New England Patriots
Template:NFL team The New England Patriots are a National Football League team based in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Patriots were founded in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League and joined the NFL as part of the AFL-NFL Merger.
- Founded: 1960
- Formerly known as: Boston Patriots (1960-1970)
- Head coach: Bill Belichick (since 2000)
- Home field: Gillette Stadium (since 2002)
- Previous home fields:
- Uniform colors: Blue, Red, Silver, and White
- Helmet design: A man's face in silhouette, wearing a red-white-and-blue tricorn hat. The man's sideburns and stylized hat led to the nickname "Flying Elvis"
- Mascot: Pat Patriot
- 1 Franchise history
- 2 Players of note
- 3 See also
- 4 External links
- 5 References
The early years
The Boston Patriots played in the first-ever game in the American Football League, against the Denver Broncos on September 9, 1960. Although the team made only two AFL playoff appearances, it had numerous stars. In 1963, eleven Patriots made the AFL All-star team, including Gino Cappelletti, Nick Buoniconti, and Babe Parilli,that year the Patriots made it to the AFL Championship for the first time ever, they lost to the San Diego Chargers 51-10. In the late 1960's, fullback Jim Nance became an offensive weapon for the Patriots, gaining 1,458 yards in 1966 and 1,216 in 1967, when he was the American Football League's MVP  .
In 1970 the Patriots became a member of the NFL pursuant to the merger of the AFL and NFL that had been agreed to three years earlier. Despite acquring reigning NFL MVP quarterback Joe Kapp from the Minnesota Vikings, the Patriots first season as part of the NFL was extremely difficult as they finished 2-12 and in sole possession of the newly-merged league's worst record.
After bouncing around between four different Boston-area stadiums in their first 11 seasons, in 1971 the Patriots moved into a new stadium in Foxborough, on land granted by the Bay State Raceway. The team was renamed the New England Patriots in March 1971, to reflect its new location roughly halfway between Providence and Boston, as well as a desire to better position itself as New England's regional NFL team. The stadium, to be known as Schaefer Stadium, was built at a cost of about $7.1 million in only 325 days. The stadium was one of the first stadiums in the country to be named after a corporate sponsor, the Schaefer Brewing Company paying $150,000 for naming rights. (On expiration of the sponsorship agreement in 1983, the stadium name in 1983 would be changed to Sullivan Stadium, and to Foxboro Stadium in 1990.) Additionally, the town of Foxborough was one of the first in the country to assess a surtax on every ticket sold.
The first event held at the new Schaefer Stadium was a preseason game against the New York Giants on August 15, 1971. In a sign of things to come, in the days leading up to the game there was great concern with the plumbing at the facility. To ensure the proper functioning of the plumbing a "flush-off" was conducted, where every toilet in the stadium was flushed at the same time, to ensure that the plumbing could withstand the heaviest use.
On the field in 1971 was a new quarterback, Heisman Trophy  winner Jim Plunkett . Plunkett, from Stanford University was the first overall selection in the 1971 NFL Draft which the Patriots received for having finished with the NFL's worst record in 1970 . The Patriots also drafted Randy Vataha, who had been one of Plunkett's favorite receivers at Stanford.
The Patriots continued to have difficulties even after moving to Schaefer Stadium, and went through three coaches in their first four post-merger seasons. One bright spot was the arrival of offensive lineman John Hannah in 1973, who would anchor the Patriots' offensive line for the next twelve seasons and eventually become the first career Patriot to make the Hall of Fame.
In 1973 the team hired Chuck Fairbanks, who had enjoyed success as head coach of the University of Oklahoma, as head coach. The Patriots showed marked improvement in Fairbanks' first season 1974 finishing 7-7, but with injuries to Plunkett in 1975, regressed to 3-11 that season. Following the 1975 season, Plunkett was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, and eventually would win 2 Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders.
The draft picks acquired in the Plunkett trade were used to select defensive backs Mike Haynes and Tim Fox and set the stage for the team's first winning seasons in the NFL. Second year player Steve Grogan - who had played much of the 1975 season with Plunkett hurt - became New England's unquestioned top quarterback for the 1976 season. The Patriots finished 11-3 - their best record in team history to that point - and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1963.
Their opponent in the first round would be the Oakland Raiders, whose only regular season loss had come at the hands of New England, 48-17. Throughout the game the Patriots played well and led the game late, 21-17. On a critical third down play late in the fourth quarter, Patriots nosetackle Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamilton appeared to get a critical sack on Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler which would have forced the Raiders into a fourth down situation and the possible end to their season. However, referee Ben Dreith called a roughing the passer penalty on Hamilton, nullifying the sack and giving the Raiders an automatic first down deep in New England territory. Replays would clearly show that there was no illegal contact - a point that Stabler himself would all but concede in interviews years later. The call would ultimately prove fatal to the Patriots, as Stabler would score on a short touchdown run with less than a minute left, and the Raiders held on for a 24-21 win. Partially because of the controversy, Dreith was not allowed to officiate Patriots games again.
The year 1978 began with a great tragedy. In a preseason game against the Raiders, wide receiver Darryl Stingley was paralyzed from the neck down by Oakland's Jack Tatum on a hit in a preseason game . Tatum, who would write a book called "They Call Me Assassin", never apologized for the hit. Despite this devastating loss, the Patriots would rally and finish 11-5 for their first post-merger AFC East title. However, hours before the final game of the season, coach Chuck Fairbanks surprised many by announcing he would be leaving the team to become head coach at the University of Colorado. Owner Billy Sullivan immediately suspended Fairbanks and hired Ron Erhardt to coach the final game. The stunned team lost its first round playoff game to the Houston Oilers, which also was the first Patriots post-season game at Schaefer Stadium.
