Judging America's Team Idol: Drew Bledsoe

Today's panel of celebrity judges: A former NFL quarterback. A future Hall-of-Fame receiver. A prominent NFL personnel boss. Today's contestant for America's (Team) Idol: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

The unique relationship between judges and contestant? Um, nothing like that Paula Abdul scandal, where the poor thing must get her jollies by resorting to seducing crappy boy singers.

No, the unique relationship here? The former NFL quarterback who we've asked to judge Drew Bledsoe is Babe Laufenberg, a Cowboy-ex who has befriended Drew. The future Hall-of-Fame receiver who we've asked to judge Drew is Michael Irvin, who is willing to voice some skepticism. And the prominent NFL personnel boss who we've asked to judge Drew Bledsoe is John Guy, who supervised the Buffalo Bills' decision to let Drew move to Dallas.

We won't ask Bledsoe to sing; at this point, all we've asked him to do is sling it around at a minicamp (he did well), make nice with the local media (he did well), and subject himself to the sort of analysis that follows from judges Laufenberg, Irvin and Guy.

Irvin needs no introduction. Laufenberg is part of the Cowboys radio broadcast team and is the sports anchor at North Texas' CBS11. Guy is an NFL lifer, a longtime scout and coach who has been the Bills' director of pro personnel since 2001.

And in their conversations with The Ranch Report, they are all outspoken about their thoughts on the Cowboys' new QB for 2005:

ON WHETHER BLEDSOE REPRESENTS A COWBOYS UPGRADE:
GUY: "Absolutely. He'll give them something they didn't have the last could of years, somebody who can do things that the last few Dallas quarterbacks have simply been unable to do. Absolutely he's an upgrade for them.''

LAUFENBERG: "Yes, partly because he's confident again. He certainly believes in himself. And he fits in. But there are a lot of variables. How good he is doesn't necessarily translate to whether he leads the Cowboys to the playoffs. With this team right now, there are lot of variables around here.''

IRVIN: "Last year, Vinny Testaverde sometimes didn't even warm up before games because his arm was tired. So at least the Cowboys don't have that problem anymore. Bledsoe's arm won't get tired. Yes, he's an upgrade. Hey, he's 33 years old and the Cowboys by signing him got like seven years younger at the position!''

ON WHETHER BLEDSOE HAS LOST ANYTHING:
LAUFENBERG: "What I look for is, ‘Is a guy afraid, after 12 years, to take a hit?' Do you want to take a hit? When I was first in the league, I was on a team and the QB kept saying, "Hey, the end looped inside the tackle and the guard got underneath and whatever. …'' I thought, "I must be a moron! I don't see any of that! I'm just looking at coverages!''

"Honest to God, I didn't realize then that all that other quarterback was doing was watching out for who was going to hit him next. That's not the case with Drew. Bledsoe doesn't have a problem in this area.''

IRVIN: "But he is a year older. I need to see him in games. Does he still have it when guys coming at him and hitting him in the face? This happens with players, this happens with people: Every year you get older, you start holding onto life a little bit harder, a little bit tighter. At some point (as a wide receiver, Irvin's old position), you do start wondering whether you really want to keep going across the middle.''

GUY: "This hasn't changed: He's mentally tough, physically tough and durable, and a lot better athlete than people sometimes give him credit for being.''

ON BLEDSOE'S ARM:
GUY: "He can still throw the ball and throw it beautifully. He's one of those guys who you love to watch throw it. He's still a pinpoint passer and can put the ball on the money.''

IRVIN: "Drew's arm strength? He's always had a strong arm. They got away from this in Buffalo, but Drew loves to throw it deep. If you could throw like that, you'd love to throw it deep, too.''

LAUFENBERG: "People say Vinny had a strong arm, but nothing like this. This arm is not Testaverde-strong. Drew can throw it. The ball jumps. That fact stands out with anybody who watches him.''

ON WHAT HAPPENED IN BUFFALO:
LAUFENBERG: "I did look at the tape of him in Buffalo, and the ball never went down the field. Yards-per-attempt is usually a pretty good indicator for the quarterback. If you complete a high percentage but don't have big gains, that's OK. If you complete 70 percent of your throws in a ball-control offense, that's OK. If you're 52 percent with big plays, fine. But with Drew last year, everything was down. The philosophy was run, run and punt – which works if you're the 2000 Ravens or the '85 Bears. It was dink-and-dunk the whole way. That offense was awful.''

IRVIN: "I watched film of him. Is that supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing? Seriously, it was a mess.''

GUY: "I have nothing but good things to say about Drew. I like drew. With what (coach Mike Mullarkey) wants to do, we decided to go in another direction (young JP Losman.)''

BOTTOM LINE: IS SIGNING BLEDSOE GOING TO PAY OFF?
GUY: "I think maybe in every athlete's career, as he goes toward the end of his career, now and then he finds something that can ignite a fire. Drew leaving here could mean his fire is re-lit. He'll be comfortable with the staff, comfortable with the community there. Drew is nowhere near the wall.''

LAUFENBERG: "I think you have to take a wait-and-see approach to that question.''

IRVIN: "They have a quarterback now. That's for sure. And for what they ask him to do, Drew might be fine. He might not get sacked a lot, because he won't be taking deep drops. No reason to take deep drops, because nobody on the Cowboys offense is going to get deep, anyway! Hand off to Julius, that will be the gameplan.

"I'm optimistic, but I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid. When it comes to quarterbacks, Dallas wants to drink the Kool-Aid. Not me, not yet.''

Mike Fisher is the editor of www.DallasBasketball.com and hosts a daily sports-talk show, "Fish For Lunch,'' noon-to-3 on 990 Texas Talk Radio (990am in North Texas, and www.990texastalkradio.com on the web.) Contact him at Fish@DallasBasketball.com.

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