How did one of the best NFL franchises come to fruition? It all started with a Drew Bledsoe scramble to the sidelines. In the week 2 matchup against the New York Jets, Mo Lewis came bearing down and laid out the Patriots quarterback.
For a franchise that made two Super Bowl appearances and came up short, seeing arguably their best player go down with an injury so early in the season, spelled doom for the fanbase.
However, there was a sixth-round pick on the bench waiting for his moment to shine. Once Tom Brady was thrown into the fire he would lead the Patriots to greatness and cement himself as one of the best to ever play the game, as well as one of the most sought-after autographs for sports memorabilia collectors.
He wasn't the only reason for the turnaround. Excellent coaching and roster development by Bill Belichick helped create one of the most successful franchise runs in modern sports that is still continuing to this day.
What steps led to the Patriots becoming so successful? We will go over how the franchise began, Bill Parcells contributions, and how the current coaching regime has cemented its place in the record books as well as in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The History of One of the Best NFL Franchises
The American Football League (AFL) franchise Boston Patriots was awarded to William and Joseph Sullivan in 1959, and quickly became an important part of the league.
The AFL Years and the NFL Merger
The team saw mild success in the AFL from 1959 to 1970, appearing in the AFL championship game once. The team also had two MVPs in 1964 and 1966.
When the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, the Patriots went to the playoffs twice, in 1976 and in 1978 when they won the AFC East division.
The 80s were much more successful for the franchise as they made the first appearance in the Super Bowl but lost to the Chicago Bears 46-10. Their success in the 80s would lead to them hiring one of the best head football coaches in NFL history.
The Bill Parcells Era
Bill Parcells was hired in 1993 to turn the franchise's fortunes around. After finishing 2-14 in 1992, the Patriots had the first overall pick in the 1993 NFL draft and selected Drew Bledsoe to be their new franchise quarterback.
Parcells was already one of the most respected coaches in the game and had two Super Bowl championships to his resume. The first season in Foxborough did not get off to a good start as Drew Bledsoe was injured after game four and the Pats started 1-11.
When Bledsoe returned the Pats won their final four games to finish 5-11.
Although the Pats disappointed on the field during the 1993 season, there was still a lot of interest in the team by the fanbase. The current owner of the team James Orthwein wanted to relocate to St. Louis, and after the ‘93 season concluded, he offered team landlord Robert Kraft, who owned majority of land around the Patriots stadium $75 million to break the teams operating lease.
This move would allow him to relocate the team to St. Louis. Kraft smartly refused. Once Orthwein realized Kraft would not let him out of his operating lease, he put the team up for sale. Kraft swooped in and bought the team for $175 million in 1994.
The Patriots made the playoffs in 1994, finishing 10-6, but lost to Bill Belichick and the Cleveland Browns 20-13. This would begin a run of excellent draft picks over the next couple of years by Parcells who always had a keen eye for talent.
The Pats drafted Curtis Martin in the third round of the 1995 draft, who provided an instant impact to the offense. Martin's rookie campaign would be the start of an excellent Hall of Fame career.
The talented running back finished the season with 1,487 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Although Martin provided a spark for the offense, the team finished 6-10 and didn't make the playoffs.
The 1996 season saw a number of young players make an impact for Parcell's Patriots. Their first pick in the draft was a talented wide receiver named Terry Glenn out of Ohio State.
Although Parcells and Glenn didn't have the best relationship, Glenn immediately gave Drew Bledsoe the weapon he desperately needed at the wide receiver position.
The defensive side of the ball saw a number of rookies and younger players enter the rotation that would start their Patriots legacies. Their second-round pick was safety Lawyer Milloy, who would appear in 4 Pro Bowls for the team.
Pairing him with second-year cornerback Ty Law gave the Patriots defense two players in the secondary that could shut down opposing wide receivers and tight ends.
Third-round pick Teddy Bruschi allowed the Patriots to go three for three with the first three picks in the 1996 draft as the linebacker quickly made a name for himself on the defensive depth chart.
They started the season off slow but finished 11-5 and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs as the #2 seed. The Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in a decisive win in the divisional round and followed it up with a dominant home victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship game.
They were riding a high going into the Super Bowl but lost to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers 35-21.
In a somewhat surprising move, Parcells resigned as head coach after leading the team to the Super Bowl. It was widely rumored that Parcells was going to the Jets to become their next head coach.
Kraft claimed tampering was at the heart of the hire. To try and avoid any tampering fines and penalties the Jets hired Parcells as a consultant and hired Bill Belichick as the team’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
It was determined by the league commissioner Paul Tagliabue that the Jets were not given permission to hire Parcells as a consultant, even though he claimed he was given permission by legal offices.
Tagliabue was able to have an agreement reached by both sides, and in return for Parcells becoming the Jets head coach, the Patriots were given the Jets third and fourth-round picks in the 1997 draft, the Jets second-round pick in 1998 and the first-round pick in 1999.
Who would be the next head coach for the Patriots? The answer would be Pete Carroll.