For the next two years the Patriots would suffer late-season collpases that would deny them return trips to the playoffs. In 1979 after starting 7-3 the team would lose four out of their last six games - including three in a row to divisional rivals in December - to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs. In 1980, with star running back Sam Cunningham holding out all season, the Patriots started 6-1 but finished 10-6, again out of the playoffs. With these performances in mind, a local sportswriter intimated that the team suffered from the "Bozo Syndrome," meaning that they played "like clowns in the clutch." The Patriots completely collapsed in 1981, finishing 2-14, including two losses to the Baltimore Colts which were the only two games the Colts won that year.
Following the 1981 season Erhardt was fired and replaced by Ron Meyer, who had been the head coach at Southern Methodist University. The Patriots had the top draft pick overall in 1982 and selected Ken Sims, defensive end from the University of Texas, who would largely prove to be a dissapointment.
In the strike-shortened year of 1982, the highlight of the Patriots season was the so-called "Snow Plow Game," a controversial 3-0 late-season win over the Miami Dolphins. The controversy came in the fourth quarter when the Patriots were preparing for a field goal attempt. Mark Henderson, a convict on work release, used a John Deere tractor with a rotating sweeper to clear a swath of field to aid the Patriots. Kicker John Smith's 33-yard attempt was good, and the points would prove to be the only points scored by either team that afternoon. The win would help put the Patriots in the playoffs, but the first-round rematch in Miami was easily won by the Dolphins.
In 1983 rookie Tony Eason was drafted in the first round, the fourth of six quarterbacks drafted in the first round. Eason would play sparingly in 1983, but would become the Patriots' starting quarterback in 1984. Meanwhile, the team's pattern of not being able to finish seasons strong became apparent again. The team again lost some key games late, and finished out of the playoffs at 8-8.
The Patriots would acquire the top draft pick overall for the 1984 draft, in what was considered one of the weakest draft classes in several years. With the top pick the Patriots selected Irving Fryar, wide receiver from the University of Nebraska. With Tony Eason starting the Patriots got off to a strong 5-2 start. However after a pair of losses the Patriots fired head coach Ron Meyer, and replaced him with former Colts wide receiver Raymond Berry. The players initially responded well to Berry, winning three of their first four games under him. However, showing once again a failure to finish strong, the Patriots again lost three straight games in December, and again missed the playoffs at 9-7.
Despite their season-ending failures, people around the league were starting to take notice of the Patriots and see them as a talented team that needed to learn how to win. Finally in 1985, this potential would begin to be realized, bringing the Patriots their best success to date.
First trip to the Super Bowl
After struggling to start the 1985 season, new coach Raymond Berry replaced Eason with Grogan. But Grogan broke his leg late in the season, and Eason got the starting job again. New England won six straight games and finished 11-5, with a wild card playoff berth. In the first round the Patriots beat the New York Jets to win their first playoff game since 1963. In the divisional playoff against the Los Angeles Raiders the Patriots forced six turnovers and won 27-20, gaining a measure of revenge for their crushing 1976 defeat and setting up an AFC Championship showdown against the rival Miami Dolphins. The Patriots had lost 20 straight games in Miami at the time, but won this one, dominating the Dolphins defensively again en route to a 31-14 win. Thus the Patriots completed an improbable run to Super Bowl XX, where they faced the Chicago Bears.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, they would be caught in the middle of one of the most bizarre Super Bowl week subplots. Prior to the AFC Championship game, receiver and punt returner Irving Fryar had cut two fingers with a kitchen knife, requiring it to be put in a cast. At first dismissed as a freak accident, it was not until after the conference championship that the truth came out: that Fryar's wife Jacqueline had slashed him in a domestic incident after Fryar had knocked her down. It was a distraction that, many thought, epitomized the history of these Patriots - coming as it did in what was otherwise to that point the franchise's finest hour.
In the Super Bowl, though the Bears had not allowed a point in the playoffs, the Patriots took an early 3-0 lead after a Walter Payton fumble in the first quarter. Unfortunately this opening drive would be marked by another turn of terrible luck, with tight end Lin Dawson getting knocked out with a broken leg. Despite this somewhat promising start, the Bears would go on to score the next 46 points, including a touchdown by William "Refrigerator" Perry. The Patriots would add a meaningless touchdown at the end to make the final score 46-10 Chicago, the most one-sided defeat in Super Bowl history at the time.
When John Hannah, who some consider to be one of the best guards to ever play pro football, retired before the 1986 season, a lot of people thought the Patriots' offense would collapse. Indeed, the team had the worst rushing offense in the league that season. Eason stepped up the passing game (with Stanley Morgan getting nearly 1500 yards receiving) as New England won the AFC East with an 11-5 record, and traveled to Denver to take on the Broncos in the first round playoff game. A late fourth-quarter touchdown pass from John Elway to Vance Johnson won it for Denver, and the Patriots' fate was sealed. The team did not return to the playoffs for eight years.
Local product Doug Flutie from Natick, Massachusetts, who won the Heisman Trophy for Boston College in 1984, was acquired by the Patriots during the 1987 player's strike and crossed the picket line to play his first game for the Patriots, which was also the last of three games played by replacement players in the 1987 season. Many defensive stars for New England also crossed the picket line. However, late-season injuries put the Patriots out of playoff contention at 8-7. In 1988 Flutie played five games again before he was replaced by Eason. Neither quarterback could get New England to take the final step to the playoffs, and the Patriots finished 9-7.
