New England Patriots


Introduction

The New England Patriots compete alongside the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets in the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference. Currently the Patriots – or ‘Pats’ as they are alluded to by the media – play their home games at their newest home, The Gillette Stadium (since 2002).

Since the turn of the millennium, the New England Patriots have become the kings of the NFL and the team most sides fear during the American Football campaign. Over recent years, the Patriots franchise have made it all the way to numerous Super Bowls and have, for the most part, been victorious – notably recording three consecutive Super Bowl titles in a four-year period in 2004.

Due to this glittering success, the New England Patriots now only trail Dallas (5), San Francisco (5) and Pittsburgh (4) in terms of victories throughout Super Bowl history.

How It All Began

The story of how the New England Patriots came to exist dates back to 1959. American football greeted New England when a consortium, led by local businessman William H. "Billy" Sullivan Jr, earned the rights to the eighth and final spot for the newly developed American Football League.

A week later, the franchise had already made their first two draft picks in the shape of running backs, Ron Burton and Gerhardt Schwedes. Coaching personnel introduced to the Patriots in 1960 included former Boston College head coach, Mike Holovak (Director of Players), Ed McKeever (General Team Manager) and Lou Saban (Head Coach).

Establishing the franchise’s name was next on Sullivan Jr’s agenda. Voting from fans decided that the team would initially be named Boston Patriots. A local artist from Boston, Phil Bissell, designed the team logo – from which the slogan ‘Pats Patriots’ was founded.

Over 350 potential players registered at the Patriots’ inaugural training camp, hoping to be selected as a member of the first-ever Patriots franchise side. Of all the applicants, 35 were successful.

The team’s pre-season opener on July 30 1960 saw the Patriots record a 28-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills with Patriots’ legend and hall of famer, Bob Dee, scoring the AFL’s first ever touchdown. 21,597 ‘Patriotic’ fans would witness the team’s debut at Boston University Field – which they lost 13-10 to Denver Broncos in the regular-season opener.

1963 heralded the Patriots’ first division crown, though they were thrashed 51-10 by San Diego Chargers in the AFL Title decider. Star names etched into Patriots’ history such as Dee, Babe Parilli and Nick Buoniconti were prominent throughout the early years of the franchise.

In 1976, the newly-named New England Patriots earned a wild-card play-off spot, losing to eventual Super Bowl Champions, Oakland Raiders. Two years on, the team won their first outright division title (1978), succumbing to the Houston Oilers 31-14 in the franchise’s historic first home play-off game.

‘Pats Patriots’ made NFL history in 1985, winning three consecutive away matches in the wild-card play-offs to claim their inaugural AFC Championship. Yet in Super Bowl XX, the New England side were steamrolled 46-10 by the Chicago Bears.

Ownership exchanges would dominate headlines of newspaper pages, as far as the Patriots were concerned, over the following years. First Victor Kiam became the new owner, taking over from the Sullivan family. Then, after another change of owner, businessman James B. Orthwein seized control.

However, in 1994 – arguably the best day in Patriots history off the field – Robert K. Kraft took charge. Though New England fans did not know it at the time, the arrival of the franchise’s fourth owner would herald the beginning of a meteoric rise both on and off the field of play.

Switching Stadia

In total, the New England Patriots have played their ‘golden’ professional football at seven different stadia, since their formation back in 1959. The ‘Pats’ made their NFL debut at Boston University Field (1960-62) – former home to the Boston Braves – under their previous brand name Boston Patriots.

During the mid 1960s, the Patriots’ team moved to become co-tenants of Fenway Park, home to baseball franchise Boston Red Sox. However to avoid any scheduling conflicts, the first games of the season would be played either away or at neutral venues. In 1967, the Patriots did not play at Fenway Park until their seventh match of the campaign in mid-October.

Between playing at Boston College’s Alumni stadium (1963 and 1969), Boston Patriots, as they were still known, took to the field for their home games at Alabama’s Legion Field (1968), losing their opener 47-31 to eventual Super Bowl winners, New York Jets.

After again moving house to Harvard Stadium (1970) the Patriots finally settled down at Schaeffer Stadium. By now the New England Patriots brand had begun trading. Constructed in 1971 for just over $6 million, the Schaeffer Stadium (re-named twice to Sullivan, and Foxboro stadium) hosted the ‘Pats’ home match-ups for 29 consecutive NFL seasons.

Finally the New England Patriots are now based at their new ground, the Gillette Stadium. A 68,436 capacity all-seater, the Gillette Stadium opened in May 2002, with fans witnessing its Grand Opening on September 9 2002, when the Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-14. The game was watched by a national audience on Monday Night Football.

