Patriots

Great Patriots Debates: Which draft class is the best in Patriots history?

Great Patriots Debates: Which draft class is the best in Patriots history?

If you have a nose for content, you best stay ever vigilant. So just because it’s July, just because it’s the NFL’s dead period, just because Senator Phil Perry and I were blowing a commanding lead in our golf match against Ted Johnson and big-hitting Tim Curran, that doesn’t mean I was asleep at the switch when Ted observed that the 1995 Patriots draft has GOT to be the best draft the Patriots ever had. 

“I don’t know about that,” I said. “I think there were a couple in the ‘70s where they cleaned up too. And the draft after you came in was pretty good too.” 

And that’s how you wander right into content. 

Take Ted’s statement, my pushback, do a little research, throw together another Great Patriots Debate and let the people decide. 

Which was the greatest draft in Patriots history?

There have been plenty of good draft classes over the years. And in the past decade, the ones that stand out came in 2009 (Patrick Chung, Sebastian Vollmer and Julian Edelman), 2010 (Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez), 2011 (Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Marcus Cannon) and 2012 (Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Nate Ebner). 

But when we’re talking about the most impactful hauls, there are four that stand out.  

Ironically, the draft that clinched Bill Parcells’ decision to jump ship after the 1996 season is one of them. 

The first-round pick in 1996 was wide receiver Terry Glenn (7th overall), and the draft class also included safety Lawyer Milloy (36th overall) and linebacker/DE Tedy Bruschi (86th overall). Glenn, despite all his issues later in his Patriots career, helped the Patriots get to the Super Bowl that season with 90 catches for 1,132 yards. In his five seasons in New England he had 329 catches for 4,669 yards and 22 touchdowns. And that was in 63 games. 

Milloy was very much the emotional leader for the Patriots secondary from 1996 through 2002, being selected to three Pro Bowls, once being All-Pro and helping the team to its win in SB36. 

Bruschi, of course, is a Patriots Hall of Famer and was with the team until 2008, winning three Super Bowls. 

Now for 1995. And Johnson makes a damn good point. 

Ty Law was the first pick the team made, 23rd overall. He went to four Pro Bowls, was a two-time All-Pro and will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month. 

Johnson was a force in the middle of the defense, one of the best run-stopping linebackers in the league with 758 tackles in 125 games. 

And Martin, though his career in New England was too short-lived because of the poison-pill offer sheet the Jets signed him to in 1998, had 3,799 yards in 45 games over three seasons with 37 touchdowns (32 rushing).  

The Patriots also got a solid center, Dave Wohlabaugh, in the fourth round of that draft and a serviceable corner named Jimmy Hitchcock in the third round. 

Another Parcells draft, his first, also was stacked. The haul in 1993 included Drew Bledsoe with the first overall pick, Charis Slade (31st) and eighth-rounder Troy Brown. The team also spent second-rounders on serviceable players Todd Rucci, a guard, wide receiver Vincent Brisby and special-teamer/safety Corwin Brown.  

The other two drafts in the mix came in the mid-70s. 

Patriots Hall of Famers Raymond Clayborn (16th overall) and wide receiver Stanley Morgan (25th) were the first two picks in 1977, followed by shifty running back Horace Ivory and tight end Don Hasselbeck in the second. The latter two were bit players but talented. The first two were brilliant. 

Finally, there’s 1976. The Patriots had three first-rounders that year and they hit on all of them with cornerback Mike Haynes (fifth overall), center Pete Brock, safety Tim Fox and role-playing running back Ike Forte.

Haynes, like Martin two decades later, had the best years of his career elsewhere. But Haynes was outstanding with the Patriots from 1976 through ’82, making six Pro Bowls, picking off 28 passes and having one of the best seasons a punt returner’s ever had in ’76 with a 13.5 yard average on 45 returns and two touchdowns. Brock was the 12th overall pick and he played his entire career in New England before retiring in 1987. Fox was the 21st overall pick and he was consistently one of the league’s better defensive backs. He was a Pro Bowler in 1980 before being moved to San Diego.  

So you have 1996 with Glenn, Milloy and Bruschi as the headliners. 1995 with Law, Johnson and Martin. 1977 with Clayborn and Morgan as the headliners. And ’76 with Haynes, Brock and Fox. 

