Today the end of a six month process has been announced, with former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe officially becoming the 14th member of the Patriots' hall of fame, beating out the man who selected him first overall in the 1993 draft, and coached him for the first four years of his career. Bledsoe also beat out third final ballot player, former defensive end Houston Antwine.
With only 14 members in the Patriots' hall of fame, rarely are the contests so contentious, however this year may mark the first of many tough votes, and many tough decisions. In this year, the question was simple-genius architect of restructuring franchises-Bill Parcells, or the cannon-armed, once upon a time overall first selection by that architect, Drew Bledsoe?
In this instance, Bledsoe won out, however Parcells' name will come up again next year. After playing in 124 games for the franchise, Bledsoe is the second leading passer in franchise history-second only to Tom Brady of course-with 29,657 passing yards. His career mark as a Patriot was just under 3,000 more yards than former Patriot great-and current Patriot hall of famer-Steve Grogan.
Next year voters and fans will be forced choose between fan favorites Troy Brown and Tedy Bruschi, with Parcells likely making another appearance on the final ballot. The following year could see the appearance of Willie McGinest, longtime linebacker in New England before former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel left for Cleveland, taking McGinest with him.
The hall is currently home to 13 other honorees, including Bruce Armstrong, John Hannah, Steve Grogan, Gino Capeletti, and my personal favorite member (until Troy Brown makes it anyway) Ben Coates. Jim Nance was last year's inductee.
Bledsoe will be the fourth member of the Patriot hall of fame put into the Hall under the new selection process, which was first used in 2007. As a part of this new process, a nomination committee gets together every year prior to the season and votes on eligible players. They cast three votes: first, second, and third. First place is worth 5 points, second is worth three, and third is worth one.
After all the votes have been cast, the top three vote getters are turned over to the fans, and voting takes place on the team's website at www.patriots.com. In 2007 former wideout Stanley Morgan was the first member selected to the Hall in this manner, after 13 seasons with the Patriots. He was followed by former tight end Ben Coates in 2008, and former running back Jim Nance in 2009. Bledsoe will be the 2010 selection.
After many years of NFL obscurity, ever since their super bowl trip in 1996, and the hiring of coach Bill Belichick a few years later the Patriots have become known as one of the ideal and most successful franchises in the league. While in the past we've had very little to be proud of on the football field, these days in and around Foxboro we're likely watching at least a half a dozen future Patriot hall of famers play.
Tom Brady has rewritten the Patriot record books and leads all passing categories in the history of the franchise. Beyond just Brady, you've got Wes Welker, who despite just a few seasons as part of the team is roughly 500 yards from cracking the top 5 receivers in franchise history. Running back Kevin Faulk will almost certainly be a Patriot hall of famer, who is in the top ten in both running and receiving for the franchise after spending 13 seasons in New England.
Other likely future Patriot Hall of Famers on the current roster include WR Deion Branch, LT Matt Light, and C Dan Koppen. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork will likely make it someday as well. One way or another, this is likely not the last time we'll see a tight race for the annual spot in the Hall as the next 10-15 years should hold several close battles. For the full Hall of Fame "roster" (if you will) please click on this link.