By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

Editor’s note: This is the third post in a week-long series which will ask fans to determine the face of each pro sports franchise in Boston. Yesterday, we asked for the face of the Bruins, and on Monday, it was the face of the Red Sox.

It’s a question that seems almost comical to ask, but still, we must: Who is the face of the New England Patriots?

The answer may be elementary to many, but we’re not in the business of making any assumptions. Plus, with not many players on the roster capable of competing with the quarterback for such a prestigious honor, a couple of non-playing candidates are sure to make the discussion a bit more interesting.

Most of the roster has changed since the Patriots last won a Super Bowl eight years ago, and so too have feelings about the team and the players.

As the Patriots gear up for another run at the Lombardi Trophy, who has come to represent the franchise most?

The Candidates

Tom Brady (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady

The list begins with Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., and for many folks, it ends there, too.

He’s been the starting quarterback since 2001, only missing time with his knee injury in 2008. He is, of course, a three-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time NFL MVP and arguably the best to ever play his position. He’s shown very few, if any, signs of slowing down, averaging 37 touchdowns and nine interceptions per year in his five seasons since 2007.

Still, there’s at least some reason to believe Brady will not be a unanimous winner in such a vote, even if they’re not very good reasons. There’s been a small (if vocal) faction of fans who have seemingly never liked Brady and have hoped to see him go elsewhere for years. Some folks seriously believe he lost his championship drive when he married supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Still others don’t approve of the Ugg advertisements, or his hair, or his clothes, or his whatever. Some fans, despite the success, just never took to Tom Brady.

Chances are, though, that those aren’t the opinions of the majority. This is, after all, Tom Brady we’re talking about.

Bill Belichick (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick

In his 13 years on the Patriots’ sideline, Bill Belichick has established himself as an all-time legend.

The hoodie, the demeanor, and most of all the winning are all part of the indelible image of the head coach who will go down as one of the best in the sport’s history.

He came to the Patriots with a golden resume as a coordinator but a 36-44 record as a head coach, and after a 5-11 debut season in New England and 0-2 start in 2001, Belichick was hardly making a case for the history books. Thanks to a quarterback change, a revived defense and a little help from an all-time great kicker, Belichick’s led the team to three Super Bowls and a 146-44 regular-season record, making the playoffs in 10 of the last 12 seasons. As a head coach, he’s just two wins shy of the all-time record for playoff wins.

It’s hard to guess how much longer the 60-year-old Belichick will remain the head coach of the Patriots, but his impact on the franchise will never be forgotten.

Robert Kraft (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images)

Robert Kraft (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images)

Robert Kraft

The local sports teams all have their ownership groups, but there’s no head honcho in town that even comes close to Robert Kraft.

A local guy and a former season-ticket holder, Kraft has always managed to seem like one of the people, despite his millions and millions of dollars.

And he’s done more than simply put on a happy face for the cameras and let other folks run his team. He changed the culture of the once-woeful franchise, and since he fully purchased the team in 1994, never once has a seat gone unsold in Foxboro. He built a state-of-the-art stadium and developed an entire shopping complex and team Hall of Fame around it, ensuring the team is here to stay for good.

Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

If Brady represents the past greatness of the franchise, no player better represents the potential for future success like Rob Gronkowski.

Still just 23 years old, Gronkowski is already tied for sixth in team history with 38 touchdowns, which he’s done incredibly in just 43 career games. His old-school “Gronk Spike” after scoring is the closest thing the Patriots have ever had to a “signature move” of sorts, and each and every time he nearly deflates the football with his overhand spike, the 68,000-plus fans in attendance always go wild.

It could be argued that if not for injuries to Gronkowski, the Patriots may have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy either last year, the year before, or both years. He’s that dominant.

The Results

Winner: Tom Brady — 69 percent

Bill Belichick — 19 percent
Robert Kraft — 9 percent
Rob Gronkowski — 3 percent

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