Every year the Patriots Hall of Fame committee discusses nominees for that year's induction class. This year featured an additional wrinkle.
Not only was the group forced to meet via video conference due to restrictions associated with the coronavirus, but it was time to select the Patriots All-Decade Team for the 2010s as well.
Most of the spots were fairly straightforward – Tom Brady as the quarterback didn't generate much debate even among a group that generally struggles to agree on lunch. Same for Rob Gronkowski at tight end, Devin McCourty at safety and a few others.
But there were some positions that wound up leaving the crew agreeing to disagree. Topping that list was running back. The format called for two wide receivers, one running back, one fullback and a flex position to be used on any skilled position we chose.
Basically the discussions came down to three players for two spots – James White, LeGarrette Blount and Danny Amendola. Most of the crew agreed on Julian Edelman and Wes Welker as the wide receivers, but many argued over the merits of White vs. Blount as the running back.
Some felt Blount was the more traditional ball carrier and deserved the spot, leaving White's third-down traits to fight it out with Amendola for the flex spot. Others disagreed and felt White's usage and production warranted more, leaving the flex spot to Amendola or Blount.
This was a debate that I enjoyed taking part in but really didn't find all that difficult. White was clearly my choice as the running back and Amendola's litany of big plays in big games earned him the flex spot on my team.
That led to the next heated spot – offensive line. Most agreed Nate Solder (tackle), Logan Mankins (guard) and David Andrews (center) had spots. That left Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason for the other guard and Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon for the other tackle.
Thuney-Mason to me was a true coin flip. Both have been solid performers since arriving in New England but I felt Mason's athleticism earned him the slight edge. Vollmer-Cannon generated some discussion but this was another one I felt was easier than most as Vollmer's performance earlier in the decade got my vote.
So, my offense went as follows:
QB – Tom Brady
RB – James White
FB – James Develin
WR – Julian Edelman
WR – Wes Welker
TE – Rob Gronkowski
Flex – Danny Amendola
T – Nate Solder
T – Sebastian Vollmer
G – Logan Mankins
G – Shaq Mason
C – David Andrews
The process unfolded in a similar fashion on defense. The secondary was largely academic with McCourty and Patrick Chung at safety and Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore at corner. There was room for a couple of debates among the front seven, however.
First we had to decide how to treat Rob Ninkovich. I opted to use him as an outside linebacker, opening up a spot for Trey Flowers alongside Chandler Jones at defensive end. Inside them at tackle it were Lawrence Guy and Vince Wilfork.
The linebackers – two each at inside and outside – created the final question. In the end I chose Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower inside with Ninkovich and Jamie Collins outside. That left Kyle Van Noy off my ballot, and he easily could have replaced either Mayo or Collins depending on how one chose to align the versatile playmaker.
That left me with this defense:
DE – Chandler Jones
DE – Trey Flowers
DT – Lawrence Guy
DT – Vince Wilfork
OLB – Rob Ninkovich
OLB – Jamie Collins
ILB – Dont'a Hightower
ILB – Jerod Mayo
CB – Malcolm Butler
CB – Stephon Gilmore
S – Devin McCourty
S – Patrick Chung
The special teams portion of my ballot was without incident:
K – Stephen Gostkowski
P – Ryan Allen
Spt – Matthew Slater
Ret – Julian Edelman
Coach – Bill Belichick