With the New England Patriots celebrating their 50th anniversary this season, itâs time to anoint the best who have ever donned the uniform. I took the liberty of adding a couple of my own twists, and each player is listed alongside his tenure in New England. Without further ado, here is my 50th anniversary team.
Quarterback: Tom Brady (2000-present). With one more Super Bowl ring, itâd be tough not to call Brady the best quarterback of all time.
Backup quarterback: Steve Grogan (1975-1990). Heâs the only backup Iâve put on this list, but any collection of the greatest Patriots ever has to involve Grogan.
Running back: Jim Nance (1965-71). The newest Patriots Hall of Famer had the best rushing season in AFL history during his MVP campaign in 1966.
Fullback: Sam Gash (1992-97). He was a Bill Parcells guy who helped epitomize the teamâs resurgence in the 1990s.
Wide receiver: Randy Moss (2007-present). Itâs been a short tenure in New England, but with his pedigree and one of the greatest seasons in history under his belt, Moss has cemented his place here.
Wide receiver: Gino Cappelletti (1960-70). Cappelletti is the Patriotsâ godfather.
Tight end: Ben Coates (1991-99). A significant reason for quarterback Drew Bledsoeâs success, Coates retired with 490 receptions and 50 touchdowns with the Patriots.
Tackle: Bruce Armstrong (1987-2000). One of only three players in NFL history to play for the same team in three different decades.
Tackle: Tom Neville (1965-77). John Hannahâs mentor came up through the tough times of the AFL and remained one of the franchiseâs early staples.
Guard: John Hannah (1973-85). He might be the best offensive lineman to ever play the game.
Guard: Logan Mankins (2005-present). One of the most obscure first-round draft picks of the Bill Belichick era, Mankins has panned out to be a steady force on the line.
Center: Dan Koppen (2003-present). He is the current leader of the Patsâ offensive line, and his recognition of the defense takes some weight off of Bradyâs shoulders.
Defensive end: Richard Seymour (2001-present). Expect a huge season from âBig Sey,â who is playing out the last year of his Patriots contract.
Defensive tackle: Vince Wilfork (2004-present). Wilforkâs presence on the defensive line makes him the defenseâs most valuable member.
Defensive tackle: Jim Lee Hunt (1960-71). He was a speed rusher from the interior, a trait you hardly ever see anymore in the league.
Defensive end: Bob Dee (1960-67). He jumped on a fumble in the end zone to score the first touchdown in American Football League history.
Outside linebacker: Andre Tippett (1982-93). The pass-rushing sensation is the only player in Patriots history with 100 career sacks.
Middle linebacker: Steve Nelson (1974-87). A quarterback of the defense if there ever was one, Nelson had 207 tackles in 1988, an unofficial Patriots record.
Middle linebacker: Nick Buoniconti (1962-68). This 13th-round draft pick made eight Pro Bowls and was enshrined in Canton in 2001.
Outside linebacker: Tedy Bruschi (1996-present). Bruschi had to make the list, even if itâs a stretch to put him at outside linebacker.
Cornerback: Mike Haynes (1976-82). The Pro Football Hall of Famer had 28 interceptions during his tenure with the Pats.
Cornerback: Raymond Clayborn (1977-89). So many members of the 1985 Patriots credit Claybornâs coverage skills as one of the main reasons they beat the Dolphins in the AFC Championship.
Safety: Rodney Harrison (2003-08). An old-school player, Harrison was truly one of the most intense competitors in all of sports.
Safety: Lawyer Milloy (1996-2002). Heâll probably be remembered mostly in New England for the way his Patriots career ended.
Kicker: Adam Vinatieri (1996-2005). There will be highlights of Vinatieri for as long as there is football.
Punter: Josh Miller (2004-06). Miller was the most consistent punter during the Patriotsâ Super Bowl era.
Kick returner: Troy Brown (1993-2007). Of course, Brown will be mostly remembered for his skills as a wide receiver and his constant willingness to sacrifice himself for the team, but his timeliness in the return game gave a huge boost to the Super Bowl team in 2001.
Long snapper: Lonie Paxton (2000-2008). Heâs the 18th Lonie Paxton, and he is also the best long snapper in the game today.
Head coach: Bill Belichick (2000-present). There was a point a few years ago when people wanted to take Vince Lombardiâs name off the Super Bowl trophy and replace it with Belichickâs.