New England Patriots: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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Willie McGinest, New England Patriots
Defensive lineman Willie McGinest of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown during a game against the San Diego Chargers at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. The Patriots won the game, 45-7. /

player. 47. . EDGE. (1994-05). Willie McGinest. 8

  • 3x Super Bowl Champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX)
  • 2x Pro Bowl (1996, 2003)
  • New England Patriots Hall of Fame
  • Most career quarterback sacks in NFL playoff history (16.0)

When it comes to be a Patriot, are we sure there was a better building block for the winning culture in Foxborough than Willie McGinest? New England was a terrible AFC franchise when McGinest was drafted No. 4 overall out of USC in 1994. He would become the pillar of excellence in the locker room for the defense for the next dozen years.

Former Patriots head coach Bill Parcells absolutely nailed his first two first-round picks after taking over the franchise in 1993. Drew Bledsoe at quarterback out of Washington State in 1993 was a no-brainer selection. McGinest over time was just that for the New England defense. Basically, the Patriots wouldn’t have nearly as many Super Bowl victories without having McGinest on their roster.

His breakout year for the Patriots out on the edge came in 1996 when New England made it all the way to the Super Bowl. McGinest made his first of two career trips to the Pro Bowl that season.

Though Parcells would leave for the rival New York Jets the following offseason, McGinest helped guide the defense through the late 1990s under then head coach Pete Carroll and into the Bill Belichick era. Once Tom Brady took over for Bledsoe under center, the Patriots dynasty began in 2001.

McGinest would be there for the first three Super Bowl Championships in New England. He was the vocal leader of the defense that largely carried a so-so offense during the early part of Brady’s career to three Lombardi Trophies in four seasons.

McGinest made his second trip to the Pro Bowl in 2003. That might be his best season as a professional, as the Patriots would not only get back into the AFC playoffs after a year’s absence, but win Super Bowl XXXVIII over the Carolina Panthers.

He ended up playing with New England through the 2005 NFL season. McGinest signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2006 NFL free agency to play for his former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in Northeast Ohio. He spent three seasons with the Browns before retiring after the 2008 NFL season.

McGinest did sign a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Patriots the day he was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Though nowhere close to a Pro Football Hall of Famer, McGinest personified what it means to be a winner in Foxborough. He still holds the NFL record for most postseason sacks at 16.0. You can see him doing analyst work for the NFL Network today.