Tom Brady has led the New England Patriots to six Super Bowls and four victories as of 2015, and his tremendous career has left him as the premier quarterback in franchise history. Brady is far from the only star quarterback to ever play for the Patriots, but he does fit a trend for the team. Since its inaugural season in 1960, the Patriots have traditionally found its starting quarterback through the draft, and have enjoyed success picking both early and late in the draft.
Parilli's Championship Season
Babe Parilli can claim to be the first premier quarterback in Patriots history. Traded to the team by the Oakland Raiders in April 1961, he started for the team from 1961 to 1967 and was one of the American Football League’s top quarterbacks. He led the team to the AFL Championship game in 1964, where it lost to the San Diego Chargers, 51-10.
Plunkett to Grogan
The Patriots made Jim Plunkett the No. 1 pick in the 1971 NFL draft. Plunkett, a Heisman Trophy winner at Stanford who later won a pair of Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders, never managed to reach his potential with New England. Instead, he was supplanted in 1975 by Steve Grogan, a fifth-round pick in the 1975 draft. Grogan led the team to the playoffs in 1976, breaking the franchise’s 13-year postseason drought. He played for the team until 1990, starting 135 games and playing in 14 more off the bench. But the 1979 was the last season he was healthy enough to play every game, and, in 1983, New England drafted Tony Eason in the first round to replace him.
Eason and the Super Bowl
Eason was one of six quarterbacks to be picked in the first round in 1983, joining John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino. Elway, Kelly and Marino are Hall of Famers and, for a while, Eason looked like he might join them in Canton. He enjoyed early success, leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl XX, where they were overwhelmed, 46-10, by the Chicago Bears. Eason struggled mightily in that loss. Although the Patriots won the AFC East in 1986, that was Eason's last season as the full-time starter. Injuries and ineffectiveness derailed him thereafter.
Bledsoe Takes Control
From 1986 to 1992, the Patriots were on an endless search for a capable starting quarterback. In addition to Grogan and Eason, Tom Ramsey, Bob Blier, Doug Flutie, Hugh Millen, Marc Wilson, Tom Hodson, Scott Zolak and Jeff Carlson all started for the Pats. It was clearly time for a long-term answer, so the team made Drew Bledsoe the top pick in the 1993 draft. He started as a rookie and led the team to the Super Bowl XXXI, where the Patriots lost to Green Bay. He played with the team through the 2001 season, when an injury opened the door for Brady.
Brady Among the Best
New England selected Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft and he entered his second season as Bledsoe’s backup. But Bledsoe’s injury in the second game of the season allowed Brady to take over as starter and he ultimately led the team to victory in the Super Bowl XXXVI. He led the team to five more Super Bowls, and his six appearances in the big game broke the record of five formerly held by Elway. He was tied with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the most victories in the big game -- four -- and had won three Super Bowl MVP awards through the 2014-15 season. His 12 division titles set a league record.
- NFL.com: QBs in 1983 NFL Draft Overshadow Talent in 1984's Group
- NFL.com: Brady, Favre, Manning Voted to List of Top 10 Draft Picks of All Time
- Boston Globe: New England Patriots Quarterbacks Past and Present
- Patriots.com: Patriots Hall of Fame
- National Football Post: Where AreThey Now -- Steve Grogan
- ESPN.com: Bledsoe Retires, Ends 14-year Career
- Photo Credit razihusin/iStock/Getty Images
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