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The Bishop call: Piling on

By Nick Cafardo

The Boston Globe - Tuesday, November 14, 2000


FOXBOROUGH - A few players in the Patriots' locker room are astonished by the attention a backup quarterback is receiving from the media.

Yesterday, a mass of cameras, notepads, and tape recorders descended on the corner where Michael Bishop dresses. The Patriots are 2-8 and in chaos, yet the focus is on a backup quarterback who apparently never will play here unless Drew Bledsoe is seriously injured or leaves in two years.

''He doesn't even play,'' said one player about Bishop.

But that's the point. The masses apparently believe he should play, especially with the team out of playoff contention and the starting quarterback nursing a bad thumb. In a Patriots Web site poll last week, 78 percent of respondents said Bishop should start if Bledsoe couldn't. A similar poll on showed 80 percent support for Bishop.

Yes, there are players who feel Bishop should play.

Yes, there are players who feel he shouldn't play.

Those who support Bishop believe that a mobile quarterback causes huge problems for the defense. At the very least, he wears down the defense.

Forget about Bishop being released, which was suggested by his agent over the weekend. The Patriots are well aware of his trade value. Why release a player when you can trade him for a draft pick?

The Patriots, don't forget, gave up a sixth-round pick to the Rams for Dane Looker, a receiver who has not seen the field. Industry sources say the Patriots right now could get a sizable return on their investment in the 1998 Heisman Trophy runner-up if they chose to deal him. And in any case, young quarterbacks with upside don't get released.

There's also little evidence that the coaching staff doesn't like Bishop. Just because he wasn't active Sunday? It has nothing to do with that. Coaches go by what they see in practice.

''I've said from Day 1 the order of the quarterbacks can change, and it has,'' said coach Bill Belichick. ''Each week there are different factors that enter into the decision. Drew's availability in the game and during the game was one of them. Each week has its own series of events. The best thing any player can do is perform when they have their chance to perform.''

Belichick said he planned to have a meeting with Bishop yesterday. He said he did not speak to Bishop directly about his inactive status for Sunday's game in Cleveland but that quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein kept Bishop informed.

Belichick has said that Bishop's situational work over the first eight games met with ''marginal success,'' which is why Bishop no longer runs the short-yardage or Hail Mary plays.

''Practice has nothing to do with it,'' said Bishop. ''I always keep the defensive players on their toes. That has nothing do with it. I'm sure I have some bad practices, but everyone does.''

Is it personal then?

''I really haven't thought about it,'' said Bishop. ''Each quarterback has a different personality. Each one of us are different.''

Does he know the offense?

''Yes,'' said Belichick.

Could it be as simple as Belichick honestly feeling John Friesz and Tom Brady are currently better suited to run the offense?

''I'm not saying anybody has slipped,'' said Belichick. ''I'm just saying that Friesz, Bishop, Brady, and Bledsoe - they all have strength as players; if they couldn't, they wouldn't be here. Some weeks the situation is a little different. If one of those quarterbacks had emerged and they were undeniably the second quarterback, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I don't think the gap is that significant, because there are times John has been the third quarterback.''

So far, Bishop has said the right things. He's not showing frustration, although some of his friends on the team have told him to bare his soul because he has nothing to lose.

''I wish things were different and we'd be winning right now,'' said Bishop. ''I'm really not that frustrated. I'd like things to be different, but I don't know what's going on. Going from No. 2 to not dressing, I don't have any control over that. It was a last-minute decision. Once Drew got the OK, he was going to play. I was the third quarterback.''

Bishop has told teammates privately that he would like to be playing elsewhere, and when asked about that possibility, he said, ''I want to play. If I can't play here, I'd like to go someplace to play.''

He seems to like the attention, but at the same time, he said, ''The attention isn't going to make me play on Sunday. I have to perform in any circumstances. When the fans call my name, I understand they want to see me, but if I'm not ready, I'd disappoint myself.''

Does he think he'll be on the active roster for Sunday's game against Cincinnati?

''I don't know,'' said Bishop. ''We may find out on Saturday. It really doesn't matter. My goal is I want to play. If it's like this again [inactive], it's another step I will overcome.''

Belichick has come to expect quarterback questions.

''I think there's always going to be opinions about quarterbacks,'' he said. ''There's only one quarterback who is going to play unless you want a rotating system. That's the way it is. I've seen it first-hand. I go back to 1990 with the Giants. We were 10-0 - 10-0. We went down to Philadelphia and got beat, and they had a good team, but we were 10-1. Phil Simms was the quarterback and we were 10-1 and there was a quarterback controversy. I looked at Phil and I said, `You gotta be kidding me.'''

In a nice way, Belichick was trying to say that the fans and the media don't coach the team. He does.

This story ran on page E01 of the Boston Globe on 11/14/2000.
Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.


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