Bill Parcells' HOF Selection Marks New Wave of Patriots Bound for Canton

Sean KeaneCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2016

Bill Parcells' HOF Selection Marks New Wave of Patriots Bound for Canton

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    Former New England Patriots head coach Bill Parcells has been elected to the NFL Hall of Fame class of 2013.

    Parcells, who famously quarreled with owner Robert Kraft over personnel decisions, led the team to its second Super Bowl appearance following the 1996 season. That team, led by quarterback Drew Bledsoe and Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin, played the game under the cloud of Parcells' impending departure.

    In a bizarre turn of events, Parcells decided he was leaving New England before even taking the field for the NFL Championship. The Patriots were shellacked by the Green Bay Packers and Parcells skipped town to go grocery shopping in New York, taking Martin and assistant coach Bill Belichick with him.

    The befuddling end to his tenure with the Patriots doesn't diminish his accomplishments, though. He guided the Patriots out of the NFL's doldrums and into the national spotlight. He established a culture of winning that New England had never known before, and he was the only coach ever able to effectively motivate the enigmatic Terry Glenn.

    Parcells will be just the sixth member of the Patriots enshrined in Canton, but with the team's dynasty years coming to an end, his induction will signal the start of a new wave of Patriots bound for busts.

    Here are 10 Patriots, current or former, who stand to one day join Parcells in the NFL's most hallowed pantheon.

Tom Brady

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    Let’s get the obvious candidates out of the way.

    By the time he retires, Brady may well be considered the best quarterback to ever play the game. As it is, he already belongs on the Mount Rushmore of NFL QBs.

    With three Super Bowl rings, a 16-0 regular season and an NFL record 50 touchdown passes in one season, Brady’s HOF credentials will land him in Canton his first time on the ballot.

    But his resume extends far beyond that.

    Brady captured his first NFL MVP award in 2007 following the best regular-season performance in NFL history. He led the Patriots to an undefeated season and was on the brink of capping it off with another Super Bowl ring before David Tyree made one of the most improbably catches the NFL has ever seen.

    His 50 TD passes in 2007 were accompanied by only eight interceptions.  His 4,806 yards were the third-highest total in league history at the time. 

    He won his second MVP in 2010 in equally impressive fashion as the only player to ever win the award by unanimous vote.  

    He tossed 36 TDs and was picked off just four times all year. The four interceptions tie him for the fewest ever in a 16-game season. He also threw an NFL record 358 consecutive pass attempts without an interception between the 2010 and 2011 seasons. 

    His 5,235 passing yards in 2011 are the second most in a single season behind Drew Brees’ 5,476 that year.

    He has the highest winning percentage of any QB in the Super Bowl era, and his TD-to-INT ratio of 2.72 trails only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers for best all time.

    He’s won 10 division titles and during the 2012 postseason passed Joe Montana for the most playoff wins by a quarterback.

    Simply put, he’s a no-brainer.

Bill Belichick

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    Belichick and Brady form the core of the most dominant NFL franchise of their generation. 

    Belichick has a super bowl ring for each digit on one hand, winning two as a defensive coordinator with the Giants under Parcells and three more as head coach of the Patriots.

    Revered in New England and reviled everywhere else, Belichick is widely considered the best in-game strategist in the league right now. 

    Beyond simply coaching the team, Belichick has also been New England’s general manager since 2000, during which time he has developed a reputation for hoarding draft picks and playing the board like a game of checkers. 

    During his tenure, the Patriots’ front office has drafted 13 Pro Bowl players:

    Brady, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, Logan Mankins, Devin McCourty, Matt Light, Asante Samuel, Dan Koppen, Matthew Slater, Brandon Meriweather and Stephen Gostkowski.

    Belichick and his staff also revived the careers of Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel and Andre Carter, all of whom have represented the Patriots at the Pro Bowl.

    His coaching staff has been picked over numerous times, as Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Josh McDaniels, Bill O’Brien and Eric Mangini all left New England to become head coaches for other teams with little to no success. 

    The only constant has been Belichick’s Patriots.

Randy Moss

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    Moss has been a problem child, a malcontent, selfish, outspoken, lazy and a host of other things during his career. Through it all, he’s been arguably the most talented receiver to ever play the game.

    Moss is Baryshnikov in pads. He plays with a natural grace that makes America’s most violent game look more like performance art. 

