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Franchise history

1959–1991

On November 16, 1959, Boston executive William H. "Billy" Sullivan Jr. was awarded the eighth and final franchise of the developing American Football League (AFL). The following winter, locals were allowed to submit ideas for the Boston football team's official name. The most popular choice—and the one that Sullivan selected—was "Boston Patriots", which derived from the historical Patriots of the American Revolution. Afterward, Phil Bisell developed the "Pat Patriot" logo (see section). Immediately thereafter, Lou Saban was selected as Patriots' first head coach.

The franchise's first training camp began on July 4, 1960, two months prior to their first official game.[2] On September 9 of that year, the Boston Patriots played the Denver Broncos in the first-ever AFL regular season game. The Broncos defeated the Patriots by a score of 13–10. In their first three seasons, the Patriots posted a cumulative record of 23–17, though they failed to reach the playoffs in all three years. However, in 1963 the Patriots reached the AFL Championship for the first time, which resulted in a loss to the San Diego Chargers 51–10. Although the franchise lost the championship, it was honored when eleven Patriots made the AFL All-star team, including Gino Cappelletti, Nick Buoniconti, and Babe Parilli.

The Patriots were unsuccessful in reaching the AFL playoffs for the remainder of the decade. Nevertheless, fullback Jim Nance developed into an offensive weapon for the Patriots, gaining 1,458 yards in 1966, when he was the American Football League's MVP.[3][4] Moreover, Tom Addison, the first Patriot All-star, founded the AFL Players Association in the mid 1960s.

In 1970, the Patriots' franchise joined the NFL pursuant to the merger of the AFL and NFL that had been agreed to three years earlier. The Patriots were merged into the American Football Conference (AFC), where they remain to the present day. However, the Patriots' first season as part of the NFL resulted in a record of 2–12, sole possession of the newly merged league's worst record.

In 1971, after shifting between four different Boston-area stadiums in their first 11 seasons, the Patriots moved into a new stadium in Foxborough (also known as Foxboro). The stadium, to be known as Schaefer Stadium, would become Sullivan Stadium in 1983 and, ultimately, Foxboro Stadium in 1990. In March 1971 the team was renamed the "New England Patriots" in order to reflect the fact that the team was now located outside of the Boston city limits. Sullivan had also considered "Bay State Patriots,", but rejected the name when it was realized it would inevitably be shortened to the BS Patriots.[citation needed]

The Patriots' series of losing seasons continued into the 1970s. Players during the early 1970s included Heisman Trophy[5] winner Jim Plunkett[6] and offensive lineman John Hannah, who would become the first career Patriot to make the Hall of Fame in 1991.[7]

Chuck Fairbanks was hired as head coach and general manager in 1973 after leading a top-ten program at the University of Oklahoma. Fairbanks began assembling one of the most talented - but ultimately underachieveing - squads in the NFL of the 1970s. The Patriots finished 7–7 in 1974 and 3–11 in 1975, which resulted in offensive changes. Plunkett was traded to the San Francisco 49ers and replaced by second year player Steve Grogan. Grogan and Fairbanks found success in 1976 when the Patriots finished 11–3—the best record in team history to that point—and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1963. Despite the successful season, the Patriots lost to the Oakland Raiders 24–21 in the first round of the playoffs in a game marked by a controversial "roughing the passer" call against defensive lineman Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamilton by referee Ben Dreith. The call was so disputed that Dreith never again refereed a New England game. In 1978, Fairbanks was fired as head coach when it was revealed he had been secretly hired as the new head coach of the University of Colorado and replaced by Ron Erhardt, who, in turn, was followed by Ron Meyer in 1981. From 1977 to 1984, the Patriots missed the playoffs six times; the 1978 and 1982 seasons both resulted in first round playoff losses. Looking to improve leadership, the Sullivans replaced head coach Ron Meyer with former wide receiver Raymond Berry in 1984.

