Happy Presidents’ Day!
While the nation looks back on its past in celebration and evaluation, we here at Pats Pulpit thought we would do the same: celebrating the New England Patriots’ history by honoring the greatest players to wear the red, white and blue over the franchise’s past six-plus decades. And what better way to do just that than by using one of America’s iconic landmarks dedicated to four former presidents?
The National Memorial at Mount Rushmore, which was built in the 1920s, depicts some of the United States’ defining presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. It also is frequently used in popular culture to illustrate who has reached all-time great status in his or her respective fields. The field of football is obviously no exception, and Presidents’ Day gives us the perfect opportunity to create our own little Mount Rushmore.
One head on it obviously belongs to quarterback Tom Brady. The greatest player in franchise and NFL history gets one of the four available spots, which leads to a natural follow-up question: Who takes the other three?
There are at least 30 potential candidates.
OT Bruce Armstrong (1987–2000): Only Tom Brady has appeared in more games for the franchise than the stalwart left tackle. Unfortunately, Armstrong never won a Super Bowl but he was as good an offensive tackle as any in football while in New England.
QB Drew Bledsoe (1993–2001): When the Patriots drafted Drew Bledsoe they finally found the franchise quarterback they were missing for the most part of their existence. While his successor led New England to the Super Bowl, Bledsoe was a terrific QB in his own right.
WR Troy Brown (1993–2007): “Mr. Patriot“ did it all. No matter if it was catching the football, returning it, or playing defense, Troy Brown did his job no matter what the job looked like.
LB Tedy Bruschi (1996–2008): A fan favorite, one of the most productive linebackers in the NFL, and the heart and soul of New England’s early dynasty defense. Tedy Bruschi helped establish the so-called Patriot Way.
LB Nick Buoniconti (1962–1968): While he won his two Super Bowls in Miami, Buoniconti started his NFL career as a Patriot — and a productive one: he was voted to four All-AFL teams before his departure and later named to the team and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
WR/K/DB Gino Cappelletti (1960–1970): The AFL existed for 10 seasons before merging with the NFL, and in five of those, Cappelletti led the league in scoring. He worked as a wideout, kicker and even defensive back and should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
CB Raymond Clayborn (1977–1989): During his career, Adrian Clayborn was not only one of the best cornerbacks in the league but also was one of the most dangerous kick returners. Accordingly, he was inducted into the team Hall of Fame in 2017.
WR Julian Edelman (2009–): A former college quarterback, Edelman has grown into one of the most productive receivers in NFL playoff history and a core member of New England’s offense for almost a decade now.
RB Kevin Faulk (1999–2011): What James White was for the Patriots’ second dynasty, Kevin Faulk was for its first. The Patriots Hall of Fame inductee ended his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards.
QB Steve Grogan (1975–1990): The dual-threat was never among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, but he brought stability and leadership to the offense. His durability also stands out.
TE Rob Gronkowski (2010–2018): For nine seasons, Gronk was a fan favorite due to his upbeat persona and his dominant performances. Probably the best tight end to ever play the game, he was a key figure of New England’s Dynasty 2.0.
OG John Hannah (1973–1985): Hannah is widely regarded as the greatest offensive lineman to ever play the game. For 13 years, the Pro Football Hall of Famer paved the way for some of the NFL’s best rushing attacks.
S Rodney Harrison (2003–2008): Voted a team captain in his first season with the team, Harrison was a tone-setter from the get-go. A physical defensive back, he helped deliver two Super Bowls to the Patriots.
CB Mike Haynes (1976–1982): Mike Haynes experienced more success after leaving for Los Angeles. That said, he already established himself as an elite cornerback while still with the Patriots and laid the foundation of his Hall of Fame career in New England.
LB Dont’a Hightower (2012–): You don’t earn the nickname “Mr. February” without making big plays no the biggest stage. Hightower did just that in all three Super Bowls he played in — bringing three titles to New England.
CB Ty Law (1995–2004): Recently enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ty Law was one of the best cover cornerbacks of his generation. His pick-six in Super Bowl 36 helped New England win its first ever trophy.
OT Matt Light (2001–2011): Playing in five Super Bowls and winning three, Matt Light was Tom Brady’s blindside protector for more than a decade. A reliable player and locker room leader.
G Logan Mankins (2005–2013): Even though his career in New England overlapped with the team’s infamous title-less decade Mankins was a stalwart. There’s a reason he was voted to the NFL’s Team of the 2010s last year.
S Devin McCourty (2010–): Three Super Bowl wins and countless big plays are what makes Devin McCourty one of the most successful players in Patriots history. His leadership and charitable work off the field, however, is what truly makes him great.
LB Willie McGinest (1994–2005): Willie McGinest is still the NFL’s all-time leader in postseason sacks, and one of the most productive linebackers in Patriots history. The former first-round draft pick won three rings in New England.
WR Stanley Morgan (1977–1989): Stanley Morgan was a dominant wide receiver, who still leads the Patriots in receiving yards more than 30 years after leaving the team. Frankly, he deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
LB Steve Nelson (1974–1984): For 14 seasons, Nelson played in the middle of some of the NFL’s premier defenses. To honor him, the Patriots decided to retire his jersey number: no player has donned the No. 57 since Steve Nelson.
DT Richard Seymour (2001–2008): Even though he has missed the Hall of Fame cut each of the last four years, Seymour’s résumé speaks for itself: three Super Bowl wins and first-team All-Pro selections, and a spot in the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
WR/ST Matthew Slater (2008–): Only three other Patriots have appeared in more games than the long-time team captain. While Matthew Slater’s contributions in the kicking game may go mostly unnoticed, he is arguably the best kick coverage player in NFL history.
LB Andre Tippett (1982–1993): One of the best linebackers of his generation, Tippett was a menace off the edge and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008. He still holds the team record for most sacks in a Patriots uniform.
K Adam Vinatieri (1996–2005): Adam Vinatieri made three of the most important field goals in Patriots history: two Super Bowl-winners and arguably the greatest kick of all time to lift New England out of the 2001 divisional playoff round.
LB Mike Vrabel (2001–2008): Whether it was as a linebacker or as a part-time tight end, Vrabel excelled at both. The Patriots won three Super Bowls with him as a leading member of their defense.
WR Wes Welker (2007–2012): While he failed to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots, Welker was a dominant receiver during his time in New England. No player in franchise history has caught more combined regular season and playoff passes than his 741.
RB James White (2014–): His performance in Super Bowl 51 is the stuff of legends, but James White has generally been a reliable presence in the Patriots’ offensive backfield ever since joining the team in 2014.
DT Vince Wilfork (2004–2014): His Patriots career was bookended by two Super Bowl victories. In between, the former first-round draft pick was the anchor of New England’s defensive line for one decade.
With all that said, it’s time to get your opinion: Which players join Tom Brady on the Patriots’ Mount Rushmore? Please head to the comments below to share how your monument would look like!