    He was instrumental in the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history and during that season caught an NFL-record 23 touchdowns.

    He ranks second all time with 156 touchdown receptions and third all time with 15,292 receiving yards. He led the league in touchdowns receptions five times and totaled 10 or more scores nine times.

    Just imagine if he hadn't wasted two of his prime years playing with quarterbacks like Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks in Oakland.

    Moss, Brady and Belichick are all likely first-ballot inductees. There’s no disputing their credentials. 

    Now it’s time to get into a few more debatable candidates, all of whom have legitimate cases for enshrinement.

Ty Law

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    Playing an integral role on championship teams helps any player’s HOF case, so Law’s three rings are certainly in his favor.

    A physical cornerback capable of covering virtually any receiver one-on-one, Law was among the surest tacklers at his position and had unbelievable ball skills to react quickly and disrupt passes. 

    Despite opposing quarterbacks generally avoiding his side of the field, Law led the NFL in interceptions twice. The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro is tied with HOFer Deion Sanders with 53 career interceptions, despite playing two fewer seasons.

    What really sets Law apart from other defensive backs is his postseason performance. When faced with the greatest challenges, Law consistently rose to the occasion.

    During the playoffs, he was essentially Peyton Manning’s personal nemesis, intercepting the future HOFer five times in two postseason matchups. 

    He carried the same shutdown defense onto the league’s biggest stage as well, turning in one of Super Bowl XXXVI’s signature plays by returning a Kurt Warner interception for a touchdown.

    Law belongs in Canton by almost any measure, but just as a point of reference, former Patriot and current HOF cornerback Mike Haynes totaled 46 interceptions compared with Law’s 53.

Adam Vinatieri

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    Kickers aren’t typically considered worthy of the Hall of Fame, but if anyone deserves a bust, it’s Vinatieri. 

    He provided the margin of victory in all three New England Super Bowl wins and won a fourth ring with the Colts following the 2006 season. 

    He was as clutch as it gets and drilled the game-winning field goal as time expired to complete one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history against the St. Louis Rams.

    Perhaps even more impressive was his performance during that year’s divisional playoff round in one of the greatest moments in playoff history.

    With 0:27 remaining and the Patriots trailing the Oakland Raider by three points, Vinatieri lined up for a 45-yard field goal. Any field goal is far from a sure thing, but 45 yards isn’t a daunting total on most nights. This however, was not an ordinary night.

    In the final game played in Foxboro Stadium, a blizzard had come to town to give the place a true New England sendoff. 

    With nearly a foot of snow on the ground and more accumulating by the second, you could have shot a football from a cannon and not had it travel 45 yards through the maelstrom of snow and driving wind.

    It was difficult to even see the goalposts from that far away, let alone kick a football through them. But that’s exactly what Vinatieri did to send the game to overtime.

    As if that wasn’t enough he nailed the game winner in the extra period to send New England to the AFC Championship and eventually the Super Bowl where he once again provided last-second heroics.

    Vinatieri will retire as the greatest kicker in league history and one of the best clutch performers at any position, likely earning him a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Corey Dillon

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    Unlike most of the players featured here, Dillon has only one Super Bowl ring, but boy-oh-boy did he earn it.

    After spending most of his career marooned on the perennial laughingstock Cincinnati Bengals, Dillon came to New England via trade before the start of the 2004 season. 

    Not only did he produce the best season of his career, but he produced a franchise record 1,635 rushing yards along with 12 touchdowns, and his punishing running style was a key factor in the Patriots winning their third Super Bowl.

    Dillon’s 11,241 rushing yards are the 17th-highest total in league history, more than O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell, Joe Perry, Jim Taylor and Larry Csonka, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame. 

    Every player with more yards is already enshrined as well, except for Jerome Bettis—who has a legitimate case of his own—and Fred Taylor.

    As a model of consistency, Dillon ranks 16th all time with 82 rushing touchdowns. 

    Besides the aforementioned Bettis, of the 15 players ahead of him, only Priest Holmes and Shaun Alexander—both of whom held the single-season record at one point—aren’t already in Canton.

    Dillon isn’t a shoo-in by any means, which is a shame considering he wasted most of his prime years running into eight- and nine-man fronts for the pitiful Bengals, but all things considered, he has a worthy claim.

Bruce Armstrong

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    The dominant left tackle was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame immediately after retiring in 2000, just in time to miss out on a Super Bowl ring.