In 1985, the Patriots went 11-5 in the regular season and obtained a wild card berth under Raymond Berry. They became the first team to win three road games en route to the Super Bowl.[8] Although the team enjoyed a 3–0 lead in the first quarter, the Patriots lost to the Chicago Bears 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. The following season, New England won the AFC East with another 11–5 record, but lost to the Broncos in the first round. Local resident Doug Flutie played several games with the Patriots during the 1987–88 seasons, in which the Patriots finished with records of 8–7 and 9–7, respectively.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Patriots' lack of playoff appearances was underscored by coaching changes and controversy within the organization, namely, the Sullivan ownership.[9] The Sullivan family lost millions of dollars on expensive investments, including The Jacksons' 1984 Victory tour. Furthermore, up to the mid-1980s, the ownership spent nearly $100 million on the franchise.[10] Consequently, the Sullivans were forced to sell the team to Remington shaver magnate Victor Kiam in 1988 for $84 million.[11] However, Billy Sullivan and his son, Pat Sullivan, remained franchise president and General Manager respectively.[12] Meanwhile, entrepreneur Robert Kraft began his involvement with the Patriots by purchasing Sullivan Stadium (previously Schaefer Stadium) on November 23, 1988.[13] During this leadership change, head coach Berry was replaced by Rod Rust.

The Patriots' worst season in franchise history came under Rust in 1990, when the team finished 1–15; Rust was fired after that season and replaced by Dick MacPherson. In September 1990, the Patriots were thrown into the middle of a sexual harassment scandal when Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson was sexually harassed and verbally assaulted by several Patriots players in the team's locker room. The NFL investigated the incident and following the report NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined the team $50,000, as well as players Zeke Mowatt, Michael Timpson and Robert Perryman who were fined $12,500, $5,000 and $5,000 respectively for the Lisa Olson incident. This is cited as one of the several reasons why Rod Rust was quickly fired from his post as Head Coach.[14]

1992–present

In 1992, St. Louis businessman James Orthwein became sole owner of the Patriots franchise. Throughout New England, sportswriters and fans discussed the possibility that Orthwein would relocate the franchise to St. Louis. However, no move was scheduled for the 1992 season.[15]

The Patriots shifted gears by firing MacPherson and hiring coach Bill Parcells in 1993. The highlight draft pick during the 1993 season included Drew Bledsoe, who would quarterback the team until 2001. Despite these acquisitions, the 1993 season resulted in a losing record, and rumors about relocation to St. Louis continued during the offseason. In order to save the team from relocation, Robert Kraft outbid an intense field of competition and obtained full ownership of the Patriots in 1994.[16] Kraft developed changes in organization and leadership, several of which culminated in a ten-season stadium sell-out streak from 1996 to the present.

The Patriots entered the 1994 season after drafting first round and fourth overall pick Willie McGinest, who would later play linebacker on all three Super Bowl-winning teams. Although the team lost in the first round of the 1994 playoffs and finished the 1995 season with a 6–10 record, Kraft decided to keep Parcells. In 1996, the Patriots finished with an 11–5 record and an AFC East division championship. The team eventually advanced to Super Bowl XXXI, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers 35–21.

Due to rising tensions between Parcells and Kraft, the former was replaced by Pete Carroll in 1997. Meanwhile, the Patriots and the New York Jets began switching players and coaches, including current Jets head coach Eric Mangini, the aforementioned Parcells, and running back Curtis Martin. Nevertheless, New England finished 1997 with a 10–6 record—good enough for first place in the AFC East. The Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins 17–3 at home in the opening round, before losing against the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 7–6. In the 1998 season, the Patriots finished 9–7, and lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs. However, a subpar 1999 season resulted in Carroll's firing.

After Carroll was fired, Bill Belichick, hand-picked to be Parcells' successor with the Jets, quit after one day to join New England.[17] In 2000, Belichick's first season resulted in a 5–11 record. In 2001 Patriot quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured early in the season, and was replaced by Tom Brady, who led the team into the playoffs with an 11–5 record. The Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers and advanced to Super Bowl XXXVI, where they defeated the St. Louis Rams on a last-second Adam Vinatieri field goal. In New England's first Super Bowl victory, Brady was selected Super Bowl MVP. Bledsoe was traded to the Buffalo Bills in the 2002 off-season.

