Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Ultimate, All-Time, Wicked Awesome, New England Patriots Player Quiz (Part 1)


Now that the Patriots have completed their perfect regular season, the bandwagon is overloaded with novice fans who want to enjoy the party. That's cool with us - we're all inclusive here at TATB, accepting of the pink hats or whatever it is we're supposed to call you. (Pink helmets? Er, no, that's probably not it.)

But just for the sport of it, we've come up with a quiz to test the Patriots acumen of you newbies, as well anyone else who wants to give it a shot. Here's how it works: We'll give you a picture of a past Patriot, along with a brief comment or two that should strongly hint at the player's identity. The order is more or less chronological, and a link in each bio will take you to that player's football-reference.com page should you need to confirm ID.

For longtime Pats fans - those of us who remember, say, Fred Smerlas as an All-Pro defensive tackle long before he became the "Messin' With Sasquatch" stunt double who appears on Channel 7 on Sunday nights - this should be as easy as an extra point. For the rest of you . . . well, we'll find out. As for the grading scale, let's break it down like this:

21-25 correct: Brilliant as usual, Mr. Pioli.

16-20: A Dick Steinberg disciple. No shame in that.

11-15: See ya, in Miami, Tuna. And please leave Chris Long for us on draft day, okay?

6-10: Is that you, Bobby Grier? Must have sneaked up the back stairs.

1-5: Scurry back to college, Jankovich. You're way out of your league here.

0: Wait a minute, you're no GM! You're Andy Gresh! Scram! No shrill, FloBee-cut doofuses allowed!

All right, sports fans, it's time. Get out those No. 2 pencils and remember, no cheat sheets (or media guides) allowed. The clock starts . . . now:


1. Two of this respected former running back's sons are currently prominent in the Boston sports media. The elder of them probably should wear a helmet at all times.

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2. For the old timers, this classy wide receiver/kicker/broadcaster is the iconic Patriot, Mr. Brady included. I can't imagine anyone doing a more dignified job of representing the franchise all these years.

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3. This popular and affable quarterback had his share of success in the NFL, mostly with the Vikings, despite throwing mechanics that would make Garo Yepremian snicker.

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4. Former No. 1 overall pick took a beating and struggled mightily with the Pats (8 TDs, 25 INTs in '72), but later found Super Bowl redemption with Al Davis's band of rogues in Oakland and L.A.

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5. Receiver found greatest success with Cleveland Browns; in retirement, he had a brief, comically disastrous stint as a color commentator on Cleveland Indians telecasts, once suggesting that if he were the manager, he'd play one of the outfielders behind the catcher to prevent passed balls. (Seriously - read about it here.)

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6. One of the most versatile running backs the Patriots have ever had, he completed 7 of 9 passes, four for touchdowns, in '81.

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7. It's probably safe to assume he does not, and never will, send Ben Dreith a Christmas card.

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8. My old man still insists he was a better tight end than Kellen Winslow Sr.; Winslow had 148 more receptions (541-393), but the Chargers Hall of Famer didn't block like the player Howard Cosell memorably labeled "All-World."

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9. In 1976, the Patriots ran for a staggering 2,948 yards; he ran for 721 of them second on the team to Sam Cunningham, and averaged a league-best 5.6 yards per carry.

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10. He's probably the only former NFL player who could be excused for watching "The View."

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11. Averaged over 20 yards per catch for the first six seasons of his 13-year career, during which he caught 557 passes for 10,716 yards. Why he doesn't merit more consideration from the NFL Hall of Fame voters remains a mystery to this day.

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12. You can have "Prime Time" Sanders, "Night Train" Lane, and any other cleverly nicknamed defensive back you want to consider. For our money, this eight-time All-Pro is the best cornerback in league history, and it's a shame he spent just half of his 14 seasons in New England.

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13. Speedster from Oklahoma ran for 11 touchdowns and 4.9 yards per carry in '78 and he was a hell of a kick returner, too, but knee problems abbreviated his promising career. On the plus side, he may have the coolest name in Patriots history . . .

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14. . . . and if he doesn't, then this guy, a briefly effective former No. 1 pick out of Notre Dame, does.

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15. In 1979, the veteran receiver caught 45 passes for 1,013 yards, an average of 22.5 per catch - at age 33. Steve Grogan sure did love to throw the deep ball, didn't he? Different game then.

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16. An outstanding bookend to Andre Tippett at outside linebacker, he had his career cut short by a neck injury four games into the '87 season. Is now in his 18th season as an NFL assistant coach, currently with the Chiefs.

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17. Common perception is that he's the biggest sissy ever to throw a pass for the Patriots - John Hannah's suggestion that "he should be wearing a dress back there" certainly didn't help his reputation - but he actually had a fine '86 season as the Patriots won the AFC East title. Yeah, he may have gone fetal at the first sign of a pass rush, but he's not the worst quarterback the Patriots ever had - though in retrospect, Dan Marino might have been a wiser pick in the '83 draft.

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18. This talented but oft-injured running back's brother, Chris, played briefly for the Red Sox in '95. If you follow college football, you probably see him every Saturday on TV; he's carved out a successful second career as an analyst and commentator.

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19. Bulled his way to 1,168 rushing yards and a Pro Bowl bid in '88, but was unpopular with teammates and never ran with quite the same fury after a helmet-to-helmet collision with the Niners' Jeff Fuller left the standout safety partially paralyzed.

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20. Must . . . resist . . . Patriot Missile . . . jokes . . .

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21. Talented, troubled No. 1 pick in '89 just fractured his leg in three places while reading this.

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22. Menacing tackling machine was one of few standouts on some truly wretched Patriots teams, but creaky knees ended his career at age 30 just when Parcells was turning the franchise around. No one ever said professional sports is fair.

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23. A first-round pick by the Red Sox out of Brockton High, he instead chose to attend Michigan on a football scholarship. Was it the right choice? Hard to say. We never found out if he could hit a curveball, but we did learn he wasn't particularly gifted at catching a football. His NFL ended after 4 1/2 nondescript seasons.

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24. The one that got away. Allowing Parcells to steal him away was the biggest personnel mistake the Patriots have made since Bob Kraft bought the team. But hey, at least they kept Todd Rucci.

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25. Second-round pick in '98 was the Bethel Johnson of his time - he could take your breath away with his pure speed, but struggled with the other, more complex requirements of an NFL receiver, such as running the correct routes and catching the damn football. My goodness, I just described Chad Jackson, too, didn't I? Yikes. He's doomed.

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Okay, that's all we've got for now, but hopefully we'll do this again soon. In the meantime, study up - especially if you happen to be a certain member of the Patriots' radio pregame show. You know who you are.

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