It was reported in The Boston Globe that Troy Brown will announce his retirement this week. Troy Brown is one of my all time favorite New England Patriots. He is a 15 year veteran who spent his entire career with the team, a rarity in this day of free agency. His tenure with the Patriots is second only to Steve Grogan who spent 16 years with the team. This off season, when it was clear the Patriots were not going to bring him back he flirted with signing with other teams, including the New York Jets. It would have been very sad to see Troy Brown spend his last year in the league in obscurity, in a strange land, among enemies. I’m glad he will retire having not worn the uniform of another team. And I can’t really say enough about what a joy it has been seeing Troy Brown play football for my team. He has been integral in some of the most pivotal plays in New England history. And he has three Super Bowl rings to show for it.
Troy Brown is the epitome of what it means to be a Patriot in 2000’s. He was an obscure eighth round draft choice in 1993 and spent his first several years primarily returning punts and kickoffs. He became a full time starter in 2000 and the following season set the team single season reception record with 101 catches for 1,199 yards and five touchdowns (a record broken by Wes Welker in 2007 with 112 catches). He was a vital part of the Patriot’s dominance in the 2000’s and the three Super Bowl victories. What is most amazing about Troy Brown, however, is his versatility. Not only did he return kicks and catch passes, in 2004 after numerous injuries to Patriots defensive backs, Brown was pressed into action as a nickel back against the St. Louis Rams. In that same game the wily veteran also snuck down the line of scrimmage on a fake field goal attempt, hauling in a touchdown pass from Adam Vinatieri. The following week against Buffalo Brown became the first Patriot in team history to record both a reception and an interception in the same game. The reason Brown was able to be successful as nickel back was his football smarts. Versatility and intelligence on the field are attributes demonstrated by most players on the New England squad under Bill Belichick, and Troy Brown has no peer in either of these categories. Brown even played nickel back during New England’s defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. And if that is not enough proof of Brown’s versatility, he spent a few seasons as the emergency quarterback.
As mentioned earlier, Troy Brown has been pivotal in some key plays in New England history. Here are some of the ones I remember most vividly.
- In the 2002 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Brown ran a punt return back for a touchdown and later recovered a block field goal, which he lateraled to another player who ran it back for a touchdown. The later play blew the game open for the Patriots.
- In Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams, Brown caught a key pass and got out bounds on the final drive of the game resulting in a winning field goal and New England’s first Super Bowl victory.
- In Super Bowl XXXIII against the Carolina Panthers, on the final and winning drive of the game, Brown caught a long pass for a first down but was called for offensive pass interference. Charlie Weiss, the offensive coordinator, dialed up the exact same play again, which Brown hauled in to keep the drive moving. Not surprisingly, the reliable Brown was the go to receiver in that final drive and lead to Super Bowl win number two for the Patriots.
- In 2004 when Brown was pressed into action as a defensive back I went giddy with excitement when he got his first interception against the Buffalo Bills.
And the play I remember the most, which simply illustrates what a smart football player Brown is, was in the 2006 season’s playoff game against the San Diego Chargers. The 2006 Chargers were clearly the best team in the NFL that year and the Patriots were playing them on the road in San Diego in what was one of the hardest fought, intense playoff games I have ever seen. The Chargers mostly outplayed the Patriots that day but New England hung in the game. In the fourth quarter Tom Brady threw an interception to Marlin McCree which would have ended the game. But Troy Brown in the scrum to make the tackle stripped the ball causing a fumble which the Patriot’s recovered. This allowed the Patriots to ultimately escape the game with a victory. Brown robbed San Diego of their best chance to make the Super Bowl in decades. Unfortunately the Patriots lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts the following week. I don’t think that the Colts would have beaten the Chargers at home had New England lost that game. So in my opinion, Brown paved the way for Peyton Manning to win his first Super Bowl ring, and cost the Chargers one. What a player!
Key Facts about Troy Brown’s Career
- Spending 15 years with the team, he is the second longest tenured Patriot behind Steve Grogan.
- He held the team’s single season record for receptions with 101 in 2003 before it was broken by Wes Welker with 112 catches in 2007.
- He is the all time leading pass receiver in Patriots history with 557 catches for 6,366 yards and 31 touchdowns.
- His is the all time leading punt returner in Patriots history with 2,554 yards and three touchdowns.
- He played both receiver and defensive back in the Patriots win over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.
- He is the only Patriot in team history to record both a pass reception and an interception in game.
- In 2004 Brown had three interceptions playing defensive back.
- Troy Brown ranks third among wide receivers on Doug Baker’s New England Patriot’s All Time Greats list behind Gino Cappelletti (1960-1970) and Stanley Morgan (1977-1989).
Troy Brown is proof that you don’t have to be a Jerry Rice to be a most valuable player and key contributor on a championship football team. Brown was a great a player, but for different reasons than his physical skills. He maximized his potential through hard work and smarts. He was the kind of player all football fans should admire.
Note: Statistics and fact checking were done on the New England Patriots and NFL Web sites.