them and is no longer a slave to a draconian system, which was the case for many years. The NCAA is set to clear a one-year exemption that would allow Daniels to transfer immediately to another school without setting out a year. If there is a season. Daniels has three more years of eligibility.
Daniels has EVERY right to protect his future. He also has the option of returning to USC.
The best thing that came out of the Bledsoe situation is the way Bledsoe handled it. He put down the template for how to handle a very unfair situation.
JT Daniels probably got a raw deal, but he is best served by handling it the best way possible. His football future is still bright and taking the high road will never do him harm.
You don't have to like what happened, but what's done is done.
Thank you, Drew Bledsoe, for showing the way.
Or, at least showing a way.