New England Patriots: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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Ben Coates, New England Patriots
19 Oct 1997: Tight end Ben Coates of the New England Patriots runs with the ball and is chased by linebacker Mo Lewis of the New York Jets during a game at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won the game 24-19. /

. TE. (1991-99). Ben Coates. 19. player. 47

  • NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
  • 5x Pro Bowl (1994-98)
  • 2x First-Team All-Pro (1994-95)
  • Second-Team All-Pro (1998)
  • New England Patriots Hall of Fame

Though Rob Gronkowski has surpasses him as the greatest tight end in Patriots history, let’s not forget what Ben Coates meant to the New England passing game in the 1990s. Coates first came to the Patriots as a fifth-round pick out of small Livingston College in the 1991 NFL Draft.

While his first few years in the league were underwhelming, Coates’ NFL career really took off when Drew Bledsoe became the Patriots starting quarterback and Bill Parcells the head coach. Parcells would open up a vaunted aerial attack with Bledsoe under center. Coates quickly benefited from being Parcells’ safety valve at the tight end position.

He made five-straight Pro Bowls from 1994 to 1998 in the New England offense. Coates earned First-Team All-Pro honors in back-to-back seasons in 1994 and 1995. In 1996, the Patriots made it all the way to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. However, Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers were too tall of a challenge for New England in Super Bowl XXXI.

Even after Parcells left for the AFC East rival New York Jets, Coates continued his high playing level under Parcells’ replacement in Pete Carroll. He rattled off two more trips to the Pro Bowl in 1997 and 1998, earning Second-Team All-Pro honors in 1998.

While Coates only went over 1,000 yards receiving once in his NFL career in 1994, he was a highly productive, pass-catching tight end through the 1998 campaign. Even though he played in all 16 games in 1999, Coates managed just 32 catches for 370 yards and two touchdowns in his final year with the Patriots.

This led to Coates being released by the Patriots after the 1999 NFL season. He would sign on with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. While he only had nine catches for 84 yards in his one year with Baltimore, that Ravens defense was good enough to give Coates his only Super Bowl victory in his NFL career. Coates would retire after Super Bowl XXXV when the Ravens beat the New York Giants.

In nine years with the Patriots, Coates amassed 490 catches for 5,471 yards and 50 touchdowns. Though he has been out of the league for nearly two decades, could Coates one day earn Canton enshrinement? How compelling is his case?

Well, Coates did make the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. He made five-straight Pro Bowls and was part of three All-Pro teams. His Super Bowl win with Baltimore doesn’t hurt. Add in that Coates was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2008 and yes, you can make the case that he could have a bust in Canton one day. The only issues are that tight ends coming down the pipeline in Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates blow Coates’ otherwise impressive numbers out of the water.