The Pete Carroll Years
The Pete Carroll era didn't have much success as the team progressively got worse each year. After finishing 10-6 the Pats were eliminated in the Wild Card round by Jacksonville.
The off-season of 1998 would be a turning point for the franchise as Curtis Martin was a restricted free agent. The Jets offered Martin a contract and the Patriots refused to re-sign their talented running back. They were awarded the Jets first and third-round picks.
The Patriots finished 9-7 in 1998 and made the playoffs but lost in the divisional round. Carroll was ultimately fired after the team went 8-8 in 1999.
The Bill Belichick Era
In order to hire Belichick, the Patriots had to give up draft picks in the similar fashion to when the Jets hired Bill Parcells, giving up a 1st round pick to the Jets. Once Belichick was on board Kraft gave him almost complete control over football operations.
They went 5-11 in his first season and didn't make the playoffs for the second straight year.
As stated in our introduction, the second game of the 2001 season saw Bledsoe run to the sideline and get tackled by Mo Lewis. Bledsoe sheered a blood vessel in his chest and opened the door for Tom Brady.
Brady was the Patriots’ sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, and he led the Pats to an 11-5 record with a first-round bye as the number two seed in the playoffs.
This led to the infamous "Tuck Rule" game as Brady appeared to be sacked by Charles Woodson and fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter. However, it was ruled that Brady was attempting a pass and it was called incomplete.
Adam Vinatieri would eventually kick the game-winning field goal in overtime and the Patriots advanced to face the Steelers in the AFC championship game.
After upsetting the number one seed, they were again labeled underdogs against one of the best offenses in the league history. Facing the St. Louis Rams and NFL MVP Kurt Warner in New Orleans, the "Greatest Show on Turf" was out to earn another Super Bowl ring.
A very good defensive game plan allowed the Patriots to shut down the Rams offense until the fourth quarter with a 17-3 lead.
The Rams got two quick touchdowns and tied the game at 17, but with 90 seconds left to play, Tom Brady led the Pats offense down the field and allowed Adam Vinatieri to kick the game-winning field goal to earn the team's first Super Bowl victory.
With Brady at the helm, it looked to make another Super Bowl run was in store in 2002, but they ultimately finished the season 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
That did not slow down the juggernaut as the Patriots won back to back Superbowl’s over the Panthers and Eagles in ‘03 and ‘04. This cemented the Patriots as the dynasty of the NFL.
This level of success hadn't been seen since the Cowboys of the mid-90s and it didn't look like anything was going to slow them down. The next two seasons saw the Pats make the playoffs, but in order to get back to the big game, an offensive overhaul was needed.
Before the 2007 season, Belichick acquired wide receivers Wes Walker and Randy Moss. The offense was the best in the league that season as Brady set the record for most touchdown passes in a season with 50, and Randy Moss also set an NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions.
The Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, becoming the first team to do so since the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins. Win number 16 was not easy as the New York Giants opted to play all of their starters and gave the Patriots everything they could handle.
The two teams would meet again in the Super Bowl and an excellent pass rush plus an improbable catch by David Tyree led the Giants to the upset Super Bowl victory.
The Giants and Patriots met again two years later in another back-and-forth Super Bowl matchup. The Giants eventually spoiled the Patriots plans again and defeated them 21-17 In Super Bowl 46.
The next two seasons saw Belichick and the Pats lose in AFC championship game to eventual Super Bowl winners Baltimore and Denver respectively.
In 2014, they finished 12-4, and were again the number one seed in the AFC. They were going up against the Seattle Seahawks and the "Legion of Boom" defense, who were the defending champs.
Down by four with just over two minutes remaining, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson led them down to the one-yard line. In one of the worst play calls in Super Bowl history, the Seahawks opted to pass the ball, instead of giving it to bruising tailback Marshawn Lynch. Wilson’s pass was intercepted by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler to seal the Patriots fourth Super Bowl.
After losing to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in 2015 in the AFC championship game the Patriots faced Atlanta in the Super Bowl in 2016.
The offense looked putrid for most of the game as the Pats were down 28-3 and looked like they were headed to an embarrassing third Super Bowl loss.
However, poor play calling by the Falcons offensive coaches, and timely play by Tom Brady, allowed the Pats to make the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, winning 34-28.
Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP for the fourth time of his career, which is now an NFL record, and also passed Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with five Super Bowl victories.
Brady now cemented himself as the greatest quarterback of all time in many people’s eyes. His autographed items also became some of the most sought-after pieces of sports memorabilia.
The Pats offense led them to another Super Bowl last season and this time they faced backup quarterback Nick Foles and the Eagles. Foles was in for the injured Carson Wentz, who looked to be the league MVP before tearing his ACL against the Rams.
The game was a high-scoring back-and-forth affair and while Brady set a Super Bowl Record with 505 passing yards, the Eagles ultimately came out on top 41-33.
This made Brady and Belichick 5-3 in Super Bowls together.
What's Next for the Patriots?
Where does one of the best NFL franchises go from here? The 2018 season has gotten off to a slow start but with Julian Edelman returning from suspension they should still be the favorites to win the AFC East.
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