We’ll start in the way back machine for a great Patriots player from the 1960’s. Babe Parilli played seven seasons for the Patriots and was a true gunslinger. The fact that he made the Pro Bowl in the same season that he threw 27 interceptions speaks volumes about the way the game was played in the AFL. The Pats achieved success in the mid-60s with the veteran under center. They won a playoff game against the Bills in 1963 before getting crushed in the AFL title game.
In 1964, Parilli was a first-team All Pro and hooked up countless times with his paisano Gino Cappelletti forming the Grand Opera connection. Parilli made it to one more All-Star game in 1966 before leaving for the New York Jets in 1968. As a member of the Jets, Parilli backed up Joe Namath on their World Championship team and was also known for being an outstanding holder on special teams. He retired just before the 1970 season and passed away in 2017 at the age of 87.
The Patriots obtained a very mediocre quarterback by the name of Marc Wilson for their darkest seasons of 1989 and 1990. Wilson had tremendous success at BYU in college and was an on-again, off-again starter for several seasons with the Raiders wearing #6. In 1985, he compiled an 11-2 record with the silver and black but was throttled by the Patriots in the AFC divisional round. He never got back to the postseason, but he retired with two Super Bowl rings as a Raider backup.
Ryan Mallett was another backup quarterback that wore #15 for the Pats. His Patriots career was brief and uninteresting. He was given the opportunity to start for the Houston Texans, but poor play and poor sportsmanship doomed him. Ironically, he lost the starting job to another Pats backup, Brian Hoyer. He was passed on to Baltimore where he plays behind Joe Flacco.
College Lacrosse Player Finds Home in NFL
One final #15 we should mention is the current player who dons that jersey, Chris Hogan. Hogan’s is a story of persistence. It has been laughingly over documented as to how he played lacrosse in college. He tried to latch on to three teams in 2011, but did not receive a regular season pass until 2013 with the Buffalo Bills. Hogan joined the Patriots in 2016. He scored a touchdown on his very first drive with the team at Arizona.
He has been excellent in the last two Super Bowls. One distinct memory I have of Hogan is after James White scored the winning touchdown of Super Bowl LI, he held his hands on either side of his helmet in utter joy. Hogan came back to score a touchdown in Super Bowl LII and was one of several outstanding players on offense in the loss.
Hogan’s greatest game was the 2016 AFC championship game against the Steelers. He dominated Steeler DBs throughout the first half leading to a 200-yard performance. Hogan is a fine player, but an even better young man.
Jim Plunkett was the first overall draft choice of the 1971 draft and paved the way for Hispanics into the NFL. He was one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time at Stanford, but struggled as a Patriot. He went on to play for his hometown 49ers, but floundered there as well. His career was resurrected by Al Davis and the Raiders.
In 1980, when starter Dan Pastorini broke he leg in week 5, Plunkett took over and had the season of his life. He led the Cinderella Raiders all the way to a surprise Super Bowl victory over the Eagles. He did it again three years later thanks to the dynamite running attack of Marcus Allen.
Cassel has a Good 2008
Matt Cassel and Scott Zolak were two other backup quarterbacks that wore #16 for the Pats. Both are memorable for different reasons. For Cassel, he quarterbacked possibly the best team ever to miss the playoffs in 2008 after Brady tore his ACL in the opener. Cassel had some fine games especially late in the season when New England was battling Miami for first place. The Patriots crushed the Dolphins and followed that up with a 47-7 win over the eventual NFC champion Cardinals.
Unfortunately, Cassel did not have the consistency of Brady and in a crucial home game against the Steelers, he laid an egg. That loss cost the Pats their season. In my opinion, the 2008 Patriots could’ve been a 15-win team had Brady not been injured. Cassel turned his season in New England as a starter into an opportunity with the Kansas City Chiefs. Again, inconsistency plagued his career. He led KC to the playoffs once before he signed on with a series of other squads. In 2017, he started in place of Marcus Mariota for the Titans, but was very ineffective.
The Game Analyst That Wore #16
Zolak is better known for his announcing than his playing. He started a playoff game for New England against Jacksonville in 1998, but that was the zenith of his uninspiring playing career. As far as broadcasting is concerned, Zolak is a gem. He’s a complete homer and uses phrases such as “show ponies and unicorns” when he gets excited about the play of his beloved Patriots.
Zolak is not just funny, though. He is quite knowledgeable as he has garnered great respect from Bill Belichick. Belichick and Zolak break down plays of the week together shown at Patriots.com.
There are a lot of interesting guys that wore #17 for the Patriots, but few of them did anything special for the team. Mike Taliaferro was the most distinguished of the bunch as he made the All-star game for the 1969 Patriots. Aaron Dobson spent three injury-plagued seasons with New England from 2013-15. His best game was a 100-yarder in a home game thrashing of the Steelers.
Henry Ellard, John Friesz, Chad Jackson, Tom Owen, Greg Salas, Dedric Ward and Elmo Wright also put on #17 for the Patriots for at least one game. What a diverse collection of talent!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills