In the last few years we have seen Troy Brown, Teddy Bruschi, Ty Law and Willie McGinest be inducted to the hall, and this year it was Kevin Faulk. We are starting to see a bunch of players from the early Super Bowl teams get in, and with that in mind I want to talk about who next year’s inductee should be. Mike Vrabel was one of the 3 finalists this year and absolutely deserves to be in, but the problem is only one guy gets in each year. In addition to Vrabel, Matt Light, and Rodney Harrison deserve consideration.
Vrabel played all over the field, outside linebacker in the 3-4, inside linebacker in the 4-3, defensive end in the 4-3, and even caught 10 passes for 10 touchdowns. He was excellent as a pass rusher and in coverage. There are two plays by him that really stand out in my memory when I think of him, the first is Ty Laws pick 6 in Super Bowl 36, which Vrabel caused by getting in Kurt Warner’s line of sight and forcing him to throw the ball to an area he thought was wide open. The second play was in Super Bowl 38 where he sacked Jake Delhomme, forced a fumble, and then had the presence of mind to jump on it. He was a first team All-Pro in 2007 and a member of the Patriots 50th anniversary team. He only topped 10 sacks once, but Vrabel was willing to do anything and always turned up his play in the playoffs. He was the perfect Patriot and you won’t go wrong with him as your choice.
Matt Light is one of the least talked about Patriots from this era and that is a very good thing. He protected Brady’s blindside for 10 years and was never given the credit he deserved league wide, although he was a first team All-Pro in 2007. Before Logan Mankins got here Matt Light was the guy who was always hitting through the echo of the whistle and was the first one into the scrum if something he didn’t like happened. In the 2011 playoffs against Denver Brady pooch kicked a punt and after the play Von Miller cheap shotted Dan Connolly from behind. Matt Light was first on the scene and wrestled Miller to the ground, with a mini brawl breaking out on the Patriots sideline. It was plays like these and his stellar protection of Tom Brady that got Light on Patriots all 2000s team and the 50th anniversary team.
Rodney Harrison’s arrival in New England coincided with the departure of Patriots great Lawyer Milloy in 2003. Harrison immediately became a leader in the locker room,he was named captain in his first year with the team, and a force in the Patriots secondary. The loss of Milloy wasn’t even noticeable, as Harrison was named a first team All-Pro in 2003 and a second team All-Pro in 2004. Harrison was injured a lot during the latter part of his time in Foxborough, but when he was on the field his impact was always felt. Harrison much like Vrabel always saved his best for the playoffs. My two favorite plays by him both came in the 2004 Super Bowl run. The first play was in the AFC championship against the Steelers, right before halftime he picked Ben Roethlisberger and returned it for a touchdown, expanding the lead to 24-3 and effectively ending the game. The other came in the Super Bowl when he picked off Donovan McNabb with 10 seconds remaining to seal the 24-21 victory and streaked down the field flapping his arms like an Eagle, it was his second interception of the game. In addition to his two All-Pro seasons in New England and his stellar postseason play, he was a member of the Patriots all 2000s team, the Patriots 50th anniversary team, and the first NFL player to record 30 interceptions and 30 sacks.
My Pick: Rodney Harrison
Harrison is my all-time favorite Patriot other than Tom Brady so this may be biased, but he brought a swagger to this team that was lacking after the 2002 season. When Harrison retired after the 2008 season that swagger on defense was gone pretty much until 2014 when they had one of the best defenses in the league and arguably a top 3 defense in the Belichick era. For that and his outstanding number and contributions on the field he is my choice.