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The Patriots 50th Anniversary Team: by Nick Scofield

I have seen a lot of talk online lately about a Patriots All-Time Team and since 2009 will mark the 50th season of the team, I think now is the best time to formally come out with an all-time team covering those first 50 seasons. The Patriots already have a 10th anniversary team, which was picked by fans, and a 35th anniversary team picked by a panel of media experts. Why not have a 50th anniversary team? It only makes sense to have one.
In his article, I have put together what could pass as a 50th anniversary team for the New England Patriots. In assembling the team, I took into consideration how many years they spent with the team, how many Pro Bowls they went to, where they rank in individual stats with the Patriots and if they won any championships. So without further ado, here’s my roster for the New England Patriots 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Quarterback: Tom Brady

A no brainer. In his nine seasons with the Patriots, Tom Brady has done what no other quarterback in team history has been able to do; win a Super Bowl. In fact, Brady has done it three times and twice was named the game’s MVP. In nine seasons, Brady has thrown for 26,446 passing yards (3rd all-time in team history), 197 touchdown passes (most), compiled a 63% completion percentage (most) and had an unforgettable 2007 MVP season. That’s not counting the countless fourth quarter comebacks and drives that has made Tom Brady a true legend. He deserves to be on this team.

Running Back: Jim Nance & Curtis Martin

Nance played for the Patriots for 7 seasons in the 1960s, leading the AFL in rushing twice. He was named to two Pro Bowls and was named a first team all pro twice. In 1966, he led the AFL with 11 rushing touchdowns and has a team record 45 rushing touchdowns. His 5,323 rushing yards are second for the most in team history.
Martin played for just three years, but he made the most out his brief time with the Patriots. He was named to two Pro Bowls, was among the top 10 rushers in the NFL, and compiled 3,799 yards (3rd in team history). He rushed for 32 touchdowns, before moving to the New York Jets, where he added to his impressive early totals. There’s little doubt that Martin will one day be in the Hall of Fame, but he will most likely go in as a Jet. Had Martin played two more seasons in New England, he would have eclipsed the team record mark held by Sam Cunningham. Martin’s mobility is also something to marvel and is one of the many reasons why I put him on the team.

Fullback: Sam Cunningham

“Bam” Cunningham rushed for 5,453 yards in his eight seasons with the Patriots. That total is the most in team history. Cunningham also rushed for 43 touchdowns (2nd in team history) and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1978. The Patriots never had a lot of depth at fullback and Sam Cunningham has consistently been the consensus choice among fans as the best fullback to play in New England.

Wide Receiver: Stanley Morgan, Troy Brown & Gino Cappelletti

Troy Brown did just about everything in his 15 seasons with the Patriots. Whether it was offense, defense or special teams, Brown was the consummate team player who never stopped trying. His 557 receptions is the most in team history and his 6,366 receiving yards is second. In 2001, Brown returned three punts for touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl the same year. In 2004, when the Pats secondary was hit with injuries, Brown stepped in and made three interceptions. Not bad for an eighth round pick.
Morgan is the only Patriots receiver with over 10,000 receiving yards (10,716 yards). In 13 seasons, he made four Pro Bowls, led the league in yards per catch three times, and led the league with 13 touchdown receptions in 1979. His 67 career touchdowns are the most in Patriots history.
Cappelletti, like Brown, did a little bit of everything in his 11 seasons in New England. As a wide receiver and kicker for the Patriots in the ‘60s, he went to five Pro Bowls, led the AFL in scoring five times, and racked up 1,130 points (most in AFL history). The Duke also collected 4,589 receiving yards and scored 42 touchdowns, which is fourth in team history. More importantly, he established the Patriots as a legitimate pro sports team in Boston and became one the first break-out football star on the professional level in New England. Why he is not in the Hall of Fame still baffles me.

Tight End: Ben Coates & Russ Francis

Coates played nine seasons with the Patriots, going to five Pro Bowls and being twice named a First Team All Pro. He is near the top of most of the team’s major offensive statistical categories, with 5,741 receiving yards (4th all time), 490 catches (3rd) and 50 touchdowns (2nd). Coates was one of the top receiving tight ends of the ‘90s and is highly deserving of this honor.
Francis began and ended his career in New England, playing eight seasons for the Patriots and caught 28 touchdown passes. His 3,157 receiving yards is second amongst New England tight ends and his role as an offensive threat for the Patriots teams of the mid-70s qualify him for a spot on the team.

Offensive Line: Bruce Armstrong, Leon Gray, Brian Holloway, John Hannah, Logan Mankins & Pete Brock

Determining the offensive line was a tough decision, since there aren’t a lot of statistical categories that determine blocks or quarterback protection. However, I did the best job I could and I hope you agree with my picks. I also decided to pick more than five players for the offensive line to make sure the best players get the recognition they deserve.
Armstrong, Gray and Holloway were my picks for tackles. In 14 seasons, Armstrong stayed the longest of any of the offensive lineman selected for this team. He made it to six Pro Bowls and recovered 9 fumbles during his career. Gray played with the Patriots for six seasons and made it to two Pro Bowls. In 1978, he was named a First Team All Pro and he had the help of lining up alongside Hall of Famer John Hannah as well. Brian Holloway also played for six years, making it to three Pro Bowls and recovered four fumbles.
My picks for offensive guards were Logan Mankins and John Hannah. Mankins is entering his fifth season with the Patriots and has already made a Pro Bowl. He has established himself as one of the best blocking guards in the league and a second Pro Bowl is within reach if he stays healthy. “Hog” Hannah was, like Brady, a no brainer for inclusion. In 13 seasons with the Patriots, he made 9 Pro Bowls, was named a First Team All Pro seven times and became the first career Patriot to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Hannah is widely considered to be one of the greatest linemen ever to play and all-time greats end up on all-time lists, like this one.
At center, my choice is Pete Brock. Brock played for 12 seasons with the Patriots and as a center, it was Brock’s job to call out the blocking assignments. If you can hold that position for as many seasons as Brock, that counts for something.

