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Patriots All Decade Team:
Honorable Mention: Drew Bledsoe, Matt Cassel
It was the easiest selection on the list. The day Drew Bledsoe was knocked out of a game in 2001, was the day Tom Brady emerged as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He is a three time Super Bowl Champion, (two time MVP), regular season MVP on a team that went undefeated in the regular season, owns the single season touchdown record and still seems to get better each season. He is a two time Sporting News Sportsman of the year, a four time Pro Bowl selection and was a first team all pro selection in 2007. He is the MVP of the last decade for New England and hopefully he can have the same success next decade.
Honorable Mention: Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney
The hardest selection. There is one thing Smith, Dillon and Maroney have in common, they were all backed up by Faulk. Since 1999, Faulk has played in Foxboro and has been a favorite target of Brady. He has over 7,000 all purpose yards and has been on all three Super Bowl Winning teams. Fun fact: He has the most rushing yards for a back that has never had a 100 yard game.
Honorable Mention: Deion Branch, Wes Welker
If there was one thing New England was never in short supply of, it was wide receivers. Jabar Gaffney, Terry Glenn, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, David Givens, Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch were some of the men who went deep this decade. Still, there are two guys who stand above. Since coming to the Patriots, Randy Moss has been the best wide receiver in football. In his first season in New England, he set the NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions. Even without Brady, Moss hooked up with Matt Cassel for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.
It’s hard to think there was a more important receiver for the Patriots then Moss, but that’s what Troy Brown was. Sure, he only had 6,366 career receiving yards and was only a Pro Bowler once, in 2001, but he meant more to New England then just about anyone. His 557 receptions are best in New England history, but it was his versatility that will be remembered. In 2004, with the secondary hurting, Brown played defensive back and even finished second on the team in interceptions. He was a member of the Patriots 50th Anniversary team, so there should be no argument that he’s on this list.
Honorable Mention: Benjamin Watson
Sure, Christina Fauria could have been on this list, but it was Graham that was the starter for two of New England three Super Bowls. Between 2003 and 2004, Graham totaled 775 yards and became a target on third downs. During his final season, he was named a team captain. Ben Watson might have usurped Graham’s role when he left for Denver, but Watson’s role in helping the Patriots win Super Bowls gives him the edge.
Honorable Mentions: Tom Ashworth, Joe Andruzzi, Damien Woody
New England has had some great offensive linemen, but the men who started during the 2007 stand out the most. They were the anchors for an offense that set the NFL record for points scored. They made sure Brady was standing enough to break the NFL touchdown record and allowed for Laurence Maroney to rush for 835 yards, even though he missed the first three games. Koppen, Light and Mankins all made the pro bowl that year. They might have been the best offensive line of the decade and continue to push their defensive counterparts around.
Honorable Mention: Ted Washington (imagine if he was here for more then one season!)
Since coming to the Patriots in 2004, Wilfork has been the man. In the middle of the defensive line, he has amassed 303 tackles and seven and a half sacks. However, it’s his presence that matters most. Wilfork demands a double team and allows defensive ends to beat single coverage. His only pro bowl selection came in 2007, the undefeated season. As a rookie, he started Super Bowl XXXIX, the only person drafted that season to be in the lineup.
Honorable Mention: Ty Warren
It’s a toss up between Warren and Green. They have had similar production and complement each other as defensive linemen. However, Green will get the nod due to starting Super Bowl XXXIX, remember he beat out Warren who started the regular season games. With Seymour, it was an easier choice. Seymour is regarded as one of the best defensive linemen in the league. He was a five time Pro Bowl selection in New England and won three Super Bowls. He is also a three time All-Pro selection and five time All-AFC selection. Seeing him traded to Oakland was hard for may fans, but he should always be remembered as one of the greatest Patriots.
Honorable Mention: Ted Johnson, Jerod Mayo
Mayo will be the future, but Bruschi, McGinest and Vrabel were the studs in the 2000′s. Mike Vrabel was a duel threat, he did have ten catches for ten touchdowns, but will be remembered mainly as a linebacker. He had a knack for getting to quarterbacks with 56 sacks and 11 interceptions. Vrabel was also a linebacker on the Patriots 50th Anniversary team. McGinest was a sack machine. His 78 are third best in team history and has the all-time postseason record with 16 and most in one game with four and a half. The lasting memory for McGinest should be the goal line stand against the Colts, where after stopping Indianapolis at the one, McGinest ran down the length of the field in celebration.
