Believe it or not, the Tom Brady era in New England is officially over. After nearly two decades with Brady, the Patriots are going to move on to a new quarterback. Obviously, Brady will go down as the best quarterback in franchise history. But it might surprise some people to learn that he isn’t the only quarterback in franchise history. Before New England moves forward, it might be pertinent to look back at some of the best quarterbacks the Patriots have had outside other than Brady.
Plunkett walked into a tough situation with the Patriots, who took him with the first overall pick in 1971 after he won the Heisman the previous year. As a rookie, Plunkett took over a team that went 2-12 the previous season and got the Pats to a respectable 6-8. However, he couldn’t get the Patriots over the hump. After leading New England to a 7-7 record in 1974 despite a weak supporting cast, the Patriots were ready to move on with Steve Grogan.
Parilli was the first true franchise quarterback the Patriots had back when they were the Boston Patriots and played in the AFL. The Hall of Famer played seven seasons for the Patriots, including some of his best seasons. The team had a winning record in five of Parilli’s seven seasons and even reached the AFL Championship Game in 1963.
Eason certainly had his ups and down with the Patriots and is the most forgotten first-round quarterback from the class of 1983. During his three seasons as New England’s full-time starter, the Pats were 31-18 and went to the playoffs twice. After an 11-5 season in 1985, Eason led the Patriots to three road playoff wins, becoming the first team in NFL history to accomplish that while getting New England to the Super Bowl for the first time. Alas, Eason missed his first six throws in Super Bowl XX before getting benched in a blowout loss to the Bears.
Until Brady, Grogan was easily the longest-tenured New England quarterback. The Patriots took him in the fifth round of the 1975 Draft and he ended up saying 16 years. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, as Grogan fought injuries, inconsistency, and constant competition. But he was loyal to the franchise and had some good seasons and ended up playing most of Super Bowl XX after Tony Eason was benched.
Who knows what would have happened if Bledsoe hadn’t been hurt in 2001, forcing New England to turn to Brady. The Patriots might have still won a few Super Bowls with Bledsoe and Brady’s career would have been entirely different. After all, Bledsoe was a three-time Pro Bowler during his eight seasons in New England, getting the Pats to the playoffs four times, including Super Bowl XXXI. Before the injury, he was very much the team’s franchise quarterback and the best the Patriots had before his successor.