    He played 14 seasons with New England and made six Pro Bowls from 1990-1997. The only times he wasn’t voted an all star during that period were when he missed eight games in 1992 due to a serious knee injury and 1993, when he was working his way back into top shape.

    Armstrong was incredibly durable during his career, missing only 12 games over 14 seasons. He and tight end Ben Coates were the two biggest reasons franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe was able to establish so many franchise records during his tenure.

    Profootballreference.com lists his three closest career comparisons as Winston Hill, Jackie Slater and Tom Mack, two of whom already have busts in Canton.

    Considering he’s been retired for 13 years and hasn’t even been a finalist yet, it’s fair to say Armstrong won’t make it in, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t at least deserve consideration.

Robert Kraft

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    The criteria for owners being inducted aren’t as cut and dried as those for players, so Kraft’s case is somewhat nebulous.

    He was the most instrumental owner in ending the recent labor impasse that threatened to delay the 2011 season.

    He also managed to keep the Patriots in Foxboro when it looked like they might need to move to Connecticut.

    On top of that, he built a new stadium worthy of the team’s elite status and, in a genius business move, erected Patriot Place, a 1.3 million-square-foot outdoor shopping center with stores, hotels, a Showcase Cinema, restaurants, bars and, of course, the Patriots Hall of Fame and Pro Shop.

    Oh yeah, and he’s overseen the most consistently successful franchise of this generation.

    If there’s an owner in the league right now who deserves HOF consideration, it’s Kraft.

Wes Welker

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    Welker is one of the most difficult players to accurately evaluate.

    On the one hand, he isn’t terribly fast, big or explosive and doesn’t have a traditional No. 1 receiver profile. On the other hand, his production during his six years with New England rivals some of the all-time greats.

    His biggest obstacle will be longevity. As fantastic as he’s been since joining the Patriots, six seasons don’t make somebody a Hall of Famer. In his defense, he’s just 31, so with a few more All-Pro caliber seasons, he will strengthen his case dramatically.

    With New England, Welker has led the NFL in receptions three times and has failed to record more than 100 catches just once, in 2010, while recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the final game of the 2009 season.

    He’s made five consecutive Pro Bowls and been named to two All-Pro teams, having failed to elicit all star honors just once, in 2007, despite leading the league with 112 receptions.

    Welker has been Brady’s most productive and reliable weapon since joining the team, and his success has changed the way talent scouts evaluate shifty, undersized receivers.

    If he can remain productive into his mid-30s, he should easily crack the NFL’s top 10 all-time receptions leaderboard, and he already has the second-, fourth- and 10th-highest single-season totals in league history.

    It’s a little early to sculpt him a bust just yet, but he’s well on his way.

Richard Seymour

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    Richard Seymour personifies everything Bill Belichick wants in a player.

    A surprise to most Patriots fans as the sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft, Seymour, with his versatility and tenacity, allowed Belichick to employ a variety of defensive alignments during their Super Bowl years.

    Seymour was among the best in the game from the moment he stepped on the field and was a major reason the team went from last place to first place virtually overnight. He earned five consecutive Pro Bowl nods beginning in just his second season. During that time, he was named All Pro three times.

    Capable of playing defensive tackle or defensive end, Seymour was the unquestioned leader of the defensive line during all three of the Patriots’ championship seasons.

    His dominance continued even after he was traded to the Oakland Raiders, as he was named to two more Pro Bowls, bringing his all-star selections to seven.

    At age 33, he may very well have another Pro Bowl caliber season left in the tank, and he has a very real chance of being Canton bound.

Just Missed the Cut

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    Willie McGinest

    His overall body of work doesn’t quite merit Hall of Fame consideration because he was never the very best at his position. He is, however, the all-time postseason sack leader, with 16 in 10 games.

    Rob Gronkowski

    When all’s said and done, Gronkowski may be a first-ballot inductee, but as of now he hasn’t played long enough. If he can maintain his current level of play for seven or eight more seasons, though, he will undoubtedly find himself in Canton.

    Logan Mankins

    One of the Patriots best offensive linemen since the aforementioned Armstrong, Mankins already has five Pro Bowl selections under his belt and at age 30 isn’t slowing down any time soon. If he continues playing at an elite level into his mid-30s, John Hannah might not be the only New England offensive lineman with a bust in Canton.