With all respect to Vrabel and McGinest, it was Bruschi that embodied the Patriots spirit. He has played on five Super Bowl teams, including the three wins this decade. He was a two time Pro Bowl selection and consistently played all out to make sure New England was the top dog. Even a stroke couldn’t keep him down, as he returned the next season and received the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. He was named the only defensive captain on the Patriots 50th Anniversary team and will easily be the MVP on this list. There was no one more respected in New England then Bruschi. No doubt about it.
Honorable Mention: Otis Smith
Samuel scared quarterbacks straight during his time in New England. After earning the starting job in 2004, Samuel became an interception machine. His best season was 2006 where he was tied for the league best with 10 interceptions, it is second in New England history. That season, he also set a team record with three interceptions against the Bears. Still, before Samuel there was the Law. Ty Law was a physical back who went to four pro bowls while in New England. He scored the first points for New England against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI after returning an interception for a touchdown. It is even believed that the illegal contact penalty was made because of Law’s physical play. Although that can be debated, he was the leader of a defense that was best in the league for opponents points per game and interceptions in 2003.
Honorable Mention: Eugene Wilson
Milloy got off to a hot start in the new millennium. He was a defensive captain and was always at the top of the team in tackles. During the 2001 season, en route to New England’s first Super Bowl win, Milloy led the team with 113 tackles and threw in three sacks to boot. With Milloy gone, it was a savvy veteran Rodney Harrison who came in. He was named a defensive captain in his first season with New England and earned that title. He had a 140 tackle first season and continued to lead the New England defense for two Super Bowls. The hard hitting, some would call dirty, Harrison made opposing receiver earn every catch and help establish a strong secondary for the better part of a decade.
There will be no honorable mention here. No other special team guy played harder or more consistent then Izzo. He was a linebacker by name, but he was the special team captain for eight straight seasons. He also played in 103 straight games for New England and since he came to the team in 2001, they have always had a winning record. He was a two time Pro Bowl selection while in New England and was part of the kickoff in all three Super Bowl wins.
Honorable Mention: Bethel Johnson, Kevin Faulk
Hobbs was, and still is, one of the most dangerous kick returners of all time. His 108-yard return against the Jets in 2007 was, at the time, the longest play in NFL history. Teams would aim out of bounds to stop Hobbs from having a chance at going deep. There might have been faster guys, but no one gave New England better field position then Hobbs.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Gostkowski
Sorry New England fans, but you’ll have to deal with it. I know he left and won a Super Bowl for the Colts, but you can not forget that he single-footed-ly won two Super Bowls in New England. Back in the day, number four jerseys could be seen as much as number 12 or 54. He was a two time pro bowl selection and two time all pro selection as a member of New England and, no matter what, will mean more for New England’s first two Super Bowls wins then anyone else. I will now smash my head into the keyboard.
Honorable Mention: Chris Hansen and anyone but Ken Walter
I will stand by that Ken Walter remark. I would rather see Doug Flutie continue to take kicks, remember that one time with the drop kick field goal, then see Walters barely get the ball 20 yards. I know he won two Super Bowls and held those two Vinatieri kicks, but I’m going with Josh Miller. He played in 42 straight games for New England between 2004 and 2006 and was vital in Super Bowl XXXIX against Philadelphia. In that game he dropped two kicks at the seven and four yards lines. No other kicker has had that kind of performance this decade. Sorry Ken.
The most important figure in the history of the Patriots. A 2000 draft pick was the cost for New England to acquire Bill. He started with a 5-11 record, but since then it has been all up hill. Three Super Bowls in four appearances, two time coach of the year, an undefeated regular season and more wins this decade then any other head coach. He had the final say in draft choices, free agent signings and trades. Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels, Eric Mangini and Charlie Weis all left to coach other teams with mostly poor results. That proves who’s the real brains behind the operation. He may not give the best interviews or be the best dressed, but he knows how to win. He is the MVP of the Patriots and one of the greatest head coaches of all time.
Tags: Adam Vinatieri, Dan Koppen, Daniel Graham, Jarvis Green, Kevin Faulk, Larry Izzo, Logan Mankins, Matt Light, Mike Vrabel, Patriots, Randy Moss, Richard Seymour, Stephen Neal, Tedy Bruschi, Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Vince Wilfork, Willie McGinest