Sure, there have been bumps along the way. But New England Patriots fans truly are witnessing a golden era for what's become the model NFL franchise.
ESPN provided more proof of this Wednesday while rolling out an ambitious project that anoints the single greatest player at every position as the NFL enters its 100th season.
The Patriots, as you may expect, were impressively well-represented, with four players/coaches making the list: Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback, John Hannah as the greatest offensive guard, Adam Vinatieri as the greatest kicker and Bill Belichick as the greatest coach.
Think about that for a second: By at least one media outlet's judgment, the Patriots currently employ the greatest quarterback and the greatest coach in NFL history. During the early 2000s, they had three of the 23 greatest players/coaches ever in the same room.
No wonder New England has six championships, nine Super Bowl appearances and 16 AFC East titles since Belichick and Brady came to town in 2000.
(One could also make the case for Rob Gronkowski as the greatest tight end of all time, although Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez is a worthy choice.)
Hannah's Hall of Fame career shouldn't get lost in the modern-day shuffle, either: The 10-time first-team All-Pro is considered one of the best offensive lineman in NFL history, period, and ESPN included an apt quote about Hannah from former Patriots coach Ron Erhardt:
"I used to see people all the time who just would dive to get out of his way."
It's also worth noting that Brady, Belichick and Vinatieri are the only three active NFL members on ESPN's all-time team, as Vinatieri is still kicking for the Indianapolis Colts while Brady and Belichick gear up for their 20th season together.
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