Last year, for Boston week, I found a few players entering the NFL draft who I thought could fit into the Patriots system. Did Belichick take my advice? Of course not.
So this year, instead of looking forward, I want to look back. New England has had the most dominant franchise in all of sports over the last 15 years. Obviously the lion’s share of the credit goes towards Brady and Belichick, but there are undoubtedly other players who deserve a high five.
So, who are the five players who have had the greatest contributions to the team’s efforts over the years, other than TB12?
Before diving in, I want to provide a few thoughts. First, there’s a lot of subjectivity involved. I don’t have a magic formula. I’m not looking at one crazy advanced metric to figure it all out (although, as you probably know, I do appreciate a good crazy advanced metric). Second, Super Bowls are awesome but it’s also about being one of the few true contenders year in and year out, which means that longevity and production are also key. Finally, I wasn’t originally going to order these players but, after careful consideration, I’ve decided to man up and give it a shot.
- Rob Gronkowski
Before someone comments on Yo Soy Fiesta’s injury history, take a look at how many games he’s played during his NFL career:
Now consider that Gronk has finished with 10 TDs or more in five of those six seasons. He’s not just the best tight end in football, he’s one of the best offensive weapons in the league. Even when he’s not at 100% defenses still have to plan for him, especially considering he’s an elite blocker as well.
- Ty Law
Granted, he was only here for four seasons (remember, we’re starting with 2001) but Ty Law was a true shutdown corner who has three rings to his name. He scored the first points for New England in SB 36 with a pick six against the Rams. He also picked off Peyton three times in the 2004 AFC Championship game. He’s arguably one of the best cornerbacks of all time and he stepped up when it mattered most.
- Wes Welker
Welker? But I love Jules!! And what about Randy Moss??
I love Jules too, but I have to go with Welker here. As I said before, I think longevity and production are huge. Edelman’s really only had two seasons of Welker-like numbers. 2015 seemed like it could’ve made it three seasons, but injuries derailed any chance of that. Also consider that, for those two “Welker-like” seasons, Edelman finished 105 catches in 2013 and 92 catches in 2014. Welker had five seasons in New England with higher catch totals, plus a sixth season where he finished with a pathetic 86 catches. Edelman’s Super Bowl winning catch certainly brings him closer (plus the fact that Welker had what amounts to a Super Bowl losing drop), but I still think you have to give Welker the edge given his production, longevity, his amazing ability to stay healthy, and his two Super Bowl appearances.
And of course you could make the argument for Moss here. His 2007 season is the best single season of all time. Still, Welker’s longevity and multiple Super Bowl appearances tipped the scales for me. Finally, if that’s not enough, I also think Welker embodied the “Patriot Way” in a way Moss never did.
- Adam Vinatieri
The 2015 playoffs saw a few kickers choke when it mattered most, including the Patriot’s own Stephen Gostkowski. In his tenure with the New England, Vinatieri was as clutch as anyone, nailing game winning kicks in multiple Super Bowls. He also hit the game winner in the Snow Bowl against the Raiders. So yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.
- Tedy Bruschi
Bruschi was the defensive leader of some dominant squads and he had five Super Bowl appearances with the team (ok, one is out of scope — cut me some slack).
He is the consummate Patriot.
Do you have a different 5? Let me know in the comments so I can tell you how stupid you sound.