In the end, I have to agree with Ted Johnson. The 1995 draft is the best draft in Patriots history. Who do you have? 

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Agent Don Yee takes aim at the 'collegiate sports industrial complex'

Agent Don Yee takes aim at the 'collegiate sports industrial complex'

Don Yee is well known as the agent for Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Sean Payton and others.

But his longstanding effort to shine a light on the inequities of what he calls the “collegiate sports industrial complex” may wind up being as impactful on the game of football as the work he’s done with those greats.

This week, I spoke at length to Yee on our podcast about college football at a crossroads in this summer of COVID-19.

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In Yee’s view, the awakening that’s gone on among athletes as they’ve been strung along for months by the Dumb and Dumber coalition of coaches, college presidents and administrators has been building.

“It’s a situation that’s been gaining steam in my view for at least the last 10 to 12 years,” Yee said. “There’s been such a dramatic influx of money into the collegiate sports industrial complex that when you’ve got that kind of money coming in there’s just been a single-minded focus on generating more and more money and that focus unfortunately has taken over … college administrators, college presidents, athletic directors and coaches.

“They’ve actually taken their eye off the ball in that they have completely overlooked the fact that they have a labor force that isn’t being compensated,” Yee added. “In their single-minded pursuit of every single dollar they’ve forgotten about the care and concern of the athletes.”

Patriots Talk Podcast: Don Yee and the remedy for college football’s ‘industrial complex’ | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Everyone knows big-time college sports drips with hypocrisy and greed. It’s a shell game in which literally thousands of people wind up splitting the billions of dollars generated every year and the only ones that never see a legal buck of it are the players.

The pretzel logic used to justify it is laughable. The best way to enjoy the product and the games is, literally, to ignore the reality.

Yee has, over the past decade, forced people to look at it.

“Over the decades we’ve created a unique system that doesn’t exist anywhere in the developed world,” he said. “Nowhere in the developed world does this exist. Where you have a system, a small group of football players every year – there’s 130 Division I schools and among those 130 schools let’s say 50 to 60 are the most critical players to that enterprise for that particular season.

"So it’s a few thousand young men and what they do is strap on the equipment and roll out there for an increasingly long season – now as many as 14 games – and go out there and put their bodies on the line to generate substantial amounts of revenue to support the lifestyles of the administrators, the coaches, the coaches in the non-revenue sports, all the non-revenue sports programs and athletes which then – by extension – helps support the U.S. Olympic program (as a breeding ground for the athletes before becoming Olympians).

“The success of the football program also supports the very existence of the university because if the football program has success, the university can then initiate a piggybacking off the excitement and success of the football team and begin multi-billion capital campaigns to build new buildings on campus etc. So all of this is due to the efforts of a very small group of young men every single year. We tolerate it. Ultimately, we get distracted by the pom-poms and the bands.”

Yee and I discussed so much more, including whether he thinks there will be an NFL equivalent to the NBA’s G-League (yes), details on his new venture which will help teams easily find the players they now have to kick over rocks to discover (like Malcolm Butler) and how the change in college will be shepherded in by the players.

Joe Montana: Tom Brady hinted at displeasure with Patriots at Super Bowl LIV

Joe Montana: Tom Brady hinted at displeasure with Patriots at Super Bowl LIV

Joe Montana has wondered aloud how the New England Patriots could let Tom Brady get away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Based on the conversation he had with Brady in February, though, maybe he should have seen the QB's exit coming.

During an interview Wednesday on ESPN 97.5 Houston's "Jake Asman Show," Montana revealed he talked with Brady at Super Bowl LIV and got the sense the 20-year veteran didn't like his situation.

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"I spoke to Tom while we were back at the Super Bowl," Montana said. "I don't think he was happy with the way things were progressing there and his ability to have input, and I think that was a big decision for him to make to leave there."

Our Tom E. Curran and others have reported that Brady wasn't thrilled about having less of a say in the Patriots' offensive game plan last season, especially after New England mustered just 13 points in a Wild Card Round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Montana's recollection of his conversation with Brady -- the two QBs were part of an "NFL 100" pregame ceremony at Super Bowl LIV -- certainly lends credence to those reports and suggests Brady was ready to move on from the Patriots after 20 seasons.

It sounds like the 43-year-old quarterback picked the right destination, too: Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich apparently joked that all he has to do with Brady under center is "get out of the way."