Emmanuel Sanders has had an excellent NFL career so far, but he believes he would have been a Hall of Famer with the New England Patriots.
It’s dangerous to play the ‘what if?’ game in sports – especially if you’re a New England Patriots fan.
Sure, the Patriots could have very easily won a couple extra titles if a few freak plays had gone their way.
What if David Tyree hadn’t pinned that football against his helmet, or Rodney Harrison had been able to knock it free? What if Mario Manningham hadn’t come down with that catch as he dragged his toes just before he went out of bounds on the sideline? What if Tom Brady sees Brandon Graham coming from his blindside and evades the Philadelphia player, prolonging that last drive in Super Bowl 52?
That all being said, it goes both ways for New England.
What if Malcolm Butler doesn’t pick off Russell Wilson in the end zone, or Pete Carroll decides to run Marshawn Lynch from the 1-yard line instead? What if Adam Vinatieri doesn’t drill game-winning kicks in three Super Bowl wins, let alone his kick against the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game? What if any number of the outlandish, against-all-the-odds plays don’t go in favor of the Pats during their historic comeback against the Falcons? (Julian Edelman’s bizarre catch comes first to mind.)
One person who’s not afraid to play the ‘what if?’ game as it relates to the Patriots? Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who finds himself suiting up for his third Super Bowl appearance this Sunday. Now with the San Francisco 49ers, he has previously both won and lost a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.
Before he ever ended up in Denver, though, Sanders was a Pittsburgh Steeler. And very briefly in 2013, it looked like he was destined to be a Patriot, as well.
Alas for both Sanders and New England fans, it wasn’t meant to be. Sanders signed his offer sheet from the Patriots, but Pittsburgh had the chance to match the offer and they did, keeping him with the Steelers a bit longer until he found his way eventually to Denver and then San Francisco.
“If I had went to New England, I probably would’ve been a Hall of Famer,” Sanders told NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry. “I probably would’ve been a Hall of Famer.”
Sanders wasn’t afraid to elaborate on his reasoning:
"“That was, what, my third year in the league? Tom (Brady) would’ve had, what, seven more years left? How many Super Bowls have they won from then? But it didn’t work out. That’s not the plan that God wanted for me. I don’t regret anything. Year 10. Third Super Bowl. I’m blessed, man.”"
Of course, there’s still a chance that Sanders and the Patriots link up before Brady retires. The wideout is again a free agent this spring, and New England certainly needs help at the wide receiver position. Who knows if Brady will remain on the roster in 2020, though…