New England Patriots: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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John Hannah. 2. player. 47. . G. (1973-85)

  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 1991)
  • New England Patriots No. 73 jersey retired
  • NFL 75th Anniversary Team
  • NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
  • 10x First-Team All-Pro (1976-85)
  • 9x Pro Bowl (1976, 1978-85)
  • New England Patriots Hall of Fame

Only until very recently was offensive guard John Hannah the greatest player in Patriots franchise history. He is seen as the greatest guard in the history of football. It’s not super rare than an offensive lineman would be the greatest player in the history of an NFL franchise.

You could argue that Anthony Muñoz is the greatest Cincinnati Bengal, Bruce Matthews is the greatest Houston Oiler/Tennessee Titan and Walter Jones is the greatest Seattle Seahawk. Yes, Hannah is in that same vein. An absolute road grader in the run as a pulling guard and a brilliant technician in pass protection, there may not be another guard as complete as Hannah.

New England used a No. 4 overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft to select the eventual College Football Hall of Famer out of the University of Alabama. While he played for several outstanding teams in Alabama under iconic head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, winning was hard to come by in Hannah’s 13 seasons in New England.

The Patriots may have only made the AFC playoffs a handful of times, Hannah did play in the Patriots’ first-ever trip to the Super Bowl in 1985. Interestingly enough, Super Bowl XX would be Hannah’s last game as a professional, retiring at the age of 34.

So how dominant was Hannah in his prime? Just how long was that prime of his? Well, Hannah made his first First-Team All-Pro squad in year four in 1976 and didn’t stop doing that until he retired after Super Bowl XX. We are talking about 10-straight seasons of being a First-Team All-Pro. That’s just ridiculous.

He made the Pro Bowl in nine of those 10 years. The lone exception was in 1977 for some reason. Even though his NFL career was relatively evenly split over two decades, Hannah made the NFL All-Decade Team in both the 1970s and 1980s. Keep in mind he’s doing this not playing for a flagship NFL franchise at a non-glamorous position of offensive guard.

Naturally, Hannah would be a no-doubt NFL 75th Anniversary Team selection. Guards as impressive as Hannah don’t exist. He would start to rack up the accolades for personal achievement not long after hanging up the spikes in 1985.

In addition to be a College Football Hall of Famer, Hannah earned enshrinement in the Patriots Hall of Fame. His No. 73 jersey is one of seven retired by the Patriots organization. On his first ballot, Hannah became the first player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame based primarily on his time with the Patriots. It’s nearly 40 years since Hannah last played. We’re still waiting for an NFL guard as talented as he was playing for New England in the 1970s and 1980s.