Thursday, September 25, 2008

Farewell to a legend

The second part to the top Patriot front office moves will have to wait. The Patriots saw an era come to an end today.

After 15 seasons, Troy Brown has retired from the Patriots. For the first time since Drew Bledsoe's rookie season, the Patriots will not have Troy Brown on the sidelines, and though his production had been declining, it was always comforting to see him in uniform. He was a constant; whether it be a win or a loss, losing season or Super Bowl year, he was there. It sounds ridiculous, but when you were a fan of the Patriots during his 15 seasons, you felt like things were going to be okay when you saw Troy Brown playing. He was a consummate professional, and a reassuring presence every time he buckled his chin strap.

The reasons for revering him are numerous. Starting off, he's the all-time franchise leader in receptions (557), and is second in receiving yards (6,366). In 2001, Brown helped Tom Brady kick off his own spectacular career with a 101-catch, 1,199-yard season, leading to his only Pro Bowl appearance.

But that's not what made Troy Brown special. Consider the following:

*In 2001, who had a 27-yard punt return in the Snow Game against the Oakland Raiders, putting New England in position to tie the game? Troy Brown.

*One game later, in the 2001 AFC Championship, whose 55-yard punt return for a touchdown put New England on the board, setting the pace for its 24-17 victory? Troy Brown.

*In the 2002 Super Bowl, whose 23-yard reception in the final minute helped put New England in position for the winning field goal? Troy Brown.

*In 2004, with the New England defense suffering major injuries, who stepped up to play on the other side of the ball at cornerback? And who, with three interceptions, actually played it pretty damn well? Troy Brown.

*And in 2006, in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against San Diego, after Tom Brady seemingly ended the Patriots' season with an interception, who caused a fumble and recovered the ball, in one of the more astute plays made in recent years? Troy Brown.

There have been receivers better than Troy Brown in the NFL, but for New England, there's never been one as clutch, poised, well-mannered and, judging by 15 years of servitude, loyal. Troy Brown was a Patriot for 15 years, and for each of those 15 years, the Patriots were Troy Brown. He may not make the Hall of Fame, but if the Patriots don't retire his #80 and put him into the team Hall of Fame as soon as possible, it'll be a crime. It's the least they can do for a man who helped put the Patriots on the map, and once there, got them to heights few have enjoyed.

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