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View from Above: Playing the Fame game

Happy New Year!

Despite the calendar telling us it's still April, the 2017 season is actually here.

It's just in workout-mode, however, as all NFL teams begin their "offseason" programs this week.  The league may say this is a voluntary program, but most players and teams know better.  Championships can be won – or lost – based on the amount of work put in during this time of the calendar year.

Phase One of the program, from the NFL Players' Association, limits players to four hours a day for two weeks, limited to strength and conditioning activities.  Teams can only specify two hours for players to be at their facility, and players can spend the remaining time in the weight room or in other preparatory ways.

Voluntary minicamps and organized team activities (OTA's) will soon follow.  But for those who patiently wait for the pigskin to start flying again, your wait is just about over.

Offseason? When is that, exactly?

John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and is beginning his 25th year as the Patriots' stadium voice.  Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 29 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame, and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.

What is a Hall-of-Famer to you?

Someone who excels?  Someone whose ability and performance stands out (or stood out) above others? Is there a time frame involved?  

Yes, yes and probably yes.  But there is no real hard-and-fast definition to the term.  Deciding who belongs in a Hall-of-Fame is as subjective a task as deciding what you'd like to have for lunch or dinner – we all have different tastes, different ideas, different standards of qualification as to what pleases our palates.

Or in this case, what satisfies our hall-worthy criteria.

Maybe you won't agree, but from this point of view a Patriots' Hall-of-Fame candidate must have been dominant, as a player or personality.  Any NFL franchise with five world championships to its credit (only the Steelers have six) has a history that is replete with successful careers, and more than just a simple measure of wins and losses to its credit.  

A team that has won as often as the Patriots have won, especially over the past 25 years, has done something right.  Or perhaps, they've been privileged to have hired and brought in personnel that have done things right.  And it had to start somewhere.

It's one thing to note a great career.  It's another thing entirely to show someone who, if it weren't for their presence to begin with, is responsible for the resurrection of a moribund organization that could only once dream of dominance.  And in turn, someone who is indirectly responsible for the many great players and coaches to follow his initial influence on the team so many years ago.

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Yes, I'm speaking of coach Bill Parcells.  He's already in Canton, Ohio as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  That he hasn't yet been included in the Patriots' Hall of Fame is more than just a slight – it shows how subjective opinions can be.  Is there any reason – any reason at all – for him NOT to be considered an all-time New England great?

I've found the anti-Parcells sentiment to be narrow-sighted and petty.  

What the Patriots needed in the early '90's is exactly what Parcells delivered.  A no-nonsense, tough guy, Jersey-esque "boss man" way of doing business "my way or the highway."  It was the only way to shake the team from its' previous also-ran status, taking two steps backward for every step forward over the previous 30 years.  

New England's history has had plenty of great players prior to the first title in 2001, and several are deservedly in the Patriots' Hall.  But many never had knowledgeable or capable management on the same page as the staff, and Parcells' tenure was the first real instance of management and staff becoming one-and-the-same.  You know what happened next. 

Why is he left out?  

The bitter divorce with Robert Kraft?  His departure following a Super Bowl to the rival New York Jets?  Taking a Hall of Fame running back in Curtis Martin with him?  All instances likely played a part in how history has been recalled since that time.  But to view only these events as a cause or reason why Bill Parcells isn't a Patriot Hall-of-Famer is to ignore the bigger picture.

That he's not included – yet – in the Patriots' Hall is to ignore history.  True history also includes the bad with the good, otherwise, it's not an accurate story.  And as many fans know, his time in New England wasn't perfect, but it put the Patriots on the road to where they have arrived years later as one of the dominant teams of any era in sport.  

The Patriots' road to present-day NFL supremacy had to start somewhere.  Bill Belichick undoubtedly learned much from his past, including those he once worked for, did he not?  Whether it's up to the Hall of Fame nomination committee, or ultimately the Kraft family, denying Parcells' part in building New England history by not recognizing him in this manner is a refusal to admit the truth.

And the truth is, he's a Hall-of-Famer in every sense of the phrase.  Canton already says so.  It's time Foxboro came around, too.

As for the players...

The problem is only going to get worse as the days and years go by.  That is, trying to decide who should be included into the Patriots' Hall of Fame is like trying to decide which of your children is your favorite.

It's an impossible task.

You will soon have your chance to decide upon the entrant for 2017, by voting for one of three ultimate finalists.  Considering there are several noteworthy players from New England's past who deserve the honor, it seems appropriate to consider players from the historical past, the recent past, and coaches or management as well.

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From the historical past, you can't go wrong with either Raymond Clayborn or Leon Gray.  Clayborn was a finalist last year prior to the selection of Kevin Faulk, and Gray was a part of the offensive line that set the NFL record for rushing yards in a single season in 1978.  Playing tackle next to Hall-of-Fame guard John Hannah, you can make the argument of the two creating the best left side to an offensive line in league history.

In the recent past, was there a more dominant player than Richard Seymour?  Playing as a tackle or as a pass-rushing end, Seymour was a personal and physical presence on the earlier championship-caliber Patriots' teams, and meant as much to the development of future players as he did to wins and losses on the field.  Hard to go wrong with an All-Pro player, or with a guy like Mike Vrabel.  Much in the same manner as last year's recipient Kevin Faulk, Vrabel was a Patriot who was willing to do anything to help his team win.  And he often did.

Coaches?  Management?  Aren't some of these people as worthy as the athletes themselves, based on their abilities to put players in a position to win?  For me, it starts with Parcells as mentioned above.  But Chuck Fairbanks represents a significant era in New England's history from the '70's, as head coach of the 1976 and '78 teams.  

Those are considered two of the best teams, at least in Patriots' history, to not have won a championship.

Happy New Year!

Despite the calendar telling us it's still April, the 2017 season is actually here.

It's just in workout-mode, however, as all NFL teams begin their "offseason" programs this week.  The league may say this is a voluntary program, but most players and teams know better.  Championships can be won – or lost – based on the amount of work put in during this time of the calendar year.

Phase One of the program, from the NFL Players' Association, limits players to four hours a day for two weeks, limited to strength and conditioning activities.  Teams can only specify two hours for players to be at their facility, and players can spend the remaining time in the weight room or in other preparatory ways.

Voluntary minicamps and organized team activities (OTA's) will soon follow.  But for those who patiently wait for the pigskin to start flying again, your wait is just about over.

Offseason? When is that, exactly?

John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and is beginning his 25th year as the Patriots' stadium voice.  Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 29 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame, and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.

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