The New England Patriots dynasty has featured plenty of impact players, and some are regarded as the best to ever play their respective positions.
ESPN’s Jeff Legwold took part in the interesting exercise of creating a best-ever team, where he choose the top player from each position, as well as coach. Given the success of the Patriots, particularly in recent memory, it should come as little surprise that New England was well represented.
On Legwold’s list, two current Patriots made the cut: quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Two former Pats also made the list, one of which didn’t have a hand in the dynasty: offensive guard John Hannah and kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Here’s the reasoning for each player, per Legwold.
This is, unsurprisingly, the most difficult position to pick just one player. But Brady is a 14-time Pro Bowl selection and a six-time Super Bowl winner on teams that will feature far fewer Hall of Famers than those of many of the other marquee quarterbacks. He threw for 4,355 yards and won a Super Bowl at age 41, played his best in the biggest moments and has been the driving on-field force for teams that have won at least 12 games 11 times.
Hannah was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and seven-time All-Pro. Alabama coach Bear Bryant called Hannah the greatest lineman he ever coached. Former Patriots coach Ron Erhardt once said, “I used to see people all the time who just would dive to get out of his way.”
Accuracy isn’t always a fair comparison through the eras for kickers because, long ago, they didn’t have dedicated long snappers, and they weren’t kicking off the glorified golf fairways they do now. But Vinatieri’s body of work — he’ll eventually retire as the league’s all-time scoring leader and was at his absolute, unshakable best in the biggest moments — kicking the game winner in two Super Bowls.
There are others, such as Paul Brown, who defined and shaped how people have done the job for decades. And Don Shula, who has the most wins and oversaw the only undefeated season, is in the conversation. Yes, Belichick was fired from his first NFL head coaching job and has a losing record in games in which Tom Brady was not the starting quarterback, but in the end, six Super Bowl wins in nine Super Bowl trips trumps it all. He has amassed 31 postseason victories and did a ton of his tactical work as an assistant, long before he was a head coach. His ability to sustain success in the era of free agency and salary cap makes the Patriots’ dynasty more impressive.
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