By Brian Maloney
Every year the New England Patriots elect a new inductee to the Patriots Hall of Fame. The process involves the team offering three finalists for the fans to decide in an online vote. This year’s finalists are intriguing choices.
One finalist, Houston Antwine (DL 1961-1971) who may have been nominated at the wrong time is going to be challenged by Drew Bledsoe (QB 1993-2001) and Bill Parcells (HC 1993-1996).
Both Bledsoe and Parcells deserve to get in, but who gets the honor of going in first?
These two men rebranded the New England Patriots with the introduction of brand new team colors and the illustrious “Flying Elvis” logo. Parcells, who was coming off an impressive run with the New York Giants, was chosen to lead the turnaround of this particular perpetually bottom-dwelling team. Bledsoe on the other hand was the number one overall pick in ’93 NFL Draft and the reason Parcells chose him was so that he could become his field general for New England’s offense.
With Bledsoe under center and Parcells marching the sidelines, the two men led the hopeless Patriots back to the playoffs and eventually they reached their first Super Bowl since their embarrassing loss to the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX.
Following that particular loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI, Parcells moved on to greener pastures and Bledsoe led the Patriots to a few more successful seasons until his backup, Tom Brady, replaced him.
Now that the back-story has been told, in an argument that is similar to the current Brady vs. Bill Belichick debate: Which of the two were the reason for greatness and which was the product? Could Bledsoe have done it without the Tuna or could Parcells have done it without his gunslinger?
Bill Parcells was a proven commodity. While he was coming off a multi-year hiatus from coaching, he had won two Super Bowls with the Giants. The Parcells era began not just drafting of Bledsoe, but also the selections of guard Todd Rucci, linebacker Chris Slade and wide receiver Vincent Brisby, who would all make significant contributions over the years to come.
Troy Brown was also an eighth round draft pick and was cut and resigned multiple times before really becoming an important part of the Parcells era.
Other significant draft picks made by the Parcells included cornerback Ty Law, safety Lawyer Milloy, wide receiver Terry Glenn, linebackers Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi, and running back Curtis Martin.
Besides leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl in ’97, he also collected two “Coach of the Year” awards in ’94 and ’96, but again, being the coach that he was with New England, winning those awards is not as satisfying as winning a championship. Although, the Parcells age did not end well, as he left after complaining that the front office “wanted him to cook the dinner, but wouldn’t let him buy the groceries.” Yet, would this exact event of him leaving the Patriots for the New York Jets have any impact on whether he will be admitted or not? Who knows!
The Patriots obviously made the correct decision when they drafted Drew Bledsoe with the first overall pick in ’93 instead of Rick Mirer. This future wine connoisseur would lead the Patriots through the Parcells and Carroll tenures and eventually into the Bill Belichick era too.
In retrospect, Bledsoe is remembered for two major things, which were not getting out of bounds when he scrambled outside the pocket and allowing Mo Lewis to drill him. Lewis’s hit on Bledsoe eventually ushered in Tom Brady’s career and slowly ended his time in Foxborough.
Bledsoe’s career will always live in New England lore. He led the league on multiple occasions in completions and once in total yards, as well as put in a 45-of-70 effort, (both records) in a ‘94 overtime win against the Minnesota Vikings, which happened to begin a six game winning streak leading the Patriots to the playoffs.
Also in ‘94, he held his own against Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino in a game where each gunslinger threw for over 420 yards.
Also, let’s not forget when he entered the 2001 AFC title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to Brady sustaining an injury. Would the Patriots have become a dynasty if Bledsoe had not entered the game?
Bledsoe is fifth all-time in completions (3,839), seventh in passing yards (44,611) and 13th in touchdown passes (251). Again, he played on a lot of pass-first teams, but these numbers are impressive nonetheless. He was also a four-time Pro-Bowler.
Without Parcells and Bledsoe, there would be no Gillette Stadium or Patriot Place. Both men found great counterparts in each other, as Bledsoe was perfect to run Parcells’ offense. Although, in the end, Drew Bledsoe is sort of a mythical character in Patriot’s fandom and in the opinion of this writer, with this being one of the many fan votes, Bledsoe will get the nod and be the newest entrant in the New England Patriots Hall of Fame.
However, should the fans be able to look past the way Parcells’ left the team, and his subsequent job with the Jets, Bill Parcells will make his way into the Hall very soon was well.
Want to cast your New England Patriots vote? Click here! Voting ends on Sunday May 15, 2011!