Patriots

These were the biggest snubs in Boston.com’s Tom Brady bracket

Linebacker Roman Phifer should have made the cut.

Patriots linebacker Roman Phifer drives Giants Jeremy Schockey to the turf. The Boston Globe

Tom Brady left the Patriots for the Buccaneers two years ago this week, and yet his two-decade career here was so magnificent that we’re still finding new ways to put it in perspective.

For instance, how about this? Brady played with so many superb players during his transcendent Patriots career that a darned good team could be constructed out of those that didn’t make the cut for Boston.com’s March Madness-style bracket of his 64 most valuable Patriots teammates.

Check out this 53-man roster entirely made up of players that did not survive our final cutdown to 64. Maybe we can sneak a few of them onto the practice squad:

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Quarterbacks (2): Matt Cassel, Jacoby Brissett.

Running backs/third-down back/fullback (5): Laurence Maroney, Stevan Ridley, Sony Michel, J.R. Redmond, James Develin

Wide receivers/tight ends (7): Brandon LaFell, Chris Hogan, Brandon Cooks, Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, Daniel Graham, Ben Watson.

Offensive linemen (9): Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Dan Connolly, Nick Kaczur, Tom Ashworth, Mike Compton, Ryan Wendell, Ted Karras.

Defensive linemen (6): Bobby Hamilton, Anthony Pleasant, Ted Washington, Tully Banta-Cain, Lawrence Guy, Andre Carter.

Linebackers (7): Roman Phifer, Rosevelt Colvin, Junior Seau, Bryan Cox, Adalius Thomas, Brandon Spikes, Elandon Roberts.

Safeties (4): Tebucky Jones, Eugene Wilson, James Sanders, Brandon Meriweather.

Cornerbacks (8): J.C. Jackson, Otis Smith, Tyrone Poole, Randall Gay, Ellis Hobbs, Jonathan Jones, Leigh Bodden, Terrell Buckley.

Kicker/punter/long snapper/special teams aces (5): Nick Folk, Ryan Allen, Lonie Paxton, Matt Chatham, Nate Ebner,

I’m telling you, this team would beat the Jets right now.

There were two players for whom I advocated that didn’t make the field of 64. The first was Phifer, who won three rings in four seasons with the Patriots, surpassed 100 tackles twice, and was terrific in pass coverage in some of those memorable wins over Peyton Manning and the Colts. He is perhaps the most underrated player of the dynasty era.

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If it were solely up to me, I’d have put him in over several players that made the field, including a couple of offensive linemen, which might be the deepest positional group (lumping centers, guards and tackles together) of all. And I’d take Phifer over Kyle Van Noy on every Sunday from now until eternity.

I’d also have made J.R. Redmond the No. 64 player in the field. He was a relative short-timer with the Patriots, playing 33 games and starting five from 2000-02, but he made three important plays on the winning drive in the Super Bowl XXXVI upset of the Rams. Who knows which twists and turns history takes if he doesn’t come through.

A few other observations:

— During the Brady years, the Patriots got one-and-done contributions from several quality players: Brian Waters, Chris Long, Brandon Lloyd, Brandin Cooks and Mark Anderson among them.

— David Andrews and Joe Thuney both have excellent credentials for the field of 64. But again, the Patriots have had many, many reliable offensive linemen.

— The 8-9 matchup between Asante Samuel (goat) and Malcolm Butler (hero) won’t count as an upset when Butler wins.

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— Not to influence voting here, but if I had to predict a first-round upset, I’d go with Logan Mankins (11) over Nate Solder (6). Still a shame Mankins never played on a Super Bowl winner. He’s probably the second-best guard in franchise history, after the best guard in any franchise’s history, John Hannah.

— I was tempted to include Terry Glenn, who caught Brady’s first career touchdown pass and remains a personal favorite here, on the 53-man Didn’t Make The Bracket roster. But he did quit on that ’01 team.

— Player who could be a higher seed: David Patten (No. 11-seed), who won three rings and was so reliable, particularly in ’01.

— Player who could be a lower seed: Jimmy Garoppolo (No. 10 seed). He acquitted himself well in two starts during Brady’s ridiculous suspension in 2016, but he basically played six meaningful quarters as a Patriot.

— Forgive me if this is mean, but who was the worst player Brady played with as a Patriot? I nominate Cassius Marsh.

— Kind of funny to remember that Brady was actually teammates with Bruce Armstrong and Chris Slade in 2000. They were left off the list because Brady didn’t really play beyond a few snaps as a rookie.

— I suppose someone could make an argument for Aaron Hernandez or Brandon Browner. It won’t be me.

— Edelman wins this whole thing pretty easily, right? 

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