The New England Patriots are thought of now as one of the more successful teams in the National Football League, but that has not always been the truth about this team. The Patriots represent a proud region of the United States that has experienced success in most major sports. From the organization’s patriotic image to its recent successes on the field, it has inspired many football fans to become fans of the team regardless if they are located in the Northeast or not. The Patriots’ history is not as long and storied as many of the teams in the NFL that trace their roots back to the forming of the league in the early 1920s, but it is fascinating just the same.
The New England Patriots were founded in 1960 as one of the original franchises in the inaugural season of the American Football League (AFL). After a contest to name the team was held, ownership selected the moniker Boston Patriots for the team and the franchise was on its way. From 1960 to 1962, the Patriots played their home games at Nickerson Field before moving to Fenway Park for the 1963 season. It was following the 1963 season that the team saw their greatest AFL success, making it all the way to the AFL Championship Game only to lose to the San Diego Chargers by the score of 51-10. Following the 1968 season, the Patriots would play their final season in the AFL at Boston College’s Alumni Stadium. The team’s success during their first decade of play was not quite what their fans or ownership had hoped for, especially considering they ended the decade with three straight ten loss seasons. The main stars during this period of time were quarterback Babe Parilli and halfback Gino Cappelletti.
The team would then celebrate the 1970 AFL-NFL merger by playing one season in Harvard Stadium before moving into their much awaited permanent home, Foxboro Stadium. With the move into the new stadium, and in an effort to market the team to the entire region, the name of the organization would be changed to the New England Patriots. The name change did nothing to improve on the team’s performance as they continued to finish in the lower half of the league until finally making the playoffs in 1976 and 1978. The face of the franchise during the 1970s would be quarterback Steve Grogan who would put up some very solid performances for a team that was looking for a leader.
The greatest success in the history of the franchise would come following the 1985 season when the Patriots would put together a great year and parlay it all the way into a Super Bowl appearance. Unfortunately for Patriots fans, that year’s league title would belong to one of the greatest teams in NFL history, the 1985 Chicago Bears who with their famed 46 defense, hall of fame running back Walter Payton, and head coach Mike Ditka would defeat the Patriots in the big game by the score of 46-10. The team would make the playoffs again the following season, but after that they would dip into an extended period of subpar play thanks in part to unstable ownership that saw the team under four different ownership groups in just eight years.
The purchase of the team in 1994 by longtime fan and businessman Robert Kraft is thought of by many as the day the team’s fortunes changed. The Patriots behind quarterback Drew Bledsoe would then make the playoffs four times in the mid to late 1990s. The team’s successes under head coaches Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll were good, including a return visit to the Super Bowl, but nothing compared to what would happen after the hiring of head coach Bill Belichick and the drafting of quarterback Tom Brady in 2000. With Belichick running the team and Brady running the offense, the Patriots would go on an amazing run in the early part of the new decade. The team would win the 2001 Super Bowl, move into their new home Gillette Stadium in 2002 and then win the 2003 and 2004 Super Bowl as well. The team would then come close to doing what many fans thought was impossible by going undefeated during the 2007 regular season and through the playoffs, only to lose the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
The New England Patriots have come a long way from their early days as one of the poorer teams in a startup league that was competing against the more established National Football League. Thanks in large part to great players, solid coaching, and possibly most importantly stable ownership, the Patriots have elevated themselves to truly be one of the elite teams in the NFL. The team consistently plays at a high level and regularly puts up winning records even though there has been a significant amount of turnover on the roster. With the structure that is currently in place both on and off the field, there is no reason to believe that the Patriots will not remain successful for many years to come.