They all deserve to go in. For whatever reason, though, the Patriots choose to allow entry to only one person per year. I only hope Tom Brady and Bill Belichick don't come up at the same time.
As is, I open the door for Ty Law and tell Clayborn and Parcells to wait their turn. Their time will come. It may be 2026, but their time will come.
Ty Law was the best Patriots cornerback I've seen. The thing that sets him apart from Clayborn is that he played in four Super Bowls for the Patriots, winning three. He was the best player in the Patriots secondary for all those Super Bowl teams, spanning ten seasons. He was a playmaker, more so than Clayborn. Law returned six interceptions for touchdowns. He owned Peyton Manning - one of the greatest quarterbacks ever - in the playoffs. He also returned an interception for a touchdown against Kurt Warner to help the Patriots win their first Super Bowl. The Patriots defense hasn't been the same since Ty Law left after the 2004 season. And they've never won a Super Bowl since he left.
Raymond Clayborn was Ty Law before Ty Law. I remember the second half of Clayborn's career. He was great then so I can only imagine how great he was the first half of his career. He was a lockdown cornerback who was pivotal in the Patriots 1985 run to the Super Bowl. What Ty Law was to Peyton Manning is what Raymond Clayborn was to Dan Marino. The 1985 Dolphins team was one of the most prolific passing attacks I've ever seen-- before all these modern day rules made 300-yard passing games standard. The names Marino, Duper, and Clayton struck fear in opponents, yet the Patriots were able to "squish the fish" in Miami in one of the more memorable Patriots' playoff victories in history. Clayborn had an interception in the end zone in that game. I would have put Clayborn in the Patriots Hall of Fame before current inductees Ben Coates, Steve Nelson, and, yes, even Troy Brown.
Ty Law, in an interview on WEEI's "Mut and Merloni Show," expressed surprise he was nominated with Clayborn: "I thought he was already in." Clayborn, in an interview with WEEI.com's Christopher Price, when told of his nomination asked, "Why did it take so long?" I agree. Now I'm afraid he's going to have to wait a while unless the Patriots change their rules.
Now we come to the one nominee that stirs up mixed emotions in me-- Bill Parcells. The Big Tuna. Unfortunately, I tend to remember him as "The Big Defector." I'll be the first to pay homage to Bill Parcells as one of the Holy Trinity that saved professional football in New England. If it weren't for Parcells, owner Robert Kraft, and, to a lesser extent, quarterback Drew Bledsoe, this franchise would likely be playing in St. Louis. That's what former owner James Orthwein envisioned. The hire of Parcells as coach gave instant respectability to a franchise that was the laughing stock of the NFL at the time. He also made the franchise more appealing to prospective owners like Kraft.
Many forget that Parcells was a linebackers coach for the Patriots for one season in 1980 under Ron Erhardt. He returned to New England in 1993 as head coach after a storied run as New York Giants head coach. Season ticket sales soared on the news of his hire. Parcells took a 2-14 team and took them to the playoffs two of the next four seasons. In 1996, he took the team to the Super Bowl. Just as he was building something, Parcells bailed. He didn't even fly back with the team following their Super Bowl defeat to the Green Bay Packers. Patriots fans were left to wonder what could have been... until five years later when their dynasty was realized under Parcells' disciple, Bill Belichick.
I thank Parcells for saving the franchise. You just can't just dismiss that. The Patriots would not be here in New England without him. There would be no Patriots Hall of Fame at Patriot Place in Foxboro, Massachusetts without Parcells. Gillette Stadium could be nicknamed "The House that Parcells Built" much the way the old Yankee Stadium was known as "The House that Ruth Built."
But he was here only four seasons and never did win a Super Bowl. The way he left leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. He left for the Jets and later was an executive for the Miami Dolphins-- both AFC East rivals. Parcells is an NFL Hall of Famer. He can wait in line behind other true Patriots to enter the Patriots Hall of Fame.