The two-week build to the Super Bowl leaves a lot of time for talk radio and panel shows to discuss everything about the game, from the key battles and under-the-radar players to what the team meals will be on the morning of the games.
However, one of the more asinine points that has been discussed is one of the legacy of the Patriots, and in particular Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, being tarnished or even brought down by a loss.
There are several untouchable records in sport. Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak, all of Jerry Rice’s receiving records, and all of Tom Brady’s postseason numbers.
On Sunday he will play in his eighth Super Bowl, the closest active quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger with three. He has won 27 playoff games, nine more than Joe Montana in second place. He has thrown nearly 400 more passes than anyone else, 23 more touchdowns than anyone else, and has three more fourth-quarter comebacks than anyone else. The #2 spot in all but the number of Super Bowls is owned by Joe Montana or Peyton Manning.
If you think one loss to the Eagles on Sunday is going to be a big enough negative to take away from all of that success then you are crazy.
Brady’s legacy was assured when he dragged the Patriots back against the Seahawks. He carved up this generations best pass defense on the biggest stage. Malcolm Butler’s interception was just the icing on the GOAT cake. The 25-point comeback last year against Atlanta was as impressive a performance as you will ever see and only built the case even further. Losing a third Super Bowl would certainly sting, but it won’t even begin to bring the rest of the field back to his level.
As far as Belichick is concerned, his genius is undeniable. He is the consummate planner and always has an ace up his sleeve, but the way he has built the Patriots over the last four years has been incredible. While he is on the verge of a second dynasty, this one is very different from the last.
From 2001 and 2004 there was a strong core to the team on both sides of the ball. There was some player turnover but for the most part the core personnel stayed the same. This time the story has been very different. Thought injury, free agency, and trades there are only four players on the Patriots who have played at least 40% of snaps in each of the 2014, 2016, and 2017 seasons. They are Tom Brady, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Nate Solder. That’s it.
These Patriots are so radically different from even the 2014 championship team that it is crazy. Those four I mentioned earlier are the only starters from Super Bowl XLIX that are at the moment cleared to play (Rob Gronkowski started as well). Shane Vereen was vital to their success, he is gone. Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins were huge pieces of the defense, both were traded away. From left guard to right tackle are all new. Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower have both missed all or most of the year with injuries.
When it comes to preparing for a game and in-game coaching Belichick is the best, but they way he has built his roster and morphed his team in such a small period of time has cemented him as the best to ever do it. Another loss won’t change that.
So when you are preparing to watch what should be another wonderful Super Bowl don’t allow yourself to be whipped up into the “their legacy is on the line in this one” narratives. The legacies of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were set in stone long ago. Their busts for Canton are already made and already inscribed with one simple line: “they were the best to ever do it”
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