During this time, the Sullivan family - who had owned the Patriots since their inception - lost millions of dollars on poor investments, most notably their involvement in producing The Jacksons 1984 Victory tour, headed by family scion Chuck Sullivan. Never among the NFL's wealthiest owners, the investments, and specifically the losses suffered from the Victory tour, had a considerable negative impact on the family fortune and compromised in many way the operation of the Patriots. Consequently, the Sullivans were forced to sell the team. In 1988, the team was sold to Remington shaver magnate Victor Kiam for $84 million. Although the Patriots were respectable in 1988, narrowly missing the playoffs, the 1989 season was a disaster. Three of the team's biggest stars on defense (Andre Tippett, Garin Veris and Ronnie Lippett) were injured in one preseason game. Eason, Flutie and Grogan rotated the starting quarterback job throughout the season, and the Patriots finished 5-11. Following the season, Flutie left for the Canadian Football League and long time general manager Dick Steinberg also left to take a similar job with the New York Jets. Berry was fired and replaced by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Rod Rust for 1990.
That season proved to be the most tumultuous season in Patriots history. Newspaper reporter Lisa Olson was sexually harassed by players Zeke Mowatt, Michael Timpson and Robert Perryman following a win over the Indianapolis Colts. Kiam's handling of the situation was widely criticized. Among other things, he was accused of calling Olson a derogatory name and was also alleged to have told an off-color joke about Olson. Despite taking out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe categorically denying all of the accusations, Kiam's reputation never fully recovered.
As a final indignity, their season finale against the New York Giants would be one of their few sellouts of the year; however, most of the fans at the game that day were Giants fans. The team lost that game and finished the season 1-15, the Colts win being their only one of the season. Shortly thereafter, the Patriots revamped their front office. Rust was fired and replaced by Dick MacPherson, who had been the coach at Syracuse University. Additionally, Sam Jankovich, who had been athletic director at the University of Miami and oversaw the national resurgence of their athletic program (and specifically their football team), was brought on as CEO of the Patriots.
The Patriots showed marked improvement in 1991. Hugh Millen took over at quarterback partway through the 1991 season, and the Patriots responded to MacPherson's upbeat, positive style. The Patriots improved to 6-10 with several upsets over playoff teams, including wins against the Minnesota Vikings and AFC Champion Buffalo Bills and were competitive in many of their losses. Attendance and fan interest improved.
Although optimism was high entering the 1992 season, the team was dissapointing and finished 2-14, which eventually led to the departures of both MacPherson and Jankovich. Rumors of a possible move to St. Louis intensified when Kiam sold the team to St. Louis businessman James Orthwein, a scion of the Busch family. Orthwein wanted to return the NFL to his hometown of St. Louis and saw the Patriots as a vehicle to make that happen.
The end of the 1992 season marked yet another low point in the history of the Patriots. The team had little marketable talent and was perpetually cash-strapped. The team played in what was almost universally considered the worst stadium in the NFL in the worst location with the worst gameday traffic. Their season ticket base was one of the smallest in the NFL. They routinely played to half-empty stadiums at home and their largest crowds came only for popular opponents like the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys or Steelers. The team was considered the laughingstock of the NFL and was routinely the butt of jokes. Barely more than an afterthought in their home market of Boston, rumors continued to spread about their possibly moving to St. Louis. By any measure, prospects were bleak and there was little hope that things would get any better. Yet, in the 1992 off-season, there began the chain of events that would eventually take the Patriots from laughingstock to one of the most admired teams not only in football, but in all of professional sports.
The Patriots went about the business of giving the team a brand new look for 1993, in every way. The most dramatic change was the hiring of Bill Parcells, a 2-time Super Bowl winner, as head coach. One of the most respected coaches in the history of the game, Parcells brought instant credibility and respectability for the franchise. He was also largely given a free hand with respect to personnel. Changes to the uniforms and logo were rolled out as well. The old "Pat Patriot" logo - which to many was a symbol of the Patriots' ineptitude - was retired and replaced with a stylized Patriot head, designed in tandem with NFL Properties that many fans would eventually call "Flying Elvis". The team's primary color changed from red to blue, and the helmets from white to silver.
With the first pick in the 1993 draft, the Patriots selected quarterback Drew Bledsoe from Washington State University. This was only part of a major season of change in New England. Other draft picks such as tight end Ben Coates and linebackers Willie McGinest and Chris Slade, helped the team immediately. Bledsoe started the season as the starting quarterback, but after losing the first four games, he was injured and replaced with former Dolphins backup Scott Secules, who won one of his two games.
Early in the 1993 season it had become apparent that the mindset had changed in New England. Despite a 1-11 start the Patriots quickly earned a reputation as a well-coached, well-disciplined, tough team. Of their 11 losses, eight were by 7 points or less, and only two of their 11 defeats were by more than 14 points, both coming before Week 4. Finally, at the end of the season, the Patriots' luck began to turn. They ended their season by winning their last four games in a row, over Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and, most dramatically, over Miami in overtime in the finale - a game that eliminated the Dolphins from the playoffs.
Interest in the Patriots grew both during and after the 1993 season. By many measures, the Patriots were as popular as they had ever been - even more popular than they had been during the 1985 Super Bowl year. Despite this unprecedented interest, however, the franchise was increasingly rumored to be headed to St. Louis, and at times the move looked imminent. Finally, in the 1993 off-season, the issue reached its climax. Orthwein offered Boston businessman Robert Kraft (who had bought Foxboro Stadium for $25 million in 1988 out of bankruptcy court) $75 million to break the operating covenant of the Lease, which would then free him to move the Patriots to St. Louis. Kraft refused, which continued to bind the Patriots to playing at Foxboro. When it became apparent that Kraft would not allow Orthwein to buy out the Lease, Orthwein put the team up for sale. Kraft bought the team for $172 million in 1994, beating out an investor group which included Paul Newman and Walter Payton as investors. On February 26, 1994, Kraft's first full day as owner of the Patriots, the Patriots sold 5,958 season tickets, shattering by over sixfold the team's prior single-day record of 979.
