In the spirit of March brackets, Boston.com launched its own: Voting to decide who is Boston’s greatest-ever athlete. The #GOATMadness bracket carries a full 64-person field, so go vote.
Tom Brady elevated the New England Patriots to unparalleled heights, but the successful lineage traces back to the earliest days of the franchise.
The Boston Patriots played their first home game at Boston University in 1960. Gino Cappelletti was a rookie on that inaugural squad, an All-Star the next year, and the MVP three seasons later. The team’s history is studded with storied names like his, especially in the Brady-Belichick era, and Boston.com assembled the best of the best in a March Madness-style bracket.
We chose nine of the greatest to ever take the field in red, white, and blue for our bracket, and you can cast your vote in the round of 32 as the Patriots legends go up against the rest of Boston’s best.
Here’s a look at the Patriots players in the Boston.com #GOATMadness bracket:
Widely considered the greatest to ever play the game, period, Brady’s resume hardly needs repeating, but here goes: sixth-round pick, five-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Super Bowl MVP, three-time NFL MVP. No. 12 has thrown for 488 touchdowns and 66,159 yards during his 18-year career. The league’s all-time winningest quarterback, with 223 victories to his name, Brady has earned 13 Pro Bowl nods. He beat Stanley Morgan in the round of 64 and faces former teammate Ty Law in the second round.
The 6-foot-2, 265 pound guard was selected to nine Pro Bowls, including 1978 when New England rushed for a then-record 3,165 yards behind him. In his final campaign, in 1985, the Patriots won the AFC championship and appeared in Super Bowl XX. Sports Illustrated declared Hannah to be “the greatest offensive lineman in history” in 1981 and that opinion was cemented when he was chosen for the all-time NFL team in 2000. Hannah knocked off Sam Jones in the first round and takes on Jim Rice next.
Law has five Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections to go along with his three Super Bowl rings. He led the league in interceptions in 1998 and 2005 on his way to 53 career picks. Law also deflected 169 passes and made 838 tackles over the course of his 15 years in the league. The cornerback was named to the 2000s NFL all-decade team for his stellar contributions, including the pick six in Super Bowl XXVI. Law is up against Brady after defeating Eddie Shore in round one.
Flutie’s Hail Mary for Boston College against Miami landed him in our list of greatest athletes, though the Natick High grad went on to play for the Patriots. Flutie won the Heisman trophy in 1984, the week after that last-second toss to Gerard Phelan, to cap an Eagles career in which he threw for 10,579 yards. The 5-foot-10 quarterback played for 20 years in the pros, winning the CFL’s Grey Cup three times and earning a Pro Bowl nod with the Buffalo Bills in 1998. Flutie fell to John Havlicek in the opening round.
Moss was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in February after 14 seasons in the NFL. The 6-foot-4 wide receiver led the league in touchdown receptions five times on his way to four All-Pro selections. In 2007, as Brady’s deep threat, Moss reeled in 23 touchdowns to set the single-season record. He finished his career with 982 catches, 15,292 yards, and 156 trips to the end zone. He beat Gino Cappelletti in the first round and faces Bill Russell in the round of 32.
The 28-year-old is still an active player, for now, but he’s already carved a legacy for himself as one of the best tight ends in NFL history. In 2011, Gronkowski broke the position’s record for touchdowns (17) and receiving yards (1327). The 6-foot-6, 265 pound Super Bowl champion has earned five Pro Bowl nods and five All-Pro selections. Gronkowski can line up to block for Brady or find himself hurtling downfield in pursuit of a toss from Tom. He has 76 touchdowns and 474 receptions in his eight-year tenure in New England. Gronkowski lost to Paul Pierce in the round of 64.
The first overall pick in the 1993 NFL draft ended the Patriots’ postseason drought and brought the team back to prominence. Bledsoe was named to four Pro Bowl teams and led New England to the Super Bowl in 1996, where it fell to the Packers on a 35-21 scoreline. After Bledsoe suffered a sheared blood vessel on a Mo Lewis hit, his replacement led the team to victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. The 6-foot-5 quarterback went on to play for the Bills and Cowboys, finishing his career with 251 touchdowns thrown. Bledsoe beat Uta Pippig in the first round and takes on Ted Williams next.
Before Cappelletti served as one of the voices of the Patriots on the radio, he was one of the stars on the field.”Mr. Patriot” made his debut for the Boston Patriots in 1960 and went on to claim five All-Star awards. The 1964 AFL MVP was both a wide receiver and kicker over the course of his 10-year career. Cappelletti scored 42 touchdowns, kicked 176 field goals, and added 342 extra points to become the team’s all time leading scorer until Adam Vinatieri broke his record in 2005. He lost to Moss in the first round.
Tippett spent his entire 11-year Hall of Fame career in New England. He sacked the quarterback 100 times, the team’s all time record. For reference, Willie McGinest sits in second place on the list with 78 and Chris Slade’s 51 sacks is good enough for third. Tippett earned a Pro Bowl nod in five straight seasons from 1984-88 and was selected to the NFL’s 1980s all-decade team. He forced 14 fumbles in his career and recovered 17, which ties him for first on the Patriots’ all-time list. Tippett lost to Phil Esposito in round one.