It’s sort of funny how symbolic uniform numbers can become for a person, player and franchise. It’s literally just a number between 1-99 or even now 0 in the NBA and college football, that defines who you are on the field for the fans and media.
Yet I still remember freshman year of high school football, getting a jersey tossed at me by my coach and all of a sudden for the next four years and on any user name and or password I choose, the number 68 is tagged along with it. Even my little sister, when allowed to choose whatever number she wanted for her travel softball team chose 68.
Speaking of football, let’s hone in on the hometown squad, the New England Patriots. What are the best uniform numbers in franchise history?
Now for this exercise I gave myself a few rules.
Numbers had to be shared by multiple players
- Multiple guys who actually did something for the team and mean something to the team have to of worn these. It’s not necessarily what number the most people wore. But this takes out the obvious numbers like Brady’s, 12 or Bruce Armstrong’s 78 and Andre Tippett’s 56.
Recency bias is in effect
- I’m basically only picking players from the modern era and since number rules were introduced. Because some numbers could be bolstered by a cornerback who played both ways in the 60’s wearing number 85. And it’s not as much fun to talk about players from the Boston Patriots, no one knows who they are.
One number per every ten (with honorable mentions of course)
- I am picking one significant number out of every ten. So 1-9 gets, a best number, 10-19, 20-29 etc. etc.
Ok I think that’s all the rules, lets get started shall we?
2 – Brian Hoyer, Doug Flutie, Nick Folk
Surprisingly, the single digits were tough for the New England Patriots. Made up of mostly punters, kickers and back up no name quarterbacks. But I am going with number two for this entry. The current guy donning number two is Brian Hoyer. Who deserves praise for his work with the New England Patriots over the years, although known more as number 8.
The real MVP of the number two’s however belongs to Doug Flutie.
Already a Boston sports hero for his Hail Mary against Miami in 1984 when he played for Boston College and then donned #22. But he is also a Patriots folk legend for his drop kick in a game against Nick Saban and Miami in 2005 that actually made Bill Belichick smile.
7 – Michael Bishop, Jacoby Brissett
3 – Stephen Gostokowski, Rich Caramillo
4 – Adam Vinatieri, Jarrett Stidham
11 – Julian Edelman, Drew Bledsoe, Tony Eason
The number 11 has been a popular one in Patriots history and this was a very easy one to choose. We will begin with the guy that perhaps most people don’t recognize and that is Tony Eason.
Eason is infamously part of the ESPN 30 for 30 Elway to Marino, as part of the 1983 NFL quarterback first round draft class. He was taken 15th overall by the Patriots a single pick after Buffalo grabbed Jim Kelly, and twelve picks before Miami took Dan Marino.
Actually interestingly enough, the entire AFC East took a QB in the first round of this draft. Baltimore (John Elway), Buffalo (Jim Kelly), New England (Tony Eason), New York Jets (Ken O’Brien) and Miami (Dan Marino). And Tony Eason out of all of those guys taken in the division ended up being the worst of them all. Welcome to the Patriots pre- Robert Kraft.
Drew Bledsoe was the first overall pick of the 1993 draft and helped the Patriots gain relevancy during the 90’s. Much is debated about Bledsoe, whether or not he is actually an overrated Boston sports figure to which I say “phooey” (I think that’s how you say it).
While the wins and losses show a Matt Stafford quality quarterback, the stats for Bledsoe in his prime were right up there at the top of the league. Not only that but he helped get the Pats to a Super Bowl where he lost to a superior Green Bay team. And he was as tough as nails. I remember going to a game where he broke his finger, had a nail put in it and still played. Or how about the Mo Lewis hit, where he literally had broken ribs and a collapsed lung and went back out for the next drive before eventually letting Brady take over, forever, and then almost freaking died. The man deserves more respect.
And then there is Julian Edelman, we all know what Edelman brings to the table I don’t have to spell it out for anyone. Probably the most clutch receiver the Patriots have ever had, especially during January and February. The Patriots don’t win their last three Super Bowls without Edelman, hell maybe don’t even make it to the big game without him.
I firmly believe that Julian Edelman will die on the football field someday. He’s like Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump, believing that it is in fact his destiny to sacrifice his life on the field of battle. The training staff will tell him it’s only a mild hamstring pull and he will grab their shirt collar, mustering all the strength left in his body and tell them “Leave me, I’ll cover you, I’ll be alright, it was an honor serving with you…. NOW GO, GET OUT OF HERE!”
Anyways have fun getting lost in the Julian Edelman rabbit hole on YouTube, there’s just too many big plays to count.