Halfway through the 1994 season, the Patriots looked flat. They were 3-6 and had lost 4 straight when they faced the Minnesota Vikings at home for Week 10. With the season on the line, Drew Bledsoe sparked a second-half comeback by switching to a no-huddle offense. Bledsoe set single-game records for pass attempts and completions, and the Patriots won the game 26-20 in overtime. This led to the Patriots winning their last seven games of the regular season, finishing 10-6 and making the playoffs as a wild card. In their first playoff game in eight years, the Patriots were beaten in the first round by the Cleveland Browns 20-13 - the last team to beat New England in the regular season, who were coached by one-time Parcells assistant (and future Patriots coach) Bill Belichick. The Patriots drafted Curtis Martin in the third round of the 1995 draft, giving the team its best running back in decades. Despite a dramatic Opening Day win against Belichick's Browns to start the 1995 season, and a sensational rookie campaign by the young Martin, Bledsoe struggled with injuries, the team struggled with inconsistency and the Patriots finished a lackluster 6-10.
The 1995 season was also marked by the Patriots' first appearance on Monday Night Football since 1979. During the Patriots' last Monday Night Football appearance in 1979, a number of fans in attendance proved to be rowdy and uncontrollable and there was an abnormally high number of arrests. As a result of this behavior, the Town of Foxborough and the NFL refused to schedule Monday Night home games in New England. (This behavior, which occured during day games as well, led the Patriots to only sell reduced-alcohol beer for several seasons in the 1980's.)
After the Patriots successful 1994 season, Bob Kraft successfully lobbied the Town of Foxborough and the NFL to schedule the Patriots on a Monday night. The NFL granted Kraft's request, scheduling the Patriots on Monday, October 23, in a game against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots won the game, 27-14, and the crowd was peaceful and orderly, with only a handful of isolated disturbances and arrests. In appreciation, Kraft took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe thanking fans for their excellent behavior and the Patriots have since hosted several more night games without incident.
Over Bill Parcells' objections, in 1996 the team added wide receiver Terry Glenn as a first-round draft pick. Despite Parcells referring to Glenn as "she" during a pre-season press conference, Glenn provided much the same spark to the receiving corps that Martin had provided to the running game. On defense, rookie safety Lawyer Milloy made an impact, as did Willie Clay (signed from the Detroit Lions) and second-year cornerback Ty Law. Linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson arrived on the scene to help McGinest and Slade. Despite all these additions, the Patriots once again started out lackluster. After an early-season loss to the Redskins at home dropped the Patriots down to 3-3, the Patriots proceeded to win their next 4 games in a row, and 8 out of their last 10 (only losing to the Denver Broncos (who would finish with the AFC's best record) and the defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys to finish 11-5, winning the AFC East and earning a first-round bye as a #2 seed. The Patriots soundly defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-3 in the divisional playoff, and held off the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-6 in the first AFC Championship game played in Foxboro (a game marked by a sudden power "brownout" just as Adam Vinatieri was to attempt a field goal in the second quarter.) The team advanced to Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers.
In the months and years after Kraft's purchase of the Patriots, relations between Kraft and Parcells were increasingly strained. This was primarily due to Kraft's wanting Parcells to yield some of his authority over personnel moves to a general manager. Parcells was not interested in yielding authority that he had been granted over personnel when he was hired, and famously complained that "if they're gonna let you cook the dinner, they at least ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." The conflict climaxed in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, with rampant rumors that Parcells would leave the Patriots after the season to take the vacant head coaching job with the New York Jets. These constant rumors and speculation about Parcells' future was the big story throughout the week leading up to the Super Bowl and proved to be a distraction for the Patriots. Despite these distractions, the Patriots played the Packers close for much of the game, and actually took the lead briefly in the second half. However two long Brett Favre touchdowns and a record 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard sealed New England's fate. The Packers won 35-21.
Parcells did take the Jets job in the offseason, and after being rebuffed by former 49ers coach George Seifert, Pete Carroll was named the new coach. The new regime, led by personnel man Bobby Grier, was immediately derided for botching draft picks, and the Patriots slipped back further in the standings during each of Carroll's years. In 1997 the Patriots still won the AFC East with a 10-6 record, but some key losses (including a loss to Parcells' Jets and a 4th-quarter collapse against the Pittsburgh Steelers) meant the team had to play in the wild card round. After having an easy time with the Miami Dolphins in Foxboro, the injury-plagued Patriots met the Steelers in Pittsburgh for a rematch in the divisional playoff. A late fumble (recovered by future Patriot Mike Vrabel) won the game for Pittsburgh, 7-6.
Parcells convinced several Patriots, most notably Curtis Martin, to join the Jets for the 1998 season. Robert Edwards, a rookie draft pick out of the University of Georgia, was drafted to be his replacement. After stumbling through the first half of the season (5-6 after the first 11 games), Bledsoe, playing with a broken finger, engineered late 4th-quarter comebacks against the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills to save the season. The Bills game was especially controversial, as the game was prolonged due to a questionable pass interference call made in the end zone on what would have been the game's final play. Bledsoe and Glenn were later both knocked out for the season, and the Patriots backed into the last playoff seed with a 9-7 record. Backup quarterback Scott Zolak proved to be no match for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first playoff game.
