Day 10 – 25 Days celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1996 AFC title

The Patriots’ offense in 1996 can honestly be considered one of the best in team history, at least as far as rankings go. That season, Drew Bledsoe, Curtis Martin, Terry Glenn, Shawn Jefferson, Ben Coates and other contributors helped New England finish second in the NFL in points scored. Aside from the 2007 offense, how many times in recent memory has there ever been an offense that prolific residing in Foxborough?

The Patriots scored 418 points that year, only behind Green Bay’s 456. Of course coaches will always credit players, but as offensive coordinator, Ray Perkins usually gets forgotten when discussing the offense of the mid-90’s because the team ultimately didn’t win.

Perkins is our focus today because of just how good the offense was in 96. The Pats averaged 26.1 points per game, good for second behind Green Bay (28.5) and ahead of the Steve Young and Jerry Rice 49ers who finished third at 24.9 points per game. Perkins’ offense also averaged 335.6 yards per game, finishing 7th and the 5,369 yards of total offense gained that year was good enough for 6th.

Perkins was no stranger to New England, starting his NFL coaching career in 1974 as the Patriots’ wide receivers coach. He remained the receivers coach until becoming the offensive coordinator for the Chargers in 1978. 15 years later and after several stints with various NFL teams and as Alabama’s head coach (1983-1986) he took over as the offensive coordinator when Bill Parcells took over head coaching duties in 1993.

With Ray Perkins calling the shots as OC from 93 through 96 and Bledsoe managing expectations as the No. 1 overall pick and centerpiece of a rebuilding franchise, New England finished 22nd, 8th, 23rd and second in total points. Sure it’s a bit up and down and 1995 was basically a disaster, but that’s two out of the four years in the top 10. I’d say that’s pretty damn good given the circumstances.

Perkins coached for the Raiders and Browns for just three more years after the 1996 season before becoming the head coach at Jones County Junior College from 2012-2013. Perkins coached Oak Grove High School from 2014-2017 before hanging up the whistle at 76. Perkins passed away at the age of 79 in 2020.

In his 20 years as an NFL coach on the sideline or in a press box, one of Perkins’ most underrated coaching performances may have been the one he had here during the 1996 season. Based on the talent on that side of the ball and some of the prolific offenses in the league at the time, the Patriots didn’t have any business finishing second in points, but they did.

25 years later, it’s only right that Perkins gets a little more love for the job he did.

Keep following along this weekend as we continue our 25 days celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1996 AFC Champion New England Patriots. We’ve got a couple surprises coming too…