While the New England Patriots didn’t win a championship until Super Bowl XXXVI, the franchise still boasts an incredible core of talented players from their earlier years. The late 1970’s to early 1980’s, in particular, featured a series of phenomenal players who made the Patriots one of the more fun teams to watch. While nobody was as good as John Hannah, longtime cornerback Mike Haynes very well could have been the second-best player on those late 70’s/early 80’s teams.
New England Patriots of the Past: Mike Haynes
The Early Years
Haynes was born on July 1st, 1953 in Dension, Texas. However, by the time he was in high school, Haynes had moved out to California, and played both football and track at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles. Haynes showed he was a gifted athlete from a young age, as he excelled in both football and track.
Haynes played both offense and defense in high school, serving as the team’s quarterback and cornerback. While on the track team, Haynes set the school long jump record with a 23’-5” leap. This record was so impressive that it still holds to this very day.
Haynes’ impressive high school career earned him a spot on the Arizona State football team. During his collegiate tenure, Haynes would go on to establish himself as one of the top young cornerbacks in the nation. In his four seasons with Arizona State, Haynes earned three All-Western Athletic Conference selections and two All-American selections.
Haynes Patriot Tenure
The Patriots owned the fifth overall pick in the 1976 NFL Draft and used it to make Haynes a Patriot. This selection immediately paid off, as Haynes became a Day One starter on the Patriot defense. Not only did Haynes start every game of his rookie season, he immediately became the best cornerback on the team. The rookie recorded was a turnover machine, recording eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries over the 14-game season. This impressive performance earned Haynes his first Pro Bowl nomination, Second-Team All-Pro honors, and the NFL Rookie of the Year award.
The 1976 Patriots went 11-3, earning their first playoff berth since the NFL merger, and Haynes was a big part of that success. While his rookie season was incredible, Haynes would only improve on his stellar first season. While he never improved on the eight picks he recorded his rookie season, Haynes became a more complete cornerback, capable of completely eliminating any receiver unfortunate enough to line up across from him.
Haynes earned six Second-Team All-Pro nominations and six Pro Bowl berths during his time with New England. The only year in which he didn’t win the honor was in 1981 when injuries held him to just six games. During his Patriots tenure, Haynes recorded 28 interceptions for 393 yards and a touchdown while serving as a masterful shutdown presence in the defensive backfield.
Additionally, Haynes was also one of the primary punt returners for the Patriots early in his career. While his work in the kicking game wasn’t as prolific as his defensive play, he still managed to be a solid contributor. During his time with New England, Haynes recorded 111 punt returns for 1,159 yards and two touchdowns, good for an average of 10.4 yards per return.
Life After New England
After some contract disputes between the Las Angeles Raiders and the New England Patriots, Haynes joined the Raiders midway through the 1983 season. In exchange, the Patriots received the Raiders first round pick in 1983 and a second-round pick in 1984.
Despite the loss of draft capital, the Raiders clearly got the better deal. Starting opposite fellow shutdown cornerback Lester Haynes, the duo would go on to form one of the greatest cornerback duos in league history.
Haynes only played five regular season games with the Raiders in 1983, but he was around for the playoff run. Las Angeles ended up winning Super Bowl XVIII, with Haynes recording an interception and two pass breakups in the big game.
Haynes had arguably the two best years of his career in 1984 and 1985. Haynes started all 32 games over those two seasons, recording a combined 10 interceptions and completely eliminating his receiver from the game. His fantastic play earned him First-Team All-Pro honors in both seasons.
Overall, Haynes spent seven years each with both the Patriots and the Raiders. During his career, he recorded 46 interceptions and two pick-sixes, recovering 14 fumbles while being one of the best coverage corners in the league. Haynes finished his career as a nine-time Pro Bowler, a two-time First-Team All-Pro, and six-time Second-Team All-Pro.
Haynes was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2000. Arguably the greatest corner of all time, Haynes was selected to the NFL All-1980’s Team, and the Patriots have retired his number 40.
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