Training camp will be starting up before we know it, so all this month Last Word on Pro Football will be looking at the three faces of every NFL franchise. Here we will look at the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, who have some of the most iconic faces of the entire NFL. No team has had more success in this millennium than the Patriots, but even limiting it to the current roster, there are some absolute legends.
Faces of the Franchise: New England Patriots
This may be the least surprising name in this entire series. Not only is Tom Brady the face of the Patriots, but he is also one of the faces of the NFL. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that he is a legendary player that will be talked about for decades to come. Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time and a true model of success. 30 years from now, when watching a great young quarterback, people will sit back and say, “Wow, he could be the next Tom Brady.”
What is there to say about him that hasn’t been said a million times before? He has won six Super Bowls and four Super Bowl MVPs. He holds basically every single playoff passing record there is, but his brilliance is not limited to the postseason. Brady has won three regular season MVPs, he holds the record for the most wins by a quarterback all time, and he is also in the top five in every major regular season passing category, including completions (fourth), yards (fourth), touchdowns (third) and passer rating (fourth).
Translation: he is simply the best to ever do it. Brady seems to get better with age and going into his age-42 season, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. A lot of people thought his career was over back in 2014, and all he has done since then is go to four Super Bowls in five years and win three of them. The former sixth-round pick has been proving haters wrong his whole career, and he will continue to do so until he retires.
Brady is essentially the Michael Jordan of football, and we should all appreciate that we have been able to watch him play live for this long.
Unlike Brady, Julian Edelman is not an all-time great. But he is one of the most reliable receivers in the NFL and definitely deserving off the second spot on this list. He is coming off a season in which he played just 12 games but still led the Patriots with 850 receiving yards. He had an unbelievable postseason as well, capped off by his MVP performance in Super Bowl LIII.
Edelman is always one of Brady’s favorite targets, and I would not expect that to change this season. He is a great player, teammate and a true Patriot through and through. Bill Belichick has praised Edelman many times for being an unbelievable competitor. In the 25-point comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, it was Edelman who helped to keep the team engaged and confident even when hope seemed lost.
Edelman is one of the best postseason receivers of all time, ranking second in playoff receptions and receiving yards behind Jerry Rice. He is yet another example of a Patriots success story, transforming a seventh-round quarterback and into one of the best wide receivers in franchise history. It is a true testament to his athleticism and work ethic that he has been able to perform as well as he has on so many stages. For as long as he plays, Edelman will always be one of the first players associated with the Patriots.
This was definitely the toughest spot to fill. There are so many deserving candidates on both sides of the ball, including Sony Michel, Stephon Gilmore, and Dont’a Hightower. But I decided to go with the rock of the Patriots defensive corps, Devin McCourty.
McCourty has been in the Patriots secondary since 2010, and he has served numerous roles during his tenure. He has made the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team as both a cornerback and safety, and he also returned kicks early in his career. Nowadays, he is the defensive captain and makes his home at the free safety position.
McCourty is the definition of solidarity, as he has started all but five games for the Patriots since he was drafted in 2010. Missing just five games in nine NFL seasons is an unbelievable accomplishment, but he hasn’t just played, he’s played exceptionally well.
He always ranks at or near the top of the team in tackles and is a lurking interception threat in the secondary. He’s one of the hardest working players on the field and seems to be involved in every defensive play in some capacity. Despite having 21 career interceptions, he never had a pick-six until last season. That changed when he returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills.
McCourty is probably the most recognizable face on the Patriots defense, and for good reason. He has been their most consistent defensive player this decade. He’s a future Patriots Hall of Famer and is certainly deserving of a current face of the franchise spot.
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