I’ve always been weird about the athletes I like and don’t like.
For example, everyone in Boston loves Leon Powe. For reasons I can’t explain, I hate Leon Powe. Every time he gets the ball, I’m annoyed. I can’t explain it. Call it an irrational and involuntary hatred.
Ray Crittenden is an example of a former New England Patriots towards whom I’ve always had an irrational hatred. For some reason, every time I think of him, I see a wide-open wide receiver watching a ball bounce off his hands in the end zone.
CATCH THE DAMN BALL!
Anyway, I decided to make a list of random Patriots players whom, for no reason whatsoever, have always been favorites of mine.
In no particular order...
Corey Croom, RB, 1993-95
Croom was the best running back on the team in 1993, even though he only rushed for 198 yards on 60 carries (the 1993 Patriots were pretty terrible). In 1994, he led the team in rushing during the preseason. He was all set to have a breakout season, but head coach Bill Parcells forgot he was on the roster.
He had exactly zero carries in the regular season. When game planning for the wild-card playoff game, Bill Parcells finally watched tape of his own offense and realized that Marion Butts was beyond awful, so he inserted Corey Croom into the starting lineup.
Croom didn’t disappoint, having the best day of any Patriot running back that season (35 yards rushing) in a losing effort.
Croom outplayed Curtis Martin (when he was healthy) in 1995, even earning a start in Week Five. Unfortunately, he pulled a hammy and was never heard from again.
Tim Goad, DT, 1988-95
Tim Goad played on some seriously terrible Patriot teams. To make matters worse, he left the Patriots right before they finally got good under Bill Parcells (though he was on the 1994 team that featured the great Corey Croom).
He’s one of those guys who I always knew would have been a Hall of Famer had he played (in his prime) on a team capable of winning more than two games in any given season.
After the 1995 season, he wanted to stay in New England, but Bill Parcells hates me and tried his best to get rid of every one of my favorite players from the Patriots’ dark ages. He ended up signing with the Browns, I think.
I’d look it up, but it hurts me too much to think of him wearing anything other than the Pat Patriot or the Flying Elvis. So I’ll move on instead…
Larry Whigham, Special Teamer, 1994-2000
Larry Whigham was a special-teams ace that, while with the Patriots, only saw action with the regular defense when the Patriots were either up or down by at least 21 points.
Larry Whigham was an awful safety. He was terrible. Always out of position, always missing tackles...just bad. You never wanted to see Larry Whigham playing safety on your team’s defense. I cannot stress this enough.
That said, he was the best special teamer in the NFL. He was Larry Izzo before Larry Izzo became Larry Izzo.
Before Kelley Washington’s blocked punt against the Jets last season, the last blocked punt was back in 1999, when Larry Whigham blocked a Sean Landeta punt. Had he not blocked that punt, the final score would have been WAY worse than the 24–9 loss it ended up.
He was C-L-U-T-C-H.
In all seriousness, he was exciting. He was the first non-kicker who only played special teams that I ever knew by name. I’m not sure I’ll ever see a better special teams player. Ever.
The problem with Whigham was that he truly believed he could be a great NFL safety. Someone in the Bears front office agreed, or at least thought enough of him to pay him more than the Patriots were willing to offer, so he played the final two years of his NFL career in Chicago.
Derrick Cullors, RB/KR, 1997-98
Derrick Cullors was a superstar kick returner on the post-Bill Parcells New England Patriots. He had a quiet 1997 season, but showed some serious flashes as a kick returner (including an 86-yard touchdown).
In 1998, he became a full-fledged superstar (in my head). He was third in the NFL in kick-return yardage with 1,085 yards.
He should have become Kevin Faulk, except without the random fumbling issues and better between the tackles. He was a shifty, fast runner that could have been a dynamic third-down back. Unfortunately, when the Patriots were ready to hand the team over to him in 1999, he blew out his knee.
He ended up missing the entire 1999 season, then was not offered a contract when Belichick took over in 2000.
Ask any Patriot fan that suffered through the Pete Carroll era, and they'll tell you. After Curtis Martin left, Derrick Cullors was the best running back on any of those teams, Robert Edwards and Kevin Faulk included.
Tony Franklin, K, 1984-87
I mean, the man kicked the ball barefooted.
If a field goal was blocked, he had to try to tackle the guy who ended up with the ball while only wearing one shoe!
Imagine if they called a fake, and he had to run with the ball...with only one shoe!
How can you not love a guy who played football (OK, he kicked) with only one shoe? In the northeast, by the way, where the temperature isn’t exactly conducive to walking around barefoot...never mind kicking a ball.
Scott Secules/Hugh Millen/Marc Wilson, QB, various years
It’s hard to hate the quarterbacks who played for the early '90s New England Patriots.
The pre-Drew Bledsoe crew was probably terrible, most likely awful, and definitely well-below average quarterbacks. But, since I was forced to listen to most of the games on the radio due to the fact that not enough people actually went to the games, I very rarely saw exactly how bad they were.
I was one of those “Blame the Wide Receiver” guys (I’m looking at you, Michael Vick fans). I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the pre-Drew threesome.
Had they been able to win a few games, throw a few touchdowns, or throw a few less interceptions, the entire course of history may have changed. Drew Bledsoe never would have been drafted. Tom Brady never would have been his backup. Bill Belichick never would have been the head coach. And the Patriots wouldn’t have their three Super Bowl championships.
That’s right. Scott Secules, Hugh Millen, and Marc Wilson are directly responsible for the Patriots dynasty.
OK, maybe not. But had they not existed, I’d probably appreciate the Tom Brady era a little less.
Which is something, right?
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.