In 2002 Robert Kraft opened the new Gillette Stadium. Kraft privately funded the construction of the stadium. After getting no support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Kraft made a deal to move the team to Hartford, Connecticut in 1998. [18] However, problems with the Hartford site, and Massachusetts' willingness to invest $70,000,000 in infrastructure around Foxboro, led to a reversal of the Hartford deal. [19]

The state-of-the-art stadium is widely considered to be one of the premier stadiums in NFL Football. [20][21] That season, the Patriots missed the playoffs after finishing with a record of 9–7. In 2003 the Patriots started 2–2 but finished with a 14–2 record and fourteen straight wins on their way to Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers. The Patriots won by a score of 32–29; the final three points came from another Adam Vinatieri field goal. Brady was named Super Bowl MVP for the second time in his career.

In 2004 the Patriots broke the all-time winning streak record of 18 wins, following a victory against the Miami Dolphins. Later in the season, the Patriots lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, which halted their winning streak at 21 games.[22] After finishing the season with a 14–2 record, the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers en route to Super Bowl XXXIX. The Patriots went on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 24–21, thus becoming the first team in six years (and the eighth in history) to repeat as NFL Super Bowl champions, and only the second team ever to win three Super Bowls in four years (the Dallas Cowboys did it in the years 1992-95). Moreover, the Patriots won all three Super Bowls by 3 points, two of them with a last second field goal by Vinatieri.

After the 2004 season, Belichick's top two coordinators—Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel—left the team to pursue head coaching jobs. Significant players moved on as well, including longtime Patriot cornerback Ty Law. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi missed half of the 2005 season while recovering from a mild stroke.[23] During the 2005 season, the team lost several starters to injuries, including safety Rodney Harrison and offensive tackle Matt Light. In the final game of the season, Doug Flutie performed the first successful dropkick extra point since 1941.[24] At the end of the season, the Patriots won the AFC East with a 10–6 record. The Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 28–3 in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Broncos 27–13. The New England Patriots became the seventh team in NFL history to fail on a chance to win the Super Bowl in three consecutive seasons, the last team to do so being the Broncos.

During the 2006 off-season, defensive coordinator Eric Mangini was hired by the New York Jets to be their head coach. His spot would later be taken over by Dean Pees, who had been linebacker coach for the club the past two years.[25] QB coach Josh McDaniels was promoted to offensive coordinator after New England went one season without replacing Charlie Weis.[26] Notable Patriots such as David Givens and Willie McGinest left New England for the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns respectively. In March, kicker Adam Vinatieri left the team to join the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots later signed receiver Reche Caldwell, cornerback Eric Warfield, safety Tebucky Jones and kicker Martin Gramatica. The team hopes that Gramatica can revert to earlier form and fill in for Vinatieri.

During the 2007 offseason, the Patriots traded for wide receiver Randy Moss of the Oakland Raiders and signed linebacker Adalius Thomas of the Baltimore Ravens.

The 2007 New England Patriots season kicked off against the Jets. During the game, NFL security confiscated a video camera and its tape from a New England Patriots video assistant, Matt Estrella, who was filming the Jets coaching staff's play signals on the team's sideline.[33] On September 13, Belichick was fined $500,000, and the Patriots fined $250,000. Additionally, the Patriots will forfeit their first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft because they reached the playoffs (had the Patriots not made the playoffs, they would have forfeited their second- and third-round selections).[34]

The Patriots finished the 2007 season with a 38-35 win over the New York Giants on December 29, making their record 16-0. With the win, they now join the 1934 and 1942 Chicago Bears and the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only teams to go undefeated in the regular season, and the 1st team to go 16-0 in the regular season (the other teams played 13, 11, and 14 games, respectively).

The team's on-field performance and attendance has drastically improved since Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994. In the 34 years prior to the arrival of Kraft, the Patriots had won the AFC East three times, made the playoffs six times (including their AFL Championship berth in 1963), and went to the Super Bowl once. Since Kraft, the Patriots have won the AFC East eight times, made the playoffs nine times and have been to the Super Bowl on four occasions, winning three. From the 1996 season onward, every Patriots home game has sold out, both at Foxboro and Gillette stadiums, including preseason games.[