Although Edwards had a promising 1998, his career was permanently derailed after he suffered a dislocated knee in Hawaii while playing a game of flag football on the beach - a game that was an officially-sponsored activity that took place during Pro Bowl weekend. Edwards would miss the next three seasons and would not play for the Patriots again (although he did play for the Miami Dolphins as a reserve in 2002)
Finally, A New Home: Gillette Stadium
Throughout his tenure as owner of the Patriots, Kraft attempted to get a new stadium built somewhere in New England. After failing to reach an accord with either the City of Boston or the State of Rhode Island, in 1998 Kraft came close to reaching a deal with the Massachusetts Legislature for Kraft to build a new, self-financed stadium adjacent to the old stadium with the state providing $75 million in infrastructure improvements. However, Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran refused to support the bill, saying that he did not want public money benefitting private interests. Unable to overcome Finneran's objections, Kraft reached a deal with Connecticut Governor John Rowland to build a new stadium in Hartford, Connecticut originally scheduled to open in 2001. However, after the stadium plan was approved by the Connecticut Legislature, there were a number of problems discovered with the proposed stadium site that would result in considerable delay of the stadium construction. At the same time, the NFL announced loan incentives where teams in the six largest markets (which included Boston) could be eligible to borrow up to $150 million from the league at advantageous interest rates and terms in order to build new stadiums. Furthermore, the Massachusetts Legislature, and Finneran, also indicated that they would be amenible to further discussions with Kraft.
With this in mind, mindful of the mounting issues in Hartford and growing opposition to the deal, in the spring of 1999 Kraft announced that he was abandoning the Hartford stadium project and eventually reached a mutually acceptable deal with the Massachusetts legislature for the necessary infrastructure improvements. The final hurdle the stadium needed to clear was approval by the citizens of Foxboro on six separate measures. Despite some initial hesitation regarding a proposed dedicated access road for premium ticket holders, the Patriots won approval on each measure by an over 90% majority. This cleared the way for Gillette Stadium to be built adjacent to the old stadium in Foxboro. It opened in 2002.
Super Bowl Champions at last
With no running game and tough competition in the division the 1999 season was tough for the Patriots. The team started 6-2 but finished 8-8, and Carroll was fired. At the same time, Bill Belichick, hand-picked to be Parcells' successor with the Jets, quit after one day to join New England. After a tough season with lots of close losses, the Patriots finished 5-11 in 2000.
The 2001 season started shaky as well. The Patriots lost their opener to the lowly Bengals, and in the first post-9/11 game against the Jets, Bledsoe was severely injured, shearing a blood vessel in his chest after being tackled out of bounds by the Jets' Mo Lewis. Terry Glenn had a pre-season contract holdout and was also hit with a drug suspension by the league. Chris Slade had left for the Carolina Panthers, and Ben Coates was gone as well.
Despite these high profile losses, the Patriots were able to find adequate replacements at very low cost. Receivers Troy Brown and David Patten had career seasons, first-round draft pick Richard Seymour revitalized the defensive line, and Antowain Smith (a free agent signed from Buffalo) ran for 1000 yards.
The big story, however, was quarterback Tom Brady. In Bledsoe's absence, Brady won three out of his first four starts, setting an NFL record by not throwing an interception in his first 162 career passes. As a result, Brady earned the confidence of Belichick and his teammates, and when Bledsoe was cleared to play, Belichick announced that Brady would remain the team's starting quarterback.
This would not be the first time that Belichick had unseated an extremely popular incumbent quarterback. In 1993, when Belichick coached Cleveland, Belichick released popular starter Bernie Kosar and went with Vinny Testaverde as the Browns' starting quarterback. Belichick's decision was heavily criticized, yet Testaverde played well for the Browns, eventually leading them to the playoffs, and Kosar never started regularly in the NFL again, justifying Belichick's decision.
Despite Bledsoe's unhappiness about his new role - he was quoted as saying that he 'looked forward to competing to get (his) job back' - he caused no distractions and was supportive of Brady and the Patriots. Led by Brady, who immediately became a fan favorite, the Patriots continued to play excellent football, winning 6 games in a row to capture the AFC East with an 11-5 record. The Patriots additionally won a first-round bye as the #2 seed, for the second time in their history.
In what would be the final game ever played at Foxboro Stadium, the Patriots hosted the Oakland Raiders in a relentless snowstorm which endured through the entire game. This game became forever known as the "Tuck Game", when a play originally ruled to be a Brady fumble was reversed by referee Walt Coleman as an incomplete pass based upon the obscure "tuck rule". After review, Coleman ruled that, because Brady's arm was moving forward when he lost the football, he was deemed to have been in the act of throwing when he lost control of the ball. The rule, ironically, had been changed by the NFL some years previous because, in similar situations, it was impossible to tell whether a quarterback was actually trying to throw the ball or not. This change made the rule black and white, as opposed to a judgement call, and thus far simpler to enforce.
On the same play, the game film shows that Raider safety Charles Woodson was guilty of roughing Brady by slapping him in the head. Had it been called, it would have resulted in a 15 yard penalty against the Raiders and would have made whether Brady tucked the ball or not a moot point.
In the teeth of a frigid wind and heavy snow, kicker Adam Vinatieri tied the game with a 45-yard field goal in the final 30 seconds. The Raiders did not attempt to run a play in regulation, and after losing the toss to start Overtime would not see the ball again, as the Patriots won the game, 16-13. Many Patriots fans see this game as payback for Ben Dreith's controversial call in 1976.