14 – Steve Grogan, Brandin Cooks
16 – Matt Cassel, Jim Plunkett
19 – Brandon Lafell, Donte’ Stallworth, Malcolm Mitchell, Tom Tupa
24 – Ty Law, Darrelle Revis, Stephon Gilmore
This might be the best number out of the bunch. It’s a number synonymous with shut down corners in New England (forget about Kyle Arrington, Jonathan Wilhite and Cyrus Jones for me).
Darrelle Revis spent just a single season in New England but I think we would all agree, he was the dominant force we all came to expect when he showed up in Foxboro.
Stephon Gilmore has been special since arriving in New England. A good but not great player in Buffalo has quickly turned into arguably the best corner in the game under Belichick’s tutelage. So much so that Gilmore got the rare honor of being a 99 overall in this years upcoming Madden. That isn’t just good, that is absurdly dominant, which he has been for the Patriots since joining the team and donning the number 24.
And of course who could ever forget Ty Law. Arguably the most dominant defender the Patriots had during their first dynasty.
In watching that highlight tape I realized that Ty Law made sooooooooo many incredible picks. He was absolutely incredible. And for what it’s worth, no matter what Gilmore does with the Pats, for me number 24 will always be Ty Law. Some younger Pats fans might recognize it more as Gilmore, but for me it’s always Law.
22 – Asante Samuel, Stevan Ridley, Dave Meggett
26 – Raymond Clayborn, Sony Michel, Logan Ryan, Eugene Wilson
28 – James White, Corey Dillon, Curtis Martin
32 – Devin McCourty, Antowain Smith
Honestly the 30’s were tough it came down to two numbers which I will mention the second in the honorable mentions category but for me number 32 wins out.
Devin McCourty is the easy first and obvious pick for this category. He has been the most consistent member of the Patriots 2010’s dynasty. He has come up with huge plays for the Pats in his tenure and probably even more so than that has been the glue and emotional leader of the defense.
I mean even Luke Keuchly knows that McCourty is underrated.
Speaking of underrated. The other guy who wore this number is Antowain Smith.
Antowain was a main catalyst for those early Brady, Patriots teams. While Brady was good, and most of all clutch when it mattered, he was still somewhat of a game manager. Step in Antowain Smith who could be a bruising runner between the tackles and have the speed to gallop in the open field. He gets overshadowed by Corey Dillon’s amazing 2004 campaign and then Belichick’s revolving door of running backs in the 2010’s but Antowain was an important and underrated of the early Pats dynasty.
33 – Kevin Faulk, Dion Lewis
34 – Shane Vereen, Tebucky Jones, Sammy Morris, Rex Burkhead
36- Lawyer Milloy, James Sanders
39 – Laurence Maroney, Danny Woodhead, Sam Cunningham
42 – Ronnie Lippett, Benjarvus Green-Ellis
The Law Firm! BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a fan favorite. And probably one of the most Patriots players who ever Patrioted. He literally just did his job. He was never flashy, never ran over linebackers or juked safeties from their cleats. Nope, he just ran to the hole he was suppose to run to and kept on running until he was tackled. And we love that in New England.
Ronnie Lippett to be honest I don’t know much about him. He was a linebacker for the team from 1983 to 1991. Never made an All-Pro team or a pro bowl. He was just sort of there. Think of him like an Elandon Roberts or Gary Guyton. He was just there and we appreciate that, thanks for wearing number 42.
44 – Marc Edwards, Heath Evans, James Ihedigbo
54 – Tedy Bruschi, Dont’a Hightower
Another easy one and probably a number a lot of you thought of when you decided to click on this blog. Thanks by the way.
Let’s start with the current guy on this list in Hightower. He has been an instrumental part of the Patriots defense ever since he was drafted by the team. And it needs to be said that since drafting him, they have not won a super bowl without him playing in said game. And in the three Super Bowls he has played in he’s made huge plays in each one. We all know he stuffed Marshawn Lynch at the one to set up Malcolm Butler. Then made the strip sack on Matt Ryan to spark the 28-3 comeback and had a big sack in the super bowl against the Rams and helped the defense shut down that high flying offense.
For those plays alone, Hightower belongs on this list as one of the best to play in a Patriots uniform.
And then that brings us to Tedy Bruschi. The ultimate New England Patriot. I can’t really put into words what Tedy Bruschi means to me, he was the New England Patriots of the early 2000’s. So many iconic moments to mention. His pick six of Jay Fiedler in the snow, sliding into the end zone and then the fans throwing snow balls in the air to celebrate. Him ripping the ball out of Dominic Rhodes arms, going to the sideline and saying “They ain’t got it” to his post game interview basically telling Bill Polian, the Colts and the NFL you can change all the rules you want we’ll still beat you. His stroke after the 2004 season and returning from that. And even now on ESPN where he defends the Patriots and stands up for them to the media when no one else will.
