What changed in your relationship with T.O.?
DM: Great player, but just didn’t understand the team atmosphere. It’s unfortunate, but I continued on with my career and he continued on with his.
Let’s talk about the Super Bowl.
Everybody talks about it to this day, but if you watch film, I never threw up in the Super Bowl. When they try to say I was tired at the Super Bowl, y’know—Freddie or T.O., even my center Hank Fraley said I was tired. Everybody blew up on that. It’s like, first of all, I got dumped on my head three times.
It seemed like that Tedy Bruschi hit knocked the wind out of you.
Was I tired? Yeah, I lost my wind because I got dumped on my head. This whole conditioning thing—I ran three days a week. If you ask any of my teammates, I’d be on the treadmill running after practice.
You threw three touchdowns, but do you still think about the three interceptions?
All the time. The first one to Westbrook, we had him. Then it faded on me. The second one, I think Tedy Bruschi might have intercepted while I was trying to squeeze one in there to T.O. Those stay with you. When you pass for 357 yards, that’s like the second highest or third highest in the Super Bowl. And we were right there. But one thing I’ve always said—I don’t think football players should be remembered by the Super Bowls that you win. You get measured by your legacy. Wins and losses, yards, the way you changed the game.
The perception of you seemed to shift among the fans after the Super Bowl. Did you feel that?
There was a shift because the team was different. Some fans blamed me, and they loved T.O.—it was Donovan’s fault. But as a quarterback, that’s what you go through. Blame the quarterback, blame the coach. What was funny, when everyone was saying “Donovan’s not doing this or that,” we won 10 or 11 games. We were in the playoffs. People got so accustomed to making it to the playoffs, it wasn’t how many games we were going to win. It was what we did in the playoffs. “It’s Super Bowl or bust this year.” Yeah, it’s Super Bowl or bust for everybody.
Is there anything you could have done differently to manage the T.O. situation or hold the team together?
No. It just died out, right in front of our eyes. I tried. We had players-only meetings. We had one-on-one conversations. All stuff I like to keep behind closed doors. Brian Dawkins and I were roommates for years in training camp. We would just talk about different issues, things that were going on. It was like, what could we do? Brian and I both came to the conclusion there was nothing we could do.
It seemed like Dawkins got the credit as the leader of the team.
And well deserved. He was passionate.
The fans gravitated more to his style—fiery, intense. You were the laid-back guy. Did that bother you?
Not at all. I couldn’t care less about what people say on the outside. It ain’t about who looks good. It’s about winning football games. Brian and I are like brothers. We still talk to this day. Brian would get everybody fired up. Then he’d come to me—“Do your thing.” And I would be who I am. There’s ways of leading. The problem a lot of times, someone gets fired up, raaaaah! and all that—that works for a period of time. But then it dies out. Brian and I knew that. We led in the right way. I don’t need to cuss and head-butt and get in your face. You drop three balls? “Look, man—don’t worry about it. I’m coming back to you. This next one’s gonna be the big play. Nobody will remember you dropped three.” I’m that guy. I’m an easy target because I’m not that raaaaah! guy.