The team then went to Pittsburgh to face the favored Steelers in the AFC Championship. After Brady injured his ankle in the second quarter, Bledsoe (in his last appearance as a Patriot) came off the sideline and immediately threw a touchdown pass. In the second half, thanks to help from two special teams touchdowns and two fourth quarter Kordell Stewart interceptions, the Patriots stunned Pittsburgh 24-17 to advance to Super Bowl XXXVI. It would be the Patriots' third Super Bowl in team history, all of which to that point had been played in New Orleans.
In the Super Bowl, the Patriots faced the heavily-favored St. Louis Rams, led by league MVP Kurt Warner and known as "the greatest show on turf", who had beaten the Patriots in the regular season in Foxboro. The Patriots were introduced second, and rather than coming out player-by-player, they were introduced collectively as a team, "the New England Patriots". The team introduction was met with great praise and admirability, and has since been used by each team at the Super Bowl (including the Patriots again in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX).
In contrast to the regular season game, Bill Belichick devised a defensive game plan that used the blitz very sparingly, but called for chipping the Rams receivers and running back Marshall Faulk as they went into their patterns. This disrupted the Rams' precise passing routes and the entire rhythm of the offense and caused the usually cool under pressure Warner to look shaky in the pocket, being sacked several times. The Patriots forced three turnovers, all of which led to scores (including an interception returned by Ty Law for a touchdown).
Belichick's defense held the Rams high-powered offense in check until the fourth quarter, but after trailing 17-3 early in the fourth quarter, St. Louis scored two touchdowns to tie the game at 17-17. With 1:30 to go and no time outs, and with John Madden on the FOX Sports telecast opining that the Patriots should play for overtime, Brady calmly led New England's offense downfield, missing on only one pass (an intentional spike to stop the clock with 0:07 remaining), after which Adam Vinatieri won the game with a 48-yard field goal as time expired. For the first time in their 42 year history, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions. Brady was selected Super Bowl MVP and signed a long-term contract with the team in the off-season. Bledsoe was traded to the Buffalo Bills in the 2002 off-season for a future first-round draft pick.
The Patriots started the 2002 season on a high note too, winning their first 3 games. However, injuries and problems with the offensive and defensive lines cost the team down the stretch, and the team finished 9-7. Despite a dramatic win over the Miami Dolphins in the season finale in Foxboro, they missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
In the 2003 offseason the Patriots picked up several high profile players in free agency such as linebacker Roosevelt Colvin (who was placed on the injured reserve due to an injury early in the season), safety Rodney Harrison and defensive lineman Ted Washington. On the eve of the regular season opener, however, the Patriots released Lawyer Milloy when Milloy refused to restructure his contract. The move came as a suprise to many, as Milloy was considered an integral part of the Patriots secondary. Yet as people would learn, with the Patriots the team came first, even before elite players. Milloy quickly signed a contract with the Buffalo Bills, who beat the Patriots 31-0 in Week 1.
The following week the Patriots traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, who had also been shut out in their opener (17-0 at home by Tampa Bay). The Patriots won this game 31-10, and would lose only one more game for the rest of the season, to the Washington Redskins who would finish the season at 5-11.
Several big plays marked the team's season: an 82-yard touchdown from Brady to Troy Brown in overtime in Miami, a 4th-quarter comeback in Denver known for an intentional safety, and a goal-line stand in Indianapolis where Edgerrin James was stopped by Willie McGinest on 4th and goal by from the 2 yard line in the dying seconds. The Patriots also shut out 3 opponents: the Dallas Cowboys (led by Bill Parcells), the Dolphins (coming just a few hours after a blizzard at Gillette Stadium which left little parking and snow drifts over seats), and a revenge 31-0 win over Buffalo in the final game of the regular season.
The Patriots had the NFL's best record at 14-2 and for the first time in their history earned the top seed in the AFC playoffs, ensuring home-field advantage throughout. Their opponent in the divisional playoff was the Tennessee Titans. Played in a temperature of 5 °F (-15 °C), (making it the second-coldest game in NFL history) the Patriots and Titans played close until Vinatieri kicked the go-ahead field goal with 4 minutes left. An incomplete Steve McNair pass on 4th down with 1:40 left won the game 17-14 for New England. The Patriots then faced the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC Championship. The New England defense frustrated Colts quarterback Peyton Manning all day, forcing him to throw four interceptions (three to Ty Law) and sacking him three times. Despite only one offensive touchdown by the Patriots, the Patriots were dominant. Still, the Colts remained in the game until the very end, when a late Adam Vinatieri field goal with 10 seconds left gave the Patriots their final margin of victory, 24-14. The Patriots were back in the Super Bowl, this time to face the Carolina Panthers.
Super Bowl XXXVIII was one of the closest championship games ever played. After a defensive battle for most of the first half, the teams traded touchdowns late in the second quarter, then more quick strikes by both teams made the score 14-10 Patriots at halftime. The third quarter was scoreless, but Antowain Smith scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 21-10. Carolina scored two more touchdowns (but missed the two-point conversion on both) to take a 22-21 lead. Following a go-ahead score by the Patriots, a trick pass to linebacker Mike Vrabel followed by Kevin Faulk's run for a two-point conversion that put the Patriots up 29-22 with 2:51 left to play. Undaunted, the Panthers drove quickly downfield, and, as he had done two years previous with St. Louis, Ricky Proehl's late touchdown catch and PAT tied the game at 29 with 1:08 to play. As he had two years prior, Brady led the Patriots on another dramatic, game-ending drive, which culminated with an Adam Vinatieri 41 yard field goal with four seconds left. The Patriots won their second Super Bowl in three years, 32-29; and Brady was once again named MVP. The victory also made the 2003 Patriots the first team ever to win - or for that matter, even reach - the Super Bowl after having been shut out on opening day.
