The Overall Best Defender Of The Patriots Dynasty Era

August 6, 2022
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This is it, folks; we’re finally here. The time is amongst us. That’s right. It’s time to reveal who the number one and best defender during the Brady-Belichick Patriots Dynasty was according to this list and debate why.

Recap Of The Top Five Best Defenders:

The players I’ve ranked on this list are as follows. Take a look if you haven’t yet!

Number One: Tedy Bruschi, LB

When I think of Patriots football, specifically from the dynasty era, a few names and players come to mind: Tom Brady, Adam Vinatieri, and Tedy Bruschi are usually among the first three. I would argue these three players to be some of the most memorable, team-leading, and difference-making players throughout the dynasty era. They were leaders on and off the field, and if you were to take away any three pieces of the Dynasty era Patriots, these are three that would cause the most significant impact to remove.

Early Career

Tedy Bruschi was drafted in the third round of the 1996 NFL by the New England Patriots at 86th overall. A DE in college, Bruschi lacked the size for the position in the NFL, so he was quickly moved to linebacker. During his rookie year, the Patriots played the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, and Tedy recorded two sacks, which stands as the record for sacks by a rookie in a Super Bowl to this day. In addition, he was a noted special teams standout during his rookie season, and it didn’t take long before he settled into a starting linebacker position during the following seasons.

Dynasty Era

From 1997-2004, Bruschi would gradually work his way into the conversation for best defensive playmakers in the NFL. He was a key component and centerpiece of the Patriots’ defense during the dynasty era, voted as defensive captain by his teammates in 2002 and 2003 and five more times throughout his loyal Patriots career.

During his years with the team, Tedy Bruschi was the heart of the Patriots’ defense. He always seemed to be directly involved in the big plays and turnovers that directly correlated to the Patriots’ success in big games. He gave it 100% every time he was on the field and off, continuing his success post-NFL as a beloved analyst/commentator for ESPN. During his retirement ceremony, Bill Belichick is quoted as saying Tedy Bruschi was “the perfect player,” words extremely off-brand to Bill Belichick and words of which the likes have never been uttered through one of his patent sleeveless hoodies since.

Overcoming Adversity

In 2005, during the early months of February, three days after Tedy Bruschi had played in his first and only Pro-Bowl, he awoke with the symptoms of a stroke. Upon inspection, he was diagnosed with one shortly after at Mass General Hospital. He also discovered a congenital heart defect, and as a result of these developments, he announced he would be sitting out for the 2005 NFL season.

From February through October that season, Tedy vigilantly took to the rehabilitation process. He had to go through all the steps of learning to walk and talk again. Still, amazingly just nine months later, Tedy Bruschi decided that he felt ready to make his return to the game of football and was prepared for and suited up for the Patriots’ week eight contest against the Buffalo Bills. A game the Patriots won 21-16 and a game where Bruschi immediately returned to form, recording seven tackles. He was awarded with the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Week that week, and co-Comeback Player of the Year (along with Carolina WR Steve Smith) for that season.

Accolades:

  • Most sacks by a rookie in a Super Bowl (2)
  • First player in NFL history to record four consecutive interceptions for a TD
  • 2005 NFL AP Comeback Player of the Year, One Pro-Bowl selection (2004), Seven-Time NFL Defensive Player of the Week
  • 1074 Career Tackles, 68th All-time. 66th All-time in solo tackles with 680. 30 1/2 Career sacks and 45 tackles for loss.
  • Eight Divisional titles, five conference championships, and three Super Bowl victories.
  • Recorded at least one FF every year between 1996 and 2005 for a total of 17 FF’s to go along with 11 interceptions during those years. From 2002-2005 Bruschi’s defensive play created seven defensive touchdowns.

Conclusion:

Along with his apparent accolades and the tremendous heroism he showed during his rehabilitation and return to the NFL, Tedy Bruschi is simply a lovable dude. He had the type of personality you never forget and likely reference when you’re looking for players of similar caliber. The best players have a specific outlook and ego that allows them to get where they are. Tedy was the perfect balance of player and personality to be the greatest defensive team leader in Patriots history, maybe even NFL history.

Rodney Harrison described Bruschi as someone whose contributions could not be measured by statistics. Consider if there were stat categories/measures for things such as leadership and heroism, perhaps likeability, smiles, or even defiance in the face of adversity. These things make the best players the best players, and though you may roll your eyes and retreat to analytical and statistical arguments, sometimes it’s good to slow this train down and recognize what’s important. It felt like he was involved in every down he played in one way or another.

Players and coaches alike would listen and respect a man like this, and he would return the favor. Without a leader like this who can gain the respect of his teammates, the Patriots may never have won as many times. Think of how many star-caliber defenders are entrenched within a losing team record yearly. Of course, it takes more than one player to win a championship. but sometimes there’s the rare case of the one player who can bring everyone together to win one as a team.

Bruschi was that guy. He is quite possibly the most inspirational force to ever lead a defense, and without him, the Patriots would’ve been lucky to win even one Super Bowl. With him, they just so happened to win three. Sometimes the arguments for greatness are hard to make without a pile of statistics and accolades to back them up… but, this isn’t one of those times. Tedy Bruschi is an all-time football great, and he deserves to be in the NFL hall of fame. It’s nothing short of a travesty that he isn’t being considered for induction.

I appreciate anyone who has followed along so far. I look forward to bringing you up-to-date Patriots content shortly and occasionally looking back to the Patriots of the past as we’ve been doing here.

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