If you’re a Patriots fan and your favorite player isn’t Tom Brady, reevaluate, and reevaluate immediately. There’s no chance that #12 isn’t your favorite when you get down to it. He’s the GOAT, he’s the savior of New England football, he has a hot wife, he gets fired up even in his advanced football-age, yada yada yada.
But, as it’s well documented, the Pats have enjoyed unprecedented success since the turn of the millennium. Last week’s retirement of Jerod Mayo got me thinking about my all-time favorite Patriot players. So I decided to rank my five favorite non-Tom Brady players.
My criteria are simple- they can’t be Brady, and I must be able to remember them playing. Therefore, guys like Curtis Martin, Steve Grogan and Gino Cappeletti, to name a few, are ineligible.
Here it goes…
5. Teddy Bruschi
Some may think that Teddy is too low in this ranking, but it’s my opinion, so I get to pick, God damnit. Everyone loves Teddy Bruschi. That’s not a limit to Pats fans, either. My friend Jackson, a Steelers fan? Legitimately loves #54 to death. And hey, how couldn’t you?! He famously overcame a stroke to still be an absolute beast of a linebacker. His image of holding three fingers up after beating Philadelphia in the Super Bowl. Plus, he met my sister one time!
Okay, so he really didn’t, but that’s not the point. He finished his career with 675 tackles, all while wearing red white and blue. Teddy was a gamer, and no moment was too big for him. I think every single kid in New England owned a Bruschi jersey at one point or another… I know I did.
- Randy Moss
This one isn’t really that fair, since Moss didn’t play the bulk of his career or make his name famous in Foxborough. However, he’s one of my all-time favorites regardless of what team he played for, so that’s enough to put him on this list.
He falls behind someone else on this list because his ending was really messy- it kind of reminds me when Manny left the Red Sox. Neither the team nor Moss really wanted to do anything with one another, and it showed in his effort in games. He was never a guy who would block really well or go over the middle, but I don’t really care. You need a TD? You want to scare the piss out of every defense you play against? It helps when Randy is on your team.
Honestly, I think that Randy Moss is the most talented receiver ever to play football, period. He’d be better than Jerry Rice statistically if he had a consistent enough quarterback for the duration of his career. I’ll argue that with anyone to the death.
- Ty Law
No one in the history of football had Peyton Manning’s number more than Ty Law, and that’s a damn fact. Ty Law is the unquestioned greatest cornerback in Patriots history, and though he played his football in Foxborough when I was younger, I remember watching him play. He’s one of the reasons why I love defensive football.
Law was the epitome of a ball hawk, and if he picked you off, he was always a threat to take it to the house. He had 36 career regular season interceptions, with 6 of them being pick-six’s. That doesn’t include the damage he did in January and February (4 interceptions, 1 returned for a touchdown, for those of you counting). Obviously corners aren’t known for their prowess in the tackling department, but for a little guy, he could stick ya pretty well. It sucked when he left for more money, but I can’t hate him… even if he did go to the Jets. It’s enough to drop him down to #3 in my rankings.
- Julian Edelman
I love Julian Edelman, and I have from the time that he returned that preseason punt against the Eagles back for a touchdown. He’s another underdog-type player who, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t be in the NFL. Everyone knows the story, and if you don’t, read this ESPN article. It’s so good that I won’t even try to out-do it.
Edelman is a gritty, tough SOB. He always comes up with the biggest catches. He’s willing to do the littler things that don’t get noticed, like blocking. Jules also has a great personality that he puts to display, something that wasn’t a common thing to see out of a Patriots player until recently.
Rodney Harrison makes the not-so-short list of athletes that I would take a bullet for. He was a real football player, and one of, if not the most feared defensive backs in all of football.
There’s two things I love more than anything else in football- trash talk and hard hits. #37 could do both. Now, granted, by the time he played for the Patriots, his prime years were pretty much behind him. His best years were in San Diego, and he really struggled with injuries over the course of his time at Gillette Stadium. Either way, he was a stabilizing leader for the back end of the defense. The team was always better with him on the field.
He’s always been pretty outspoken, but that’s a-okay with me. It doesn’t matter to me whether he talks about intentionally hurting other players or whatever. As long as he made the play I was cool with it.
Plus, he’s pretty good on NBC for Sunday Night Football.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Vrabel, Matthew Slater (I’m serious), Kevin Faulk
The most common factor out of all of these guys is probably the underdog factor. It’s obvious with Bruschi and Edelman, but don’t forget that Moss had his odds stacked against him before the NFL (sure, due to self-inflicted reasons, but he still overcame them) and Harrison was a late-round pick himself. I love physical football and I love guys who perform when it counts, which I think is a shared trait among all these guys. But should I expect anything else, after growing up in this era of Patriots football? Probably not.
Cover photo from startrekmovie.com (I’m serious, though I’m not quite sure why).
GIFs and in-article photos courtesy of *takes breath* coolspotters.com, wifflegif.com, NESN, patspulpit.com, SB Nation, footballisfuture.com, patspropaganda.com, and the Facebook account of Steve Bates, in no particular order.