The Patriots made more big moves in the 2004 offseason to make sure a repeat of the disappointing 2002 season did not happen. Their biggest move was obtaining running back Corey Dillon from the Cincinnati Bengals. These moves paid off, as the Patriots finished the regular season at 14-2. On October 10 they set the record for the number of consecutive wins (regular and post-season) in NFL history, at 19, after beating the 0-4 Miami Dolphins 24-10. On October 24 they broke the record for the most consecutive regular season victories at 18 after beating the New York Jets 13-7. They also extended their overall winning streak to 21. The streak finally came to an end on October 31 when the Patriots were beaten by the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-20. On December 12, the Patriots clinched the AFC East division championship for the third time in the past four years. On January 16, 2005, the Patriots advanced to the AFC Divisional game by beating the Indianapolis Colts, 20-3. In the Conference Championship on January 23, they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 41-27, advancing to Super Bowl XXXIX to face the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots went on to defeat the Eagles 24-21 to become the first team in six years to repeat as World Champions, and only the second team ever to win three Super Bowls in four years (the first was the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX.)
Transition: 2005 and beyond
The Patriots would enter the 2005 off-season knowing that, if nothing else, Belichick's top two assistants would be moving on to their own head coaching jobs. In December, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis had accepted an offer from the University of Notre Dame to be their head coach, thus fufilling a longtime dream. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel also left to be head coach of the Cleveland Browns, ironically the team that (under different management) had fired Belichick following the 1995 season.
Significant players moved on as well. Ty Law a longtime Patriot, who tied the Patriots all-time career interception record in the 2004 season, was released by New England after he took a hardline stance on renegotiating his contract or signing an extension. He would eventually sign on with the New York Jets. Other players who left include offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi, who left to join Crennel in Cleveland, Keith Traylor, and Roman Phifer.
The Patriots also made attempts to improve their receiving corps. During the off-season they acquired David Terrell from the Chicago Bears, who had played with Tom Brady at the University of Michigan. They also acquired Andre Davis from the Cleveland Browns, during training camp. However, both players would be released shortly after their arrival, without having any kind of impact.
Perhaps the most devastating aspect of the offseason came just five days after the Pro Bowl, when linebacker Tedy Bruschi, considered to be the heart of the Patriots' defense, suffered what was determined to be a very mild stroke. In the aftermath, still wanting to remain part of the Patriots, Bruschi remarked that he would reevalute his condition for playing football at the end of the 2005 season. After failing to secure a decision by his doctors to clear him for practice in early July, 2005, Bruschi decided to sit out the 2005 season. However, on October 17, 2005, he announced that he would be returning to the Patriots as an active player.
A positive development during the off-season came when Tom Brady signed a new contract that would keep him in New England through the 2010 season. The defense was also bolstered by the addition of linebackers Chad Brown from Seattle and Monty Beisel from Kansas City to compensate for the anticipated absence of Bruschi. Additionally, although Troy Brown, the long-time Patriots receiver and all-around contributor, was initially released for salary cap reasons, an agreement was announced on May 23 that Brown would return for 2005.
In the 2005 NFL Draft, the Patriots used their first round pick on Logan Mankins, an offensive guard out of Fresno State. In the seventh round they also drafted USC quarterback Matt Cassel, who had backed up Heisman winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Despite having never started for the Trojans, Cassell impressed the offensive coaches and thus caused the release of longtime backup Rohan Davey. The Patriots also traded down several times to accumulate picks for the 2006 draft.
On April 29, the Patriots announced the return of Doug Flutie, the former Boston College and Patriots quarterback who had most recently played with the San Diego Chargers. Flutie, who was signed to be a veteran backup to Tom Brady, would also have the distinction of being the last USFL player active on an NFL roster.
On September 8, the Patriots won their season opener, defeating the Oakland Raiders 30-20. Tom Brady completed 24 of 38 passes for 306 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots home winning streak at Gillette Stadium would, however, end at 21 straight as they would lose to the San Diego Chargers on October 2nd 41-17, the Chargers scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half.
On November 7, the Patriots lost to the Indianapolis Colts for the first time in a long while, with a final score of 40-21 in Foxborough.