Personally my favorite Bruschi moment wasn’t on television. I was at the Pats vs. Browns game in 2003. A cold, rainy offensively challenged type of day. And during a timeout, they starting playing “Welcome to the Jungle” and during the opening riff, you get the sound that’s like a scream. And they showed Bruschi on the screen during that part and the dude is just screaming along with it so hard there are veins popping out of his neck. That was awesome.
50 – Mike Vrabel, Rob Ninkovich, Chase Winovich
52 – Ted Johnson, Elandon Roberts
53 – Chris Slade, Kyle Van Noy, Larry Izzo
55 – Willie McGinest, Brandon Spikes, Junior Seau
63 – Joe Andruzzi, Dan Connolly
We’re in the offensive lineman section here which is a little tougher but we will go with number 63.
Joe Andruzzi is a very recognizable name for Patriots fans. He was a guard for the early dynasty teams and a good one at that. He also had two brothers who were New York fire fighters who risked their lives at the World Trade Center on 9/11, making that event hit home even more for Pats fans than it already did.
And of course we all remember Dan Connolly for this…
What a glorious moment for the “hogs.” “We are bigger, we are fatter, we are stronger, we are HOGS” is what my high school lineman always shouted at the end of warm ups together. You could play all the pump up music you want, yelling the word “Hogs” at the top of your lungs got your heart racing.
There is also no feeling than being a big guy, who never gets to touch the ball and running in wide open space with the pigskin. An unforgettable feeling.
77 – Nick Kaczur, Trent Brown, Mike Compton, Nate Solder
Another offensive lineman group. All of these guys at some point of their careers were tackles. Trent Brown was a monster and a good one year rental for the Pats. Kaczur was a main stay on the line in the late 2000’s, surprisingly does not have a ring.
Mike Compton, played just three seasons with the Pats but I’ll never forget this guy, I thought he was the ultimate bad ass with his black tinted visor.
And then of course Nate Solder, he has now since made a ton of money and done nothing with the New York Giants but he was a serviceable and decent tackle during his years in Foxboro. And is also the proud recipient of a Tom Brady touchdown pass.
87 – Rob Gronkowski, Ben Coates, David Givens
It’s incredibly interesting to me that two of the best tight ends in NFL history, both wore number 87 for the New England Patriots. I hope some of you remember Ben Coates. He was Gronk before Gronk.
He was doing just silly stupid stuff from a position that in the 90’s was still basically just a smaller tackle. Or a fullback who lined up on the line of scrimmage. Put some respect on Ben Coates’ name.
And of course we have Gronk. Yes he is now a Buccaneer, it sucks, it hurts but he was incredible for the Pats. For my money, and of course I am biased, he’s the best tight end the NFL has ever seen. And let’s not forget his final catch in a Pats uniform was basically to win the super bowl. Thanks Gronk.
I can’t wait for the next Patriots tight end who puts on number 87, dude will be a stud.
I’ll be honest I almost forgot to add David Givens to this list. But yes he also wore number 87. He was good, never quite number one receiver good but he did his job.
80 – Troy Brown, Danny Amendola, Irving Fryar
83 – Wes Welker, Deion Branch
86 – Stanley Morgan, David Patten
93 – Richard Seymour, Lawrence Guy, Andre Carter
This list is carried mostly by Richard Seymour. Who somehow is not in the NFL Hall of Fame. He was a force on the defensive line and could line up anywhere. He was a tackle and an end, just depended on the situation and the game plan that week, which is incredibly useful. To have a guy with that size, strength and speed be able to line up anywhere is special.
Seymour is a sort of forgotten figure of that early Patriots dynasty. Overshadowed by guys like Law, Bruschi, McGinest and Harrison.
Lawrence Guy doesn’t have the same pedigree as a Seymour but Belichick obviously loves him. He’s sort of a glue guy on that defensive line, he’s not a sack artist but has started in 15 games in all three seasons since joining the Pats.
Andre Carter enjoyed his lone pro bowl season while wearing number 93. He registered 10 sacks with the Pats in 2011, the only season in his 13 year career where he wore number 93.
91 – Bobby Hamilton, Jamie Collins
95 – Chandler Jones, Roman Phifer, Tully Banta-Cain
97 – Jarvis Green, Alan Branch
Well there you have it the best numbers in Patriots franchise history. For my money I would have to argue that 24 is probably the best most impactful, followed by 11 and then 54. That is my top three of Patriots numbers. Feel free to disagree with my picks, that’s what opinions are for, just make sure to tweet them at me so I can tell you that you’re wrong.