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New England Patriots - Greatest Sports Franchises

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Founded in 1959 as the Boston Patriots, the New England Patriots struggled through their first years in the league. Despite playoff showings during the 1970s, and even a Super Bowl appearance 1986, the team was fruitless until the 1990s, and even then they didn’t win a Super Bowl until after the new millennium. What turned things around were the additions of Bill Belichick as coach and Tom Brady as quarterback – the team won their first championship after the 2001 season, and then won two more during that decade. continues our series on the Greatest Sports Franchises of All Time with a look at the New England Patriots.

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The History of the New England Patriots

This team had a slow start, but has recently become one of the most successful NFL franchises in history. Welcome to, and today we’ll be continuing our series of the most successful sports franchises with a look at the New England Patriots.

Boston Patriots

The New England Patriots can actually trace their roots to the American Football League. In fact, when the Boston Patriots joined the AFL in 1959, they were the last of eight teams to join the fledgling league. After the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, the club was placed in the AFC East and was renamed the New England Patriots.

Early Struggles

The first few decades of the Patriots’ existence were generally uneventful, fruitless and frustrating. The team did make the playoffs in 1976 and ’78, and even made a Super Bowl appearance in 1986. However, in that game the team was beaten by the powerful Chicago Bears 46-10. In 1990, the club went 1-15.

Robert Kraft Buys the Team

Ownership came and went. In 1994, the club was acquired by Robert Kraft, and it was at that point the team’s fortunes began to change. Just one year prior, the franchise had changed its uniforms and also hired former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells, and this was another move that energized the team.

Parcells Era

The Parcells era saw a radical improvement: Former number one draft pick Drew Bledsoe from Washington State led the Patriots to clinch two playoff berths and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXI. However, in that match the Pats lost to a young Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers 35-21. Parcells was eventually replaced by Pete Carroll, and he led the team to two more playoff appearances before being let go in 1999.

The Turnaround

It was then that the Pats started their path to become one of the greatest sports franchises ever.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady

Defensive specialist Bill Belichick was hired in 2000, and he forever changed the team. Another pivotal moment came during the second game of the 2001 season when Bledsoe was hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. Bledsoe suffered a chest injury, and was then replaced by the young Tom Brady. Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl championship that season, and went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Three Super Bowls in Four Years

Brady led the Pats to a total of three Super Bowl Championships during the decade, in 2001, 2003 and 2004. With this record, the Pats became the first club since the Dallas Cowboys to win three Super Bowls in four years. In 2007, they went 16-0, but lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Famous Names

Despite the team’s early struggles, the franchise did manage to produce a number of great players: names like John Hannah, Mike Haynes, Stanley Morgan, Andre Tippet, Ty Law and Randy Moss all wore a Pats uniform during their careers.


After moving to their new permanent home of Gillette Stadium in 2002, the Patriots made their home in Foxborough, Massachusetts. While the Pats trail Pittsburgh and Dallas for most Super Bowl appearances, they do hold a record with their six Super Bowl appearances in 25 years.

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