Golden Generation

Soon after Robert K.Kraft became the new owner of the New England Patriots, the team’s fortunes on the field would improve dramatically. After 1995, when the Patriots became the first sports team to have their own Internet site, 1996 saw the Patriots win the AFC Championship and return to the Super Bowl for a second time. However, again New England were runners-up, this time losing out 35-21 to Green Bay Packers and star quarterback, Brett Favre.

In 1997, New England Patriots defended their AFC East Division Title to complete back-to-back title victories for the first time in franchise history. But it was not until 2000 that the Patriots started on a journey that would make them one of the most dominant sides in NFL history.

After the completion of the new 68,436 Gillette Stadium, owner Kraft, who had funded the stadium project, hired Bill Belichick as the team’s 14th new head coach on January 27 2000. The decision would prove a masterstroke on Kraft’s part.

February 3 2002 saw New England finally claim their first Super Bowl title at the third opportunity, defeating the St. Louis Rams 20-17 with a last-gasp field goal from Adam Vinatieri, after appearing to squander a 17-3 lead.

At Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX, the Patriots claimed their second and third Super Bowl Titles respectively, going into the record books as only the second team in NFL history (after Dallas Cowboys) to claim three consecutive titles in a four-year span. By now the franchise was easily the most dominant of the 21st century.

Last year saw the New England Patriots arrive at yet another season finale – Super Bowl XLII. This had been the most historic season in NFL history as the Patriots had been unbeaten all season, thus bidding to become only the second ever team (after Miami Dolphins 1972) ever to go a whole campaign without tasting defeat. But Belichick and his players would be left stunned as the New York Giants, one of the biggest underdogs in the game’s history, would claim the Super Bowl crown by the narrow margin of 17-14.

Yet looking ahead to next season, the New England Patriots and their ‘golden generation’ surely remain the team to beat.

Achievements – Roll of Honour

Super Bowl Championships – Winners 2001, 2003, 2004

Current Squad

Head Coach: Bill Belichick

88 Sam Aiken (WR)
52 Eric Alexander (LB)
23 Willie Andrews (DB)
12 Tom Brady (QB)
65 Wesley Britt (T)
54 Tedy Bruschi (LB)
25 Fernando Bryant (CB)
16 Matt Cassel (QB)
63 Dan Connolly (OL)
38 Kyle Eckel (FB)
44 Heath Evans (FB)
33 Kevin Faulk (RB)
10 Jabar Gaffney (WR)
3 Stephen Gostkowski (K)
97 Jarvis Green (DL)
7 Matt Gutierrez (QB)
6 Chris Hanson (P)
37 Rodney Harrison (S)
27 Ellis Hobbs III (CB)
Victor Hobson (LB)
71 Russ Hochstein (G/C)
53 Larry Izzo (LB)
17 Chad Jackson (WR)
19 C.J. Jones (WR)
77 Nick Kaczur (T)
67 Dan Koppen (C)
72 Matt Light (T)
70 Logan Mankins (G)
39 Laurence Maroney (RB)
60 Jimmy Martin (OL)
31 Brandon Meriweather (S)
22 Tim Mixon (CB)
34 Sammy Morris (RB)
81 Randy Moss (WR)
61 Stephen Neal (G)
68 Ryan O’Callaghan (T)
66 Lonie Paxton (LS)
35 Mike Richardson (CB)
29 Lewis Sanders (CB)
36 James Sanders (S)
93 Richard Seymour (DL)
51 T.J. Slaughter (LB)
90 Le Kevin Smith (DL)
82 Stephen Spach (TE)
28 Antwain Spann (CB)
92 Santonio Thomas (DL)
86 David Thomas (TE)
96 Adalius Thomas (LB)
41 Raymond Ventrone (S)
50 Mike Vrabel (LB)
94 Ty Warren (DL)
15 Kelley Washington (WR)
84 Benjamin Watson (TE)
21 Jason Webster (CB)
83 Wes Welker (WR)
75 Vince Wilfork (DL)
26 Tank Williams (S)
58 Pierre Woods (LB)
99 Mike Wright (DL)
74 Billy Yates (G)

Hall of Famers

73 John Hannah, G, 1973-85*
40 Michael Haynes, CB, 1976-82*
85 Nick Buoniconti, LB, 1962-68*
78 Bruce Armstrong, T, 1987-00
20 Gino Cappelletti, WR/K, 1960-70
89 Bob Dee, DE, 1960-67
14 Steve Grogan, QB, 1975-90
79 Jim Lee Hunt, DT, 1960-71
57 Steve Nelson, LB, 1974-87
15 Vito ‘Babe’ Parilli, QB, 1961-67
56 Andre Tippett, LB, 1982-88 & 1990-93
86 Stanley Morgan, WR, 1977-89

Hannah, Haynes and Buoniconti received professional football’s highest honour by being inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame