The only team in the NFL that is not named for a city or a state, the New England Patriots began life based in Boston. On November 16, 1959, the territory of New England was changed forever when William H. “Billy” Sullivan, Jr. created the final franchise in the brand-new American Football League. In 1960, “Much-Traveled Lou”Saban was appointed the first head coach of what would become a storied franchise.
The new team’s name was left up to the public; thousands of entries flooded in, and in the end, the Boston Patriots was the big winner. Once the name was chosen, cartoonist Phil Bissell drew a Minuteman getting ready to snap a football; Sullivan liked it so much that he selected “Pat Patriot” as the team’s logo.
In 1960, Boston University Field became the organization’s first home base. During the Patriots’ initial preseason game, they handily defeated the Buffalo Bills; Bob Dee scored the AFL’s first touchdown with an exciting recovered fumble. Over 21,000 fans came out to see the regular-season home opener, but the team suffered a loss to the Denver Broncos.
By 1970, the Boston Patriots changed their name to the New England Patriots, and moved down the road to Foxborough, Massachusetts in response to the combining of the NFL and AFL. During the 1970s, the Patriots earned their first wild-card playoff berth, beginning their impressive history of wins – a reverse curse, and the exact opposite of what was occurring with the Boston Red Sox, another beloved Boston team. This decade also brought to light a slew of outstanding players, including tight end Russ Francis and offensive tackle John Hannah.
Raymond Berry and Irving Fryar helped the team from Foxborough hit their stride in the 1980s. The Patriots won their first AFC Championship in 1985; along with that came a trip to Super Bowl XX, but the Chicago Bears were able to score a 46-10 victory. In the years that followed, due to declining finances, the ownership of the team changed hands from the Sullivans to Victor Kiam of Remington Products. The bankrupt Sullivan Stadium was bought by Bob Kraft.
The 90s were marked by change, but early on they added their first bust sculpture to Canton. In 1991, Hannah became the first Patriot to be inducted into Ohio’s gloried Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 1992, the organization said goodbye to Pat Patriot and said hello to Flying Elvis and The Big Tuna. The former being the unofficial name of their new logo and the latter the nickname of their new head coach, Bill Parcells. By 1994, Bob Kraft had become the owner of the team, and through good draft choices and management, in three years the Patriots gained their mojo back.
In 2000, the Patriots not only unveiled plans for their new 68,436-seat facility, but also hired Bill Belichick and picked quarterback Tom Brady in the 6th round of the NFL draft. Belichick and Brady proved to be a winning combination, leading the Patriots to an amazing run of three Super Bowl titles over a four-year span, becoming the second team in NFL history to achieve this feat. In the middle of their Super Bowl victories, Gillette Stadium, located in Foxborough, had its grand opening in 2002. The Super Bowl XXXVI banner was proudly elevated to the new stadium’s rafters, and would appear there regularly over the next several years.
The team combined their season-ending 15-game winning streak in 2003 with a six-game run to begin the 2004 season; this set the all-time NFL record with 21 consecutive wins.
After a 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, the Patriots became one of the select franchises to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. In 2007, the Patriots made history again by completing a perfect 16-0 regular season, the first team to do so since the league expanded to 16 game seasons.