Template:Start NFL SBS |- | colspan="6" align="center" | Boston Patriots |- |1960 || 5 || 9 || 0 || 4th East (AFL) || -- |- |1961 || 9 || 4 || 1 || 2nd East (AFL) || -- |- |1962 || 9 || 4 || 1 || 2nd East (AFL) || -- |- |1963 || 7 || 6 || 1 || 1st East (AFL) || Lost AFL Championship (Chargers) |- |1964 || 10 || 3 || 1 || 2nd East (AFL) || -- |- |1965 || 4 || 8 || 2 || 3rd East (AFL) || -- |- |1966 || 8 || 4 || 2 || 2nd East (AFL) || -- |- |1967 || 3 || 10 || 1 || 5th East (AFL) || -- |- |1968 || 4 || 10 || 0 || 4th East (AFL) || -- |- |1969 || 4 || 10 || 0 || 3rd East (AFL) || -- |- | colspan="6" align="center" | Merged into NFL |- |1970 || 2 || 12 || 0 || 5th AFC East || -- |- | colspan="6" align="center" | New England Patriots |- |1971 || 6 || 8 || 0 || 3rd AFC East || -- |- |1972 || 3 || 11 || 0 || 5th AFC East || -- |- |1973 || 5 || 9 || 0 || 3rd AFC East || -- |- |1974 || 7 || 7 || 0 || 3rd AFC East || -- |- |1975 || 3 || 11 || 0 || 4th AFC East || -- |- |1976 || 11 || 3 || 0 || 2nd AFC East || Lost Divisional Playoffs (Raiders) |- |1977 || 9 || 5 || 0 || 3rd AFC East || -- |- |1978 || 11 || 5 || 0 || 1st AFC East || Lost Divisional Playoffs (Oilers) |- |1979 || 9 || 7 || 0 || 2nd AFC East || -- |- |1980 || 10 || 6 || 0 || 2nd AFC East || -- |- |1981 || 2 || 12 || 0 || 5th AFC East || -- |- |1982 || 5 || 4 || 0 || 7th AFC Conf. || Lost First Round (Dolphins) |- |1983 || 8 || 8 || 0 || 2nd AFC East || -- |- |1984 || 9 || 7 || 0 || 2nd AFC East || -- |- |1985 || 11 || 5 || 0 || 3rd AFC East || Lost Super Bowl XX (Bears) |- |1986 || 11 || 5 || 0 || 1st AFC East || Lost Divisional Playoffs (Broncos) |- |1987 || 8 || 7 || 0 || 2nd AFC East || -- |- |1988 || 9 || 7 || 0 || 3rd AFC East || -- |- |1989 || 5 || 11 || 0 || 4th AFC East || -- |- |1990 || 1 || 15 || 0 || 5th AFC East || -- |- |1991 || 6 || 10 || 0 || 4th AFC East || -- |- |1992 || 2 || 14 || 0 || 5th AFC East || -- |- |1993 || 5 || 11 || 0 || 4th AFC East || -- |- |1994 || 10 || 6 || 0 || 2nd AFC East || Lost Wild Card Playoffs (Browns) |- |1995 || 6 || 10 || 0 || 4th AFC East || -- |- |1996 || 11 || 5 || 0 || 1st AFC East || Lost Super Bowl XXXI (Packers) |- |1997 || 10 || 6 || 0 || 1st AFC East || Lost Divisional Playoffs (Steelers) |- |1998 || 9 || 7 || 0 || 4th AFC East || Lost Wild Card Playoffs (Jaguars) |- |1999 || 8 || 8 || 0 || 5th AFC East || -- |- |2000 || 5 || 11 || 0 || 5th AFC East || -- |- |2001 || 11 || 5 || 0 || 1st AFC East || Won Super Bowl XXXVI |- |2002 || 9 || 7 || 0 || 2nd AFC East || -- |- |2003 || 14 || 2 || 0 || 1st AFC East || Won Super Bowl XXXVIII |- |2004 || 14 || 2 || 0 || 1st AFC East || Won Super Bowl XXXIX |- | *2005|| 4 || 4 || 0 || 1st AFC East ||-- |}
Players of note
- 20 Gino Cappelletti K/WR
- 40 Mike Haynes CB
- 56 Andre Tippett LB
- 57 Steve Nelson LB
- 73 John Hannah G
- 78 Bruce Armstrong T
- 79 Jim Lee Hunt DL
- 89 Bob Dee DL
Not to be forgotten
- Julius Adams DE
- Houston Antwine DL (born 1939)
- Raymond Berry Coach
- Drew Bledsoe QB
- Vincent Brown LB
- Ron Burton (1936-2003) RB
- Pete Carroll Coach
- Raymond Clayborn CB
- Ben Coates TE
- Jim Colclough WR (1936 - 2004)
- Tony Collins RB
- Romeo Crenel Defensive Coordinator
- Sam Cunningham RB
- Tony Eason QB
- Robert Edwards RB
- Larry Eisenhauer DL
- Ron Erhardt Coach
- Chuck Fairbanks Coach
- Irving Fryar WR
- Terry Glenn WR
- Steve Grogan QB
- Andy Katzenmoyer LB
- Mike Holovak Coach
- Maurice Hurst CB
- Harry Jacobs LB
- Craig James RB
- Shawn Jefferson WR
- Ted Johnson LB
- Ty Law CB
- Ronnie Lippett CB
- Curtis Martin RB
- Lawyer Milloy SS
- Stanley Morgan WR
- Jon Morris OL (born 1942)
- Jim Nance RB
- Bill Parcells Coach
- Babe Parilli QB (born 1930)
- Jim Plunkett QB
- Antowain Smith RB
- John Smith K
- Darryl Stingley WR
- Mosi Tatupu RB
- Randy Vataha WR
- Ted Washington DT
- Charlie Weis Offensive Coordinator
- Damien Woody C
- New England Patriots official website
- PatsFans.com - fan-run team news and commentary
- Patriots Planet - fan-run discussion board and historical archive
- Patriots Weekly - Fansite run by Pats fans for Pats fans
- UK Patriots - British fan club and discussion forum
- Jim Nance Statistics http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/NancJi00.htm/
- MVP Award for Jim Nance http://football.about.com/od/nflhistory/l/bl_awardsmvp.htm
- Jim Plunkett Heisman Winner http://www.nationalchamps.net/NCAA/heisman/heisman_trophy_winners.htm
- 1971 NFL Draft http://www.profootballhof.com/history/general/draft/1971.jsp
- 1970 NFL Results http://home.earthlink.net/~ob1gui/nflsbar/nflrnk70.htm
- Jack Tatum tackle Controversy http://archive.profootballweekly.com/content/archives/features_1998/pollack_080399.asp