The 10 best quarterbacks in the history of the New England Patriots

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots
Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

When reflecting upon the Patriots' history of starting quarterbacks, one player comes to mind: Tom Brady. There were other memorable players throughout the years, but the team became most famous for the player who would go on to become the greatest of all time.

The rest of those on the list doesn't come anywhere close to Brady's career, making it a bit trickier to put together the top ten quarterbacks in the history of the franchise.

In some cases, it's slim pickens, so some names might be surprising to see. But there are more variables in determining why a player is one of the best of all time

Criteria for selection

There is a lot to consider when choosing the best players at any position in a team's history, and given the Patriots' lackluster quarterbacks since their inception, it's especially difficult to formulate their list.

Despite it all, a quarterback's impact goes beyond just what they do on the field. When they joined the team, how they helped in whatever role they were given, the type of teammate they were, and more can go a long way in cementing their legacy in New England.

Considering all of that on top of their statistical efforts during their time with the Patriots is the basis for these rankings.

The top 10 quarterbacks in Patriots history

10. Doug Flutie

Doug Flutie found his way to the Patriots in 1987 via a trade by the Chicago Bears and had quite a bumpy start to his tenure in New England. The NFLPA went on strike prior to the start of the regular season, resulting in replacement players filling in for those who were actually rostered.

Imagine the season of replacement referees, but the players were the ones replaced.

Once the strike was finally over, it was the next season and Flutie was coming off the bench to play quarterback. After the season began poorly with a 1-3 record, he was put in the game and helped lead the team to the brink of the playoffs, going 6-3 during his nine starts.

He was eventually benched for Tony Eason, who was unable to match Flutie's production. After the 1989 season, he was released from the Patriots and did not play in the NFL again until the Bills signed him in 1998.

He made his triumphant return to the Patriots in 2005, at the age of 43. Flutie would play that year behind TomBrady, serving in a backup role and only seeing the field for relief efforts to close out games. He made the most of it, though, ending his career with the infamous dropkick for an extra point against the Dolphins in January 2006, which hadn't happened in a regular season game in 55 years.

Although his tenure wasn't long or all that impressive, Flutie's role in breaking through the picket line to play football was a big moment that inevitably helped end the strike. He left a lasting impression on the team, and if circumstances had been different, he could have been a bigger part of the team's history.

9. Cam Newton

Yes, you read that right. Cam Newton makes the list of the best quarterbacks in Patriots history. It might not be a popular selection, but it's hard to argue against the impact he had on the team during his one season in New England.

The longtime Panther was a polarizing figure prior to his stint with the Patriots, but in the first season post-Brady, he reinvigorated fans' hopes about what the team could be without the legendary quarterback under center.

There was a lot of pressure on Newton to perform, not just because he was with an organization known for their historical success, but because he was the first quarterback given the reins after Brady's departure. Stepping into the shoes of the GOAT was not going to be easy, and that's exactly how his 2020 season went.

The year started great with a win over the Dolphins, followed by an incredible effort against the Seahawks on the road. They beat the Raiders a week later, and then everything fell apart.

We know how the rest of the year went, but it would be unfair not to point out how impactful Newton was on the offense, specifically on the ground. He finished the season with a 49-yard run against the Jets, becoming the longest run by a quarterback in franchise history.

In the same game, he became the first quarterback in team history to record a receiving touchdown, a beautiful 19-yard pass from Jakobi Meyers in the third quarter. He also broke Steve Grogan's longtime rushing record from the 1978 season, when the quarterback totaled 539 rushing yards. Newton recorded 592 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the year.

While Patriots fans may want to forget the 2020 season, the impact Newton had on the team that year cannot be overstated, for good or bad.

8. Matt Cassel

After watching Tom Brady complete the best season by any quarterback in 2007 only to lose in the Super Bowl to a flukey play by the Giants, Matt Cassel had big shoes to fill when thrown into the starting role in Week 1 of the 2008 season. Brady had torn his ACL on one of the first plays of the opening game against the Chiefs, forcing young Cassel to take the reins much earlier than anticipated.

It felt like the Patriots' season was over with Brady going down, but Cassel surprisingly kept the team afloat despite the odds.

He went on to bring the team to 11 wins and just five losses, breaking NFL records in the process. He became the first quarterback in league history to record at least ten wins, 325 completions with a 63% completion rate, 3,600 passing yards, 20 touchdowns to11 or fewer interceptions, and 250 rushing yards in a single season.

It was quite the feat for Cassel given his position. Although the Patriots didn't make the playoffs, making them just the second team in the Wild Card era to miss the postseason with that record, his success, knowing the pressure he was under, was impressive.

7. Mac Jones

Perhaps it's shocking to see Mac Jones's name on this list, but when considering statistics and overall impact on the team, the former Alabama quarterback is right where he belongs.

Jones was selected with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and was expected to become the Patriots' next franchise quarterback after Tom Brady. He put on quite a show as a rookie, taking the team to ten wins and back to the playoffs after missing them the season before.

He recorded a 67% completion rate with 3,801 yards and earned a Pro Bowl selection at the end of the season. But his career with the team went downhill after that year.

Why we saw Jones' downfall in New England is an argument that can be had until the end of time, but it's clear his performance was impacted by what was going on with the team. However, his impact should not be overlooked, as he was the first quarterback to be labeled the next franchise player after Brady, which is significant in a young player's career.

6. Jim Plunkett

Perhaps you forgot Jim Plunkett was a quarterback for the Patriots, given that he became most famous for his stint with the Raiders. However, he was the team's first overall pick in the 1971 Draft and played five seasons in New England.

