Generations of New England Patriots fans have no idea that Patriots had the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history, the incomparable John Hannah.
I’ve had this article bouncing around in my cranium for a while and it’s finally time to let it out. How about I inform all the younger New England Patriots fans about an offensive lineman.
He’s not just any offensive lineman. He’s not just any Patriots offensive lineman. He’s the best offensive lineman in Alabama history. The best offensive lineman in New England Patriots history. And the best offensive lineman in the history of the National Football League. Interested? Hope so. I got the story.
This guy played for the
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Patriots for thirteen seasons from 1973 until 1985. And when I say he played, I mean he didn’t really just play. He dominated. He was an All-American guard out of the University of Alabama, John Hannah.
As the Pro Football Hall of Fame notes, Hannah earned:
"4 NFLPA OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR SELECTIONS10 ALL-PRO SELECTIONS9 PRO BOWLS"
So was “Hog” Hannah good? Actually, No, not really. He was great. Really, really great, not just good.
Hannah was drafted by New England with the fourth pick in the first round of the 1973 draft. Yes, that’s a long time ago. But there hasn’t been a guard or a tackle (well … with the possible exception of Anthony Munoz, but I still give Hannah the edge) who could even come close.
New England Patriots and NFL’s all-time best
John Hannah was listed at 265 pounds and 6’2″ tall. By today’s’ standards, that would be a very small offensive lineman. It wasn’t then. I’d say the new era comparison would have had Hannah at about 6’2″ and more like 325 pounds. Or maybe 335. But that’s no sloppy 335, I assure you.
A recent article debunked spoke about the inaccuracy of any foolish commentary that suggests the entire New England Patriots history pre-Tom Brady was a failure. John Hannah was one of the main reasons it wasn’t. (As were players like Steve Grogan, Michael Haynes, Ray Clayborn, Leon Gray, etc.)
The Pro Football Hall of Fame notes,
"During his career, New England enjoyed seven winning seasons and a 100-91-0 cumulative record. Hannah was given a large share of the credit when the Patriots rushed for a then-record 3,165 yards in 1978."
Hannah was a block of granite. There’s a paradox that asks the question, what happens when an immovable object meets an irresistible force? Think about that for a second. One is defensive while the other is offensive.
As an offensive lineman, defying physics, Hannah personified both. He played at higher levels than anyone else has ever played the game. But what really stood out about Hannah was the irresistible force aspect. The power run-blocking aspect. Hannah didn’t just block people in the running game. He didn’t just move people. He destroyed them.
So, you can say that there have been and maybe even are offensive lineman who can do such things. But Hannah not only destroyed NFL defensive players, he destroyed NFL All-Pros. That is no exaggeration.
Hannah would knock All-Pros (the best of the best) 3-4 yards off the line-of-scrimmage on a running play. That’s what made John Hannah the best offensive lineman in the history of the game. Surprisingly, New England did the right thing and drafted him that high up in the draft.
That, of itself, was unusual. They never regretted it, except when he wanted to be paid like an all-time great and they had some issues. He was worth whatever they had to pay him.
That’s a look back at one of the three NFL GOATS in New England Patriots and NFL history. Two are recent whom we all know. The third was guard, John Hannah. The best offensive lineman who ever played the game.