The Patriots recently announced the finalists for this year's Hall of Fame class with Ty Law, Raymond Clayborn and Bill Parcells earning the nomination. Law would be considered the overwhelming favorite, as many of his contemporaries from those championship teams of the early-2000s will no doubt benefit from their success.
But even though Law is a most-worthy candidate, the fact that the team did not enjoy tremendous success prior to 1994 when Robert Kraft bought the franchise doesn't mean there weren't great players before then. With Clayborn earning a nomination this year, he joins former teammates Leon Gray and Fred Marion among those who have been named finalists. Houston Antwine, a defensive lineman who played in the 1960s, also has been nominated in the past.
Before we delve deeper into draft debates in the coming weeks we thought the time was right to take a look at some of those candidates from days gone by and our Samsonite Make Your Case question asks: Which pre-Kraft Era Patriot is most deserving of making the Patriots Hall of Fame?
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
There may not be a more unfairly overlooked player in Patriots history than Raymond Clayborn. At the start of his career many believed he benefited from the greatness of Mike Haynes on the opposite corner. Then Haynes left and he continued to dominate, only to have his accomplishments diminished by the fact that teams rarely threw at him. Still he managed to establish the team record with 36 interceptions, a total matched but not surpassed by Ty Law. Speaking of Law, Clayborn's style was very reminiscent of No. 24, right down to the physical, pressing nature he used at the line. Clayborn was a terrific cover corner for more than a decade, and early in his career he was also a dangerous and dynamic kickoff returner. His 101-yard touchdown at Baltimore in 1977 remains one of the most electrifying plays in team history. --PP
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Clayborn is absolutely a deserving candidate but I feel Leon Gray is even more so. Gray was a stalwart at left tackle during the late-1970s during a time in which the Patriots were known for their punishing running style. In an era when teams routinely relied on the ground game, nobody did it better than New England and Gray was a huge part of that. Despite the fact that every defense knew they would be getting a steady diet of off tackle running plays with Sam Cunningham & Co. plowing through, few had an answer when it came to getting off of Gray's punishing blocks. In 1978 the Patriots set an all-time NFL record with 3,165 rushing yards, and the majority of those came behind Gray and his much more celebrated teammate John Hannah. There isn't a lot of flash to a left tackle's game, but Gray was as good as it gets. --AH
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.