Although his stats aren't overly impressive, he was one of the longest-tenured starters for the Patriots in the franchise's history. During his time as the starter, he recorded 729 completions for 9,932 yards, 62 touchdowns, and 87 interceptions.

It wasn't exactly what the Patriots were hoping for from their presumed face of the franchise, but his stats keep him near the top of the team's history.

After being traded to the 49ers in 1976, he eventually ended up with the Raiders, where he saw the most success in his career. He led the team to two championships, winning Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XVIII and even winning Super Bowl XV MVP.

The Patriots may not have benefitted from his most successful era, but maybe they helped set him up for that success during their time together. That's a positive spin on it.

5. Tony Eason

In an attempt to find Steve Grogan's replacement, the Patriots drafted Tony Eason in the first round of the 1983 draft. He was the fourth quarterback off the board in a class full of future Hall of Famers, including John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino.

Because Grogan had been injury-riddled during the previous two seasons, Eason was expected to be the starter, only to actually start 49 out of the 72 games he took the field for with the Patriots. He continued to be rotated under center, finishing some games or starting some before being pulled for interceptions.

However, that wasn't always a common problem with the quarterback. In 1984, he led the league with an impressive 1.9% interception rate for the entire year, which is almost unheard of today.

Other than eventually solidifying himself in the top 5 of passing yards for quarterbacks in Patriots history, he also helped lead the team to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1985. Although it was a memorable performance for all the wrong reasons, it's still significant that he contributed to their path to the championship game.

4. Vito “Babe” Parilli

A journeyman quarterback who came to play for the Boston Patriots in 1961 to become the team's first franchise quarterback, Babe Parilli helped set a standard in New England for generations of quarterbacks to come.

He had previously played and started for the Green Bay Packers, giving him invaluable experience before his career in Boston, which helped him earn three Pro Bowl selections in 1963, 1964 and 1966, and was named All-Pro during that time as well.

Parilli put together the best years of his career suiting up for the Patriots, including an impressive 1964 season, which included 228 completions for 3,465 passing yards and 31 touchdowns, with the latter being the best in the league.

That season would remain the record for most passing yards in team history until Tom Brady's unbelievable season in 2007, proving how impactful Parilli was on the team during the early days of the team's existence.

3. Steve Grogan

Despite the Patriots' efforts to replace him as the team's starting quarterback, Steve Grogan went on to put together an impressive 15 seasons in New England and earns the right to call himself the third best quarterback in team history.

Prior to the aversion of dual-threat quarterbacks, Grogan was the epitome of the modern-day signal caller and set a precedent for future players at the position. During his impressive 15-year career, he recorded 445 carries for 2,176 yards and 35 touchdowns, all while averaging 4.9 yards per carry, which is better than most running backs.

Grogan set the record for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback during his second season in the NFL, totaling 12 scores on the season, which wouldn't be matched in New England until Cam Newton came to town in 2020.

Two seasons later, in 1978, he ran for an unbelievable 539 yards on the ground, which was also not broken until Newton rushed for 592 yards 42 years later.

Grogan's win/loss record might not sway you into believing he was that great player, as he ended his career at 75-60. But when he played from 1975 to 1991, he was a standout player who kept the team afloat by putting them on his back and doing all he could to remain the starter. That's admirable, to say the least.

2. Drew Bledsoe

Before there was a Tom Brady, there was Drew Bledsoe, the face of the Patriots franchise from 1993 to 2001. He was a solid quarterback who helped bring the team back to relevancy, even if it didn't bring in a boat load of championships.

He brought promise to a team that hadn't been historically successful, starting in 1994 when he led the team to a 10-6 record and led the league in several statistics, like completions and passing yards, despite the caliber of talent at the position at the time.

A few years later, Bledsoe brought the team to another championship game, representing the AFC in Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. As we know, the Patriots didn't win the game. However, it had been 11 years since their last appearance.

Despite the loss, New England knew what they had in Bledsoe and rewarded him for his work by signing him to a ten-year, $100 million contract to remain the face of the franchise.

Although that's not what happened, as the story of how he lost his job to Tom Brady is now a tale as old as time, Bledsoe was a significant part of the organization, especially for Robert Kraft, and was a solid player for the team throughout his eight seasons there.

1. Tom Brady

Is this really a question?

The best quarterback of all time is undoubtedly the greatest in New England Patriots history based on nearly every statistical measure that exists in the NFL, and the most talented quarterback the league has ever seen.

The start of his tenure was chaotic and controversial, but once he started leading the team to wins and Super Bowls, it was easy to forget about. Throughout the years, Brady put together some of the most impressive performances from a quarterback, some of which were in the biggest games of his career, and it ultimately led to six Lombardi's making their way to Foxboro.

He set all-time records for passing yards, touchdowns, and more and became one of the most identifiable figures in American sports.

Brady solidified his status in Patriots history, and Robert Kraft rewarded him even more with a lavish ceremony featuring the retirement of his jersey number and the announcement of a status in the quarterback's likeness to be placed in front of the Patriots Hall of Fame.

It was a night fit for a king in the presence of hundreds of his former teammates and coaches and a stadium filled with loyal Patriots fans. It proved even further how much Brady meant to New England and his impact over two decades in the most successful sports town in the U.S.

The top 10 quarterbacks in Patriots history by passing yards



Years with Patriots

Passing Yards


Tom Brady




Drew Bledsoe




Steve Grogan




Vito “Babe” Parilli




Tony Eason




Jim Plunkett




Mac Jones




Matt Cassel




Cam Newton




Doug Flutie



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