I'm spending 50 days ranking the top 50 players of the Bill Belichick Era, from No. 50 down to No. 1. (Click here for a criteria on how I made my selections, plus to see who No. 50 was.


Today we reach . . . .

Years with Patriots: 2001-2003
Games: 37
Playoff Games: 3
Honors: Two-time Super Bowl winner

If Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli were going to push their program forward after the demolition/renovation season of 2000, they needed to get players who understood what the hell they were trying to do.

Enter Anthony Pleasant.

The 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive end/tackle flourished under Belichick during his time in Cleveland, with 23 sacks in three seasons from 1993-95 and an absurd six forced fumbles in Belichick’s last year in Cleveland. Pleasant was also with the Jets when Pioli and Belichick were there under Bill Parcells.

By 2001, Pleasant was 33 and nearing the end. But his job wasn’t limited to the physical side of football. It inclouded . . .

-- Explaining to players like Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson and Brandon Mitchell that, if they did their jobs and didn’t worry about the guy next to him doing his, the defense would work.

-- Being a complete, no-BS guy who was all football, all the time and barely said a word was his other off-field role.


That persona trickled down to players on both sides of the ball. He was their Mufasa.

He also played pretty damn well in 2001, starting every game, coming up with six sacks, four passes defensed and -- improbably -- two picks during the Super Bowl season of 2001. Pleasant’s role was reduced in 2002 and by 2003, he was inactive for all but a handful of games and was a mentor in pads.

The success of the Patriots program is undeniably linked to the way in which they do things within the program. Pleasant’s part in passing that along in the critical season of 2001 can’t be overlooked.