I recently saw a really neat piece on SI.com going through the entire history of the NFL and highlighting the best players to ever wear each number, so I've decided to do the same with the Patriots. Given the team's somewhat pitiable history (pre-Kraft) a lot of these guys might not be very good, just the best the Pats could muster with that number. I used profootballreference.com to go back as far as 1960 and look up the jersey numbers. If there wasn't anyone of consequence, I left the number blank, but I've only been old enough to follow the team since the mid 90's so if I've left somebody out, I encourage my fellow fans to help me fill in the blanks. I based my players on what they did in New England, disregarding their production elsewhere (i.e. Irving Fryar, Henry Ellard, Brian Cox, etc.) Enjoy!
I'm skipping no. 0 because, well, the Pats have never had one. So on we move to no. 1. The winner is...John Smith. He played ten seasons as a kicker in the NFL, all with the Patriots from '74 to '83. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1980 when he hit 26 of 34 field goals. Add to that his pioneering of the New World and steamy affair with Pocahontus and you've got a true player in every sense of the word.
Doug (seen here perfecting the drop-kick) wasn't a great QB, at least not for the Patriots, but the man is a legend and a local hero. Not to mention, his voice greets you in the elevator on the way into the Patriots' Hall of Fame. That's gotta count for something
I'm tempted to go with Gostkowski here, but he hasn't played long enough as a kicker to get the nod in a close call. Camarillo punted for the Pats from '81 to '87, making the Pro Bowl in 1983. He had the longest punt in the NFL three times during that span and routinely boomed them 70+ yards
What's left to say about automatic Adam? I'm a little biased because I used to attend church with the man, but more importantly, I witnessed him nail the greatest kick of all time against Oakland. I'm pretty sure he made a field goal or two during those Super Bowl too.
He also happens to be the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
No clue. I'm leaving this one in the hands of Patriot Nation. My own memory only goes back to the 90's, and I didn't find any names I recognized in the team history.
Who do you guys think is the Pats' best no. 5 ever?
Preseason hero Rohan Davey won the hearts of fans with his world class arm strength. He could knock sobriety into a fan from 50 yards away on one knee. The LSU product was also a load to bring down. I can't help but draw parellels between him and another LSU QB, JaMarcus Russell. Davey is probably the better of the two, at least he didn't cost the team any games.
Another preseason fan favorite, Bishop was exciting to watch mostly because he made plays with his legs. Compared to Bledsoe he looked like Mike Vick. He also had a cannon, but was reserved for Hail Mary's.
Ok, we're less than 10 spots into a list of all-time team greats and I've already named 3 backup QB's, 2 kickers and 2 punters? Yes.
Like I said, some of these guys made the list simply by virtue of showing up. Not my fault the team pretty much sucked for most of its 50 year existence.
I got nothin'.
Wait. Can I use Ted Williams? Is that allowed?
Gaffney was no superstar but he was sure-handed (lookin' at you Reche Caldwell), reliable, almost always in position to make a play, and rarely if ever made big mistakes to cost his team (still lookin' at you Caldwell). He was pretty much the complete opposite of that dude who dropped an easy touchdown against the Colts in the 2006 playoffs to cost the Patriots the win. I can't remember his name right now, but give me a minute and it will come to me. I'm a little preoccupied with my Reche Caldwell voodoo doll at the moment.
A case can be made for Bledsoe to be in the Hall of Fame. That's about as likely as Tom Brady getting a real man's haircut then leaving Giselle for the Octo-Mom, but it could happen.
Bledsoe arrived on the scene in 1993 after being selected with the top pick in the draft, but it wasn't until 1994 when he had his coming out party. On the heels of a 4-game losing streak, Bledsoe led the Patriots in a come from behind win over the Vikings. While calling his own plays, he completed a record 45 out of 70 passes for 426, 3 TD's and most importantly, 0 interceptions.
He set nearly every franchise passing record during his 9 seasons with the team and in his final game in a Patriots' uniform he came off the bench to orchestrate a brilliant scoring drive and lead the team to victory over Pittsburgh in the 2001 AFC Championship.
Those passing records I mentioned when talking about Bledsoe? This is the guy that shatter them all. Tom Brady has a legitimate claim as the best quarterback ever and I could spend page after page extolling his virtues and listing his achievements, but that's another article for another day. Instead, here's the short version...
Best TD:INT ratio of all time, including the pre-merger days
Best winning percentage of any QB in the Super Bowl era
14-4 playoff record
Holds the record for most TD passes in a season (50)
3-time Super Bowl Champion, 2-time Super Bowl MVP
5-time Pro Bowler, including 1st team All-Pro in 2007
2007 NFL MVP
It's scary to imagine what might have been were it not for a dirty low hit by Bernard Pollard.
yeah...I got nothin'
I'll leave lucky 13 up to my fellow New Englanders
Grogan never made a Pro Bowl but was a solid QB for the Patriots. He played 16 seasons with the team starting in 1975, leading the NFL in touchdown passes in '79 with 28.
He was a tough, hard-nosed player who commanded the respect of teammates and opponents alike. The guy had balls that clang.
On a side note, he was also nice enough to autograph my football with a personalized message.
Parilli played seven seasons with the fledgling Boston Patriots from 1961-1967 and made the Pro Bowl three time during that span, including 1964 when he was 1st team All-Pro. That season he led the NFL with 3,465 passing yards and 31 TD's. Those are good numbers today, much less in the 60's when they were simply staggering.
Part of me hates Cassel because I can't think of him without thinking about what happened to Brady. To be fair, though, Cassel filled in admirably despite not having started a game since high school.
In his only season of active play, Cassel led the Pats to a record of 11-5 before getting shipped off to Kansas City along with Mike Vrabel. We all know how much Belichick loves those 2nd round picks.
I'm really trying not to list a whole bunch of punters and backup QB's (although Tom Tupa fits both at no. 19), so I'm using yet another "ask the audience" lifeline. Those of you who are older and wiser than me can help tackle these.
Gino, currently the team's radio broadcaster, was an original Patriot back in 1960. In his 11 seasons he made five Pro Bowls. He was an exceptional receiver, but is probably best known for being the NFL's best kicker at the time.
He was the team's all time leading scorer until 2005 when Vinatieri passed him.
That's all for now, be sure to check back soon for nos. 21-40