Defensive Line: Houston Antwine, Jim Lee Hunt, Bob Dee, Richard Seymour & Vince Wilfork

In the 1960s, the Patriots didn’t have too many great players, but they did have some impressive defensive linemen. Bob Dee played 8 seasons for the Patriots, made four AFL Pro Bowls, and recovered six fumbles. In his career, Dee started every game he played in. Houston Antwine is one of the candidates for the Patriots team’s Hall of Fame and for good reason. In 11 seasons with New England, he made six Pro Bowls, and was named a First Team All Pro in 1963. Jim Lee Hunt also spent 11 seasons with the team, forcing eight fumbles on defense. He also made four Pro Bowls.
Among players after the AFL-NFL merger, Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork make the roster for the 50th anniversary team. Seymour is entering his 9th season with the Patriots and is building a Hall of Fame worthy resume. In his career with the Patriots, he has made 227 tackles, 2 interceptions and 39 sacks. Seymour has also been named a First Team All Pro three times and has played in five Pro Bowls. It’s uncertain if Vince Wilfork will stay with the team, because of his current contract negotiations, but that’s for another article. Wilfork was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and in his five seasons in New England, has made 188 tackles, 7.5 sacks and made five fumble recoveries. Wilfork has the capability to make it to a couple more Pro Bowls, but he could also be named an All-Pro as well.

Linebackers: Andre Tippett, Steve Nelson, Nick Buoniconti & Tedy Bruschi

“Tip” is the first choice for the linebacker corps and his choice is an easy one. The Hall of Famer played 11 seasons for the Patriots, with a team record 100 sacks, 19 fumble recoveries and two fumble recoveries brought back for touchdowns. Tippett played in five Pro Bowls and was twice named a First Team All Pro. The other Hall of Famer in the corps is Buoniconti. Before leaving to join the Miami Dolphins, Buoniconti played seven years with the Patriots, making 24 interceptions, five Pro Bowls and being named a First Team All Pro four times. Steve Nelson played 14 seasons in New England, making it to three Pro Bowls, while recording eight sacks and 16 fumble recoveries. Tedy Bruschi is entering his 14th season with the Patriots. In his career, he has made 30.5 sacks, 12 interceptions(4 returned for touchdowns), 17 forced fumbles and made the 2004 Pro Bowl.

Cornerbacks: Ty Law, Mike Haynes, Maurice Hurst & Raymond Clayborne

Ty Law is the most memorable defensive back that I have ever seen and he is my first choice for the 50th anniversary team. In 10 seasons with the Patriots, Law made 36 interceptions(tied for most in team history), returned six picks for touchdowns, 4 sacks and four fumble recoveries. In addition, Law also made four Pro Bowls and was twice named a First Team All Pro.
Hall of Famer Mike Haynes began his career in New England, playing 7 seasons for the Patriots. He made 27 interceptions, forced four fumbles and was named the 1976 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was also the team’s kick returner, returning 111 punts for 1,159 yards(4th in team history) and two touchdowns.
Maurice Hurst also made a big impact with the Patriots during his 7 seasons with the team. He made 27 interceptions, forced fumbles and made three sacks. Raymond Clayborn played the longest of the cornerbacks, spending 13 seasons in New England. He picked off 36 passes(tied for the most in team history), made three Pro Bowls and recovered eight fumbles.

Safeties: Fred Marion, Lawyer Milloy, Tim Fox & Rodney Harrison

Fred Marion has the best stats of all of the safeties selected for the team. In ten seasons with the Patriots, he made 29 interceptions(tied for 2nd in team history), 13 fumble recoveries and made the 1985 Pro Bowl. Lawyer Milloy was a fan favorite during his seven years with the Patriots, playing in four Pro Bowls, making 19 interceptions and forcing seven fumbles. He was named a First Team All Pro in 1999. Tim Fox played six seasons with the Patriots in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, making the 1980 Pro Bowl. In between his seasons, he made 17 interceptions and recovered eight fumbles. The recently retired Rodney Harrison earns a spot on the team for his toughness and physical play. In his six seasons with the Patriots, he made eight interceptions, forced seven fumbles and was named a 2003 First Team All Pro. His hard hits and inspiring play also earn him a spot on the team.

Special Teams: Rich Camarillo & Adam Vinatieri.

At punter, Rich Camarillo beats out the competition to make the 50th anniversary team. In seven season with the Patriots, he punted for a team record 19,922 yards. He also made the 1983 Pro Bowl and led the league in punting yards in 1985. Camarillo later made it to four more Pro Bowls as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
At kicker, Adam Vinatieri is a clear choice. It may not be popular, since Vinatieri is playing for the Colts, but what he did warrants a place on the roster. In ten seasons, he made 263 field goals, made 2 Pro Bowls and was named a First Team All Pro twice. He led the league in scoring in 2004, and his 1,158 points are the most in Patriots team history. He also made 19 playoff field goals and won three Super Bowls in New England. There’s also all the clutch kicks that Adam made to get the Patriots into all of those big games. Like it or not, the Patriots dynasty would not have been possible without Vinatieri.


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