The History of the New England Patriots
Professional football arrived in New England on Nov. 16, 1959, when a group of local businessmen, led by former public relations executive William H. "Billy" Sullivan Jr. was awarded the eighth and final franchise in the new American Football League. One week later, Northwestern University running back Ron Burton was selected as the franchise's first draft choice and Syracuse running back Gerhardt Schwedes was selected as the team's first territorial choice.
Three key personnel decisions were made in the winter of 1960. First, former Boston College head coach Mike Holovak was named director of player personnel. Ed McKeever was hired as the team's first general manager and he selected Lou Saban as the team's first head coach.
One of the first orders of business of the management group was giving the franchise a name and that was accomplished through a public contest. Thousands of entries were submitted to name the team and 74 fans suggested the winning name, the Boston Patriots. Shortly after the franchise name was chosen, Boston Globe artist Phil Bissell drew a cartoon of a Minuteman preparing to snap a football and owner Sullivan liked the drawing so much that he selected "Pat Patriot" as the team logo. On April 1, 1960, Boston University Field - the former home of the Boston Braves - was selected as the first home of the Boston Patriots.
The organization's first training camp opened on July 4, 1960 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Approximately 350 players reported to the opening of camp, including a large contingent from Boston College. This group would be trimmed to 35 for the start of the regular season. The team's first preseason game was held on July 30 and the Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 28-7 at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo. Patriots defensive end Bob Dee recovered a fumble during the game and scored the AFL's first touchdown. The first "home" game was held two weeks later before 11,000 fans at Harvard Stadium and the Patriots lost 24-14 to the Dallas Texans. The team's regular season home opener came on Sept. 9 and 21,597 fans at Boston University field watched the team lose to the Denver Broncos 13-10.
The 1963 season saw the Patriots move to Fenway Park for home games, where they claimed their first division crown with a 7-6-1 record. The team lost the AFL title game, 51-10, to the San Diego Chargers. A number of Patriots players emerged as stars in the AFL during the 1960s, including wide receiver and kicker Gino Cappelletti, running back Jim Nance, quarterback Babe Parilli, linebacker Nick Buoniconti, defensive linemen Houston Antwine, Bob Dee, Larry Eisenhauer and Jim Lee Hunt and center Jon Morris.
In 1970, after a decade of playing at four different sites, including Boston University Field, Harvard Stadium, Fenway Park and Boston College Alumni Stadium, the Patriots selected Foxborough as the new home of the team. In March 1971, the team was renamed the New England Patriots. On Aug. 15, 1971, the Patriots played their first game at Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, defeating the New York Giants 20-14 before a crowd of 60,423 in a preseason contest.
In 1976, the Patriots earned a wild-card playoff berth, but lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders, 24-21. In 1978, the Patriots won their first outright division title in franchise history, but lost to the Houston Oilers on Dec. 31, 31-14, in the franchise's first home playoff game. During the 1970s, several Patriots were regarded to be among the most outstanding players in the league at their positions, including offensive tackle John Hannah, cornerback Mike Haynes and tight end Russ Francis.
In 1982, Schaefer Stadium was renamed Sullivan Stadium. In 1985, the Patriots gained a wild-card berth in the playoffs and went on to defeat the New York Jets, Los Angeles Raiders and the Miami Dolphins on the road to win their first AFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl XX. Unfortunately, the Patriots faced one of the dominant teams of the '80s as the Chicago Bears rolled to a 46-10 Super Bowl victory. Following that season, Patriot greats John Hannah and Julius Adams retired.
On July 28, 1988, Remington Products, Inc. CEO Victor Kiam purchased the Patriots from the Sullivan family and retained the team for four years. On Nov. 23, 1988, Robert Kraft purchased Sullivan Stadium out of bankruptcy court.
In 1990, Sullivan Stadium was renamed Foxboro Stadium and the following season natural grass was installed in the stadium for the first time. On July 27 1991, Hannah became the first Patriot to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
In 1992, St. Louis businessman James B. Orthwein purchased controlling interest of the Patriots and made some dramatic changes, both on and off the field. In 1993, he hired former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells and a new coaching staff. In addition, he also made some cosmetic changes that spring with the unveiling of a new Patriots logo and the change of primary color from red to blue.
On Jan. 21, 1994, Robert K. Kraft became the franchise's fourth owner when he purchased the team from Orthwein, saving the team from an impending move. That season, the Patriots closed out the season with a seven-game winning streak to qualify for their first playoff berth since 1985. In 1995, the Patriots became the first professional sports team to launch their own Web site - www.patriots.com.
The Patriots continued their rise during a memorable 1996 season, winning the AFC Championship and returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history. The Patriots finished 11-5 and scored two home playoff wins, 28-3 vs. Pittsburgh and 20-6 vs. Jacksonville, winning the AFC Championship in front of a sold out Foxboro Stadium crowd. The Patriots were defeated by the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI, 35-21.
