Bledsoe Happy For Former Bills Backup, New Divisional Rival Van Pelt

Two years of collaboration with the Buffalo Bills convinced Drew Bledsoe that Alex Van Pelt was destined for big things in coaching.

Leave it to Alex Van Pelt to follow Drew Bledsoe yet again.

The Buffalo Bills' longtime reliable backup thrower (1994-2003) has defected in the long-standing rivalry with the New England Patriots, as he's set to take over the offensive coordinator duties in Foxboro. Van Pelt will be viewed as a potential savior of sorts after the bottom completely fell out on the New England offense, leading to the early shutdown of the Mac Jones era.

Van Pelt is far from the first to switch sides in the long-standing divisional tilt: Bledsoe is perhaps the most famous, donning red after Tom Brady commandeered the role of New England's franchise quarterback in 2001. He was also the first to see Van Pelt's defection coming, as two years of collaboration was enough to convince him that he was destined to trade in a helmet for a headset when his playing days were over.

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"During (Bills) games, I'd come to the sidelines and I'd talk to the coaches, but I would go see Alex way more than I would see any of them to talk about what was going on," Bledsoe told Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald. "It was obvious at that point that, if he chose to, he was going to be a great football coach."

Bledsoe's prophecy proved to be true: after beginning his coaching career with NFL Europe's Frankfurt Galaxy, Van Pelt has been a sideline staple in the big leagues, serving in a variety of offensive roles with Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. 

He has also established a lasting friendship with Bledsoe, who was tasked with penning Van Pelt a letter of recommendation when he was originally contacted by the Patriots for the offensive coordinator job that college-bound Bill O'Brien left behind. The Bledsoe-Van Pelt connection began from the second each man received his NFL calling: New England made Bledsoe the opening pick of the 1993 draft, 215 choices before the Pittsburgh Steelers took Van Pelt in the eighth round.

"Everybody that's ever played with him absolutely loved him to death. And I know that the guys he's coached love him to death," Bledsoe said. "He's a very real person, he's honest, and he's a guy who is able to take a very, very complex game and boil it down."

According to Callahan's report, Bledsoe's recommendation never made it to Patriots brass, who were so enamored with Van Pelt and his most recent work with the Cleveland Browns that they brought him in almost immediately after his interview. Bledsoe doesn't feel guilty, however, as he previously did a favor for Van Pelt shortly after the latter accepted one of his largest coaching responsibilities yet.

Related: Bills Reveal Honorary Legend of Game vs. Dolphins

Van Pelt took over the Browns' offense in 2020, a fateful time on the Cleveland timeline with 2018's first overall pick, Baker Mayfield leading the way. Eager for some special guidance, Van Pelt had Bledsoe speak to his passers, unaware that it'd simultaneously become both a motivational speech and a roast.

"I was like, 'All right, look, you guys need to listen to (Van Pelt) because when you look at him, you know, he's six-foot tall, maybe six-foot-one, kind of chubby," Bledsoe recalled with a smirk. "Not real fast, doesn't have a big arm. Well, this guy played over a decade in the NFL with that body."

"So he obviously really knows what he's doing.'"

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