Troy Brown Was First Great Slot Receiver For Patriots In Bill Belichick Era

Brown established the blueprint for all other Patriots' slot receivers


Oct 14, 2022

During Bill Belichick’s reign at the helm of the New England Patriots, slot receivers have thrived arguably more than any other position, not including quarterback due to the greatness of Tom Brady.

There’s Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Deion Branch and now Jakobi Meyers, who has gained recent substantial praise from Belichick.

But somewhat lost in the shuffle of some of New England’s most productive players at the position is Troy Brown, and he clearly was the first great Patriots slot receiver of the Belichick era.

Without Brown, it’s hard to imagine Brady’s career getting off to the illustrious start it did by winning three Super Bowl titles in four years. Brown was a cornerstone piece during the first wave of New England’s dynasty due to his ultra-dependent nature. If the Patriots needed a big play, Brown seemed to always deliver.

Every Patriots fan remembers Brown’s impact during New England’s first run to a Super Bowl title. There was his magical AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh against the Steelers where he excelled on special teams, returning a punt 55 yards for the opening touchdown of the game and having the superb awareness to pitch a lateral to Antwan Harris after recovering a blocked field goal to set up another score.

That really shows Brown’s undeniable versatility, and not his offensive prowess. But in Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams, Brown made six catches on six targets for 89 yards, including coming down with his well-known reception on the team’s final drive to get the Patriots into field goal range.

Brown’s performance in Super Bowl XXXVIII flies under the radar, though. Again, he was a reliable target for Brady, hauling in eight receptions for 76 yards. And again, he came up clutch — something not every great slot receiver (cough, Welker, cough) could do for the Patriots on football’s grandest stage.

Brown’s performance in Super Bowl XXVIII flies under the radar. … He came up clutch — something not every great slot receiver (cough, Welker, cough) could do.

On the Patriots’ final drive, Brady connected with Brown three times, including on a speculator play that is lost in Patriots annals. On first-and-20 from their own 42-yard-line with 44 seconds left, Brady rolled to his left and fired down field to the 5-foot-10 Brown, who used every bit of his size and leaping ability to high point the pass and come down with the reception with a Panthers defender draped all over him. Brown’s unheralded heroics gave Brady the opportunity to hit Branch on a key gain to once again set up Adam Vinatieri for a game-winning field goal.

Brown of course is known for one more legendary postseason performance, coming in the 2006 divisional round on the road against the San Diego Chargers. Brown, at the tail end of his career then, had five receptions for 39 yards, but in typical Brown fashion, doing whatever he could to help the team, had his biggest play come on defense. Brown famously stripped Chargers defensive back Marlon McCree following a Brady interception to get the Patriots the ball back late in the fourth quarter.

While Brown is most known for producing game-altering plays in different areas of the game, his offensive impact is irrefutable. Brown, who spent the entirety of his 15-year career in New England after getting selected by the Patriots in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL Draft, retired in 2007 as the team’s all-time leading receiver with 557 career receptions. He now sits in third place only behind Welker and Edelman.

Upon calling it an end to his playing career, Brown also ranked second in Patriots history with 6,366 career receiving yards and his 192 games played were good for fourth all-time for the franchise at the time.

“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to coach Troy,” Belichick said in a statement upon Brown’s retirement. “I think Troy, as I have talked about with our players, is the consummate professional.”

Brown was never known as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, as he played in an era of diva wideouts. Brown’s game was never flashy, but hard-nosed and technically sound. He really is the prototype of what Belichick looks for in a player. He was named to the Pro Bowl only once in his career, but his value transcended individual accolades.

The most important statistic for Brown, who has been on Belichick’s coaching staff since 2019, is he won three Super Bowl titles.

Brown really established the blueprint for the modern-day Patriots slot receiver. He was an unknown and pretty much unwanted commodity out of college and bided his time through the early parts of his career before becoming an integral part of New England’s offensive operation. The story is similar for Welker, Edelman and Meyers.

Those after Brown might have put up better stats, had better games, or made better catches, but Brown blazed the trail for all of them and that’s a piece of Patriots history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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