While all of New England Patriots history has not exactly been as fruitful as it has been recently, they have been close to greatness on multiple occasions. This is thanks to some truly impressive figures on both ends of the ball. As the second installment of this series, here is a hypothetical list of eight players that have a case to get their number retired.
Continuing the O-Line Legacy
There have been some questionable decisions, like the retirements of defensive linemen Jim Lee Hunt and Bob Dee. But the Patriots have boasted some of the greatest offensive line talents in NFL history. John Hannah and Bruce Armstrong already have their numbers retired. But there is another two Patriots greats that also could make a great case to join the impressive club.
Guard Logan Mankins had the misfortune of being on the Patriots exactly between the first and second sets of championships. Yet despite never winning a Super Bowl, he is easily the second best guard in Patriots history. Mankins made seven Pro Bowls (six with Pats) and one first team All-Pro, while also being named as a five time second team All-Pro. Logan played his last two seasons with the Buccaneers, but both were the two worst in his career. He definitely has a good shot at the Hall, which only adds to the argument for a number retirement.
Tackle Matt Light may not have the same individual recognition, but he was crucial to the Patriots early 2000s success. Though thats not entirely true, as he was named to the all decade second team. But he only had three Pro Bowls and one first team All-Pro selections to his name. He wasn’t even selected to a second team All-Pro. Yet Light was still instrumental to the teams success, and had one of the greatest seasons ever for a linemen during the 2007 undefeated run. If any tackle is worthy of joining Armstrong, it’s definitely Matt Light.
Unsurprisingly, all of the Patriots retired numbers are on the defensive side of the ball when not including offensive linemen. Whether that will change, we will get to later. But that list is old, with the most recent of the five men ending their career before the 90s even began. There are three Patriots defenders that should at least be in the conversation to join them.
The oldest of the bunch is Raymond Clayborn, who retired at the beginning of the 90s with the Browns. Clayborn played 13 years with the Patriots, and is tied with Ty Law as their all time interceptions leader. He made three Pro Bowls with the Pats, and only missed 13 games after he became a normal Patriots starter. He is the clearest candidate to be the first member of the Patriots secondary to get his number retired, at least for now.
The number 75 of Vince Wilfork will always be synonymous with the monstrous tackle, so why not retire the number? The 11 year Patriots vet retired with five Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and three second team All Pro selections. And in addition to those accolades, he was named a top 100 Player in the league in three of his final four full seasons with the Patriots. Of course, he also was a crucial piece in the Patriots 2014 Lombardi run as well. Definitely a worthy addition to the group.
What some would call the most obvious choice so far, Andre Tippett is in my opinion the greatest Patriots defender in their history. The Hall of Fame linebacker spent his entire 11 year career with New England, which luckily wasn’t shortened too greatly by constant injuries. Tippett was a five time Pro Bowler, two time first team All-Pro, and one time second team All-Pro.
He could’ve had an even greater career if not for his body fighting against him, starting with a shoulder injury that made him miss the 1989 season. After that injury he never won any individual accolade in the final four years of his career. For all we know, he could’ve been even greater than he already was. Tippett certainly was special nonetheless, as he would become the prototype for all Patriots linebackers that came after him.
Diversifying the Offense
As we already have said, the only offensive players to have their number retired were offensive linemen. But there are three seemingly obvious choices to expand beyond the line. The first option is quarterback Steve Grogan. He was never a Pro Bowler, nor an All-Pro, and was only top ten in the league in passer rating once.
But Grogan was one of the first rushing QB’s in NFL history, setting QB rushing records that lasted decades. Not only that, but he was also insanely talented at generating comebacks with 13 to his name. And while Grogan may not have the accolades you would normally look for in a player getting their number retired, he had a huge impact during his 16 year career with New England.
Wide receiver Stanley Morgan was the longtime target of Grogan, and is easily the best receiver in the franchise’s history. He holds the franchise records for receiving yards, yards per reception (minimum of 175 receptions), second in receiving touchdowns and fourth in receptions. He had four Pro Bowl selections and two second team All Pro nods. To cap it all off, Morgan is top 50 all time in the NFL in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. We have seen some truly great receivers in a Patriots jersey, but Morgan tops the list.
To finish this whole hypothetical article off, we have a sure-fire option for a number retirement. The number 12 is impossible to imagine on any other player, and if anyone in NFL history ever deserved this honor, it would be Tom Brady. His career accolades are well known already, with the list even putting John Hannah to shame. Brady is simply the greatest of all time, and I would put all my money on the fact that the Patriots will retire his jersey when his career is finally over.