The Tuna: The '95 Draft

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The Patriots entered the 1995 season coming off a tough playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns 20-13.  Despite the loss in the playoffs, Patriots Nation felt the team was going in the right direction.  The roster and the play on the field was getting better and there was direction for the team, but as success was starting to show its face in Foxboro there was also strife developing between Robert Kraft and Bill Parcells.  

Photo courtesy of patspulpit.com

The two men would begin to come to odds over personnel control.  Parcells was brought in by the previous owner and had given him control of the team and his decisions was beginning to get pushback from Kraft.  The two men began to show differences between the two that would eventually come to a head. 

The 1995 NFL Draft was on the horizon and Parcells, who was coming off of two drafts that brought Bledsoe and McGinnest, drafted five players in 1995 that would help get them to an eventually Super Bowl in 1996.  The Patriots picked No. 23 in the draft and they selected Michigan cornerback Ty Law.  “When I was coming out, I was just excited to get going,” Law recalled.  “A lot of talk had me going somewhere between the fourth and the seventh round, but I just decided to take a chance on myself.  I was just taking everything in, and absorbing everything as it came.  I went to Detroit, and flew up to New England prior to the draft.  I went a few other places after I started moving up the draft boards a bit.”

The Patriots had other needs on the roster heading into the draft including running back, but Parcells wanted Law.  “We feel he’ll be able to come in here and contribute in his first season,” Parcells said after the pick was made.  “He’s got decent speed, he’s got good size, he can tackle and he’s a good, solid young man.”

Parcells focused on his defense in the second round by selecting Colorado linebacker Ted Johnson.  Johnson would be a stellar pick similar to Law, both players would be key members of the Patriots defense for years to come.  Over the span of his 10-year career, Johnson started in 106 games, recorded 757 tackles and played in four Super Bowls, winning three of them.  

In an interview with Bleacher report, Johnson talked about what it was like to play for Parcells.  “Well he was my favorite coach.  He was awesome.  He started me my rookie year.  The second year we went to the Super Bowl.  He had me be the signal-caller my second year, so he gave me a lot of trust and faith in me.  Probably my favorite coach ever”, said Johnson. “He was just...he had an emotional investment in his guys.  He wanted to see me do well.  I'll never forget that.  He gave me the chance to play early.  He believed in me, and he wanted to see me do well and he just made me a better player.”

Parcells would make one more key selection in the 1995 NFL Draft, in the third round he selected Pittsburgh running back Curtis Martin with the 74th overall selection.  Heading into that draft mock drafts had Martin going as early as the first round all the way to the third round.  The NFL critics questioned the durability of Martin coming into the draft.  He would shut those critics up by being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. 

The Patriots also drafted cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock and center Dave Wohlabaugh.  Both players would play roles in 1995 and then 1996 that would help get the Patriots to the Super Bowl. 

In the 1995 season the Patriots had expectations to return to the playoffs but the season would not go to plan.  While Parcells had a great draft and it would set the organization up for success in the future, 1995 was a failure.  The team started the season 1-6 and it started to feel like underachieving, one year after losing in the playoffs.  They could never seem to get any momentum going, but they had two bright spots in 1995, Martin and tight end Ben Coates.  Martin rushed for 1487 yards and scored 14 touchdowns on his way to a Pro Bowl and Rookie of the Year. Coates caught 84 balls from Bledsoe and had 915 yards receiving with six touchdowns. 

In a year of heartache and hard times, they took a small step back for an eventual Super Bowl run that would commence in 1996.  The Tuna’s draft may not have ultimately yielded the wins, in fact the Patriots finished the season 6-10, but it built character for the team.  Parcells' 1995 season, while a washout, set the tone for what would begin to change the Patriots franchise forever. 


Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisHenrique

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The Tuna: The '95 Draft
The Tuna: The '95 Draft
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