In 1997, the Patriots defended their AFC East division title with a 7-1 record in the division and a 10-6 overall record. It was the first time in team history that New England won back-to-back division titles.
The Patriots finished 9-7 in 1998 and qualified for the playoffs, marking the third consecutive season they qualified for the postseason - a team record.
A new era began in Patriots history in 2000 when the team unveiled designs for their new stadium. The new 68,436-seat facility opened in May, 2002 and celebrated its Grand Opening on Sept. 9, 2002.
When Kraft purchased the Patriots, he promised the fans of New England that he would bring home a championship, and in his first 10 years of ownership, he delivered not just one, but two titles to New England.
The Patriots began the most prosperous era in team history when Kraft hired Bill Belichick as the club's 14th head coach on Jan. 27, 2000. After taking a year to implement his system, Belichick molded the Patriots into one of the NFL's elite teams. He has led the Patriots to the best record in the league over a four-year span from 2001-04 (57-16), en route to winning three Super Bowl titles in those four seasons.
The Patriots capped off an 11-5 regular season in 2001 with three playoff wins for the ages and the first Super Bowl title in team history. In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders 16-13 in overtime in a driving snowstorm in the final game at Foxboro Stadium. Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal to tie the game late in regulation and then added a 23-yard kick in overtime to win, 16-13. The following week in Pittsburgh, the Patriots defeated the favored Steelers 24-17 in the AFC Championship Game to advance to their third Super Bowl.
In Super Bowl XXXVI at the Superdome in New Orleans on Feb. 3, 2002, the Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams, 20-17, in one of the most dramatic Super Bowl finishes in history. After the Patriots took a 17-3 lead into the fourth quarter, St. Louis rallied to tie the game at 17. But quarterback Tom Brady marched the Patriots into Vinatieri's field goal range and his 48-yard kick sailed through the uprights as time expired to give New England its first NFL Championship. The Patriots were welcomed home with a rally in Boston attended by nearly 1.5 million people and took the Lombardi Trophy to rallies in all of the New England states.
In 2002, the Patriots celebrated the opening of their world-class new home, Gillette Stadium. In the Grand Opening on Sept. 9, the Super Bowl XXXVI banner was unveiled as the Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-14, before a national audience on Monday Night Football.
In 2003, just two seasons after winning its first Super Bowl, New England put together one of the finest seasons in pro football history, finishing with a 17-2 record and a victory in Super Bowl XXXVIII. After posting a 2-2 record in September, the Patriots became the first NFL team in 31 years to close the season with 15 consecutive wins, including three playoff victories. After fighting through a rash of injuries and finishing the regular-season with a franchisebest and league-leading 14-2 record, the Patriots produced another memorable three-game playoff run culminating in a championship.
In the divisional round of the 2003 playoffs, the Patriots defeated the Tennessee Titans 17-14 in the first playoff game at Gillette Stadium in the coldest game in team history (four degrees at kickoff). The next week, New England hosted the AFC Championship Game for the second time in team history and dispatched the Indianapolis Colts and league co-MVP Peyton Manning, 24-14, to claim their third conference title in eight years and advance to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in team history.
Two years after winning Super Bowl XXXVI in dramatic fashion, the Patriots saw fit to thrill their fans in a similar way with a 32-29 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII on Feb. 1, 2004 at Reliant Stadium in Houston Texas. In the game, New England built a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead, but Carolina rallied to take a 22-21 lead, then answered the Patriots' counterpunch by tying the game at 29 with just 1:08 left in the game. But Brady once again showed grace under pressure in driving the Patriots down the field and Vinatieri's clutch 41-yard boot with four seconds left gave the Patriots a 32-29 victory and their second title in three seasons.
The 2004 Patriots made history by becoming just the second team in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span. New England remained in the spotlight throughout the year, beginning with the unveiling of the Super Bowl XXXVIII banner in front of a prime-time audience prior to the Patriots' season-opening victory over the Colts. The Patriots built on their 2003 season-ending 15-game winning streak with a six-game run to begin the 2004 season, setting the all-time pro football record with 21 consecutive wins, including playoff games. New England kept its focus down the stretch and continued its winning ways, finishing the regular season at 14-2 for the second consecutive year.
In their first two playoff games, the Patriots shut down the NFL's top scoring offense and solved the league's top ranked defense. In the divisional round, New England held Indianpolis' explosive offense to just a field goal in a 20-3 victory at Gillette Stadium, while in the AFC Championship Game the Patriots set a team playoff record with 41 points on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers' previously impregnable defense.
New England entered historic territory with its 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. The Patriots joined the Dallas Cowboys as the only teams to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span and became the seventh franchise to win back-to-back Super Bowls. With their third title, the Patriots now trail only Dallas (5), San Francisco (5) and Pittsburgh (4) for the most Super Bowl victories in history. New England's performance from 2003-04 constituted the most successful two-year run in the history of the NFL, with its 34 total victories setting an all-time NFL record.