When a team totals double digits in regular season victories in eleven out of the last twelve years; you laud them for their consistency. When they’ve been to seven conference title games during that time; their brush with greatness is hard to deny. When they play in five Super Bowls during that time; it’s tough to call them anything other than a special. Finally, when a team wins three Super Bowls during that reign; it becomes incredibly difficult to call them anything other than a dynasty.
For the past decade plus, the New England Patriots have been the model that every other team tried to replicate. With arguably the best head coach in football and a quarterback that will be in the discussion for one of the greatest to ever play the game, it’s hard to not marvel at their accomplishments. However, ominous clouds seem to be looming over Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Are we witnessing the end of the Patriots dynasty?
Some argue that the dynasty ended long ago. After winning three Super Bowls in his first five years in New England, Bill Belichick has come up short for eight consecutive years, including losing two Super Bowls over that stretch. Still, I argue that three titles with the same coach and quarterback combination still makes you a dynasty when you’re a real threat to win it every season. But recent events have to make one wonder if things are finally beginning to unravel in the Northeast.
It all began with their loss in the conference title game at home to the eventual champion Ravens in which the team looked completely dysfunctional on offense and Tom Brady even ran into a referee once. It was the first time in recent memory that Brady looked old and Belichick looked completely baffled. And just like that, the Patriots have a quarterback who will be 36 to start next season and has lost his favorite weapon in free agency.
The departure of Wes Welker was surprising to start with, but with all of the stories coming out about how painful and nasty of a divorce it truly was, it has been raising some eyebrows. The usually calm, cool and collected Robert Kraft has been quite vocal and even revealed that he took less money with Denver than the offer New England had on the table. When asked how Tom Brady reacted to the Welker situation, Kraft sharply replied “I don’t answer to Tom Brady.”
When you think of the Patriots, you think of expectations of Super Bowl or bust, every single season. Any season where they come up short, the casual NFL fan considers them a failure and now even have spectators wondering if Brady will get another title before he rides off into the sunset.
While Patriots fans have began to get understandably frustrated, most fans of other teams would love to have their team be a perennial title contender such as New England. The reason they’re so hated around the league by other teams fans is because they win and they win often. But the hard truth is that for as excellent as they have been as a franchise, the Patriots are the franchise in Boston that has gone the longest without winning a championship. When your season is based on Super expectations every season, that’s deemed a failure.
I’m not ready to call the Patriots dynasty over as of yet, but I will yield to arguments that the version of the team post the perfect (regular)season is not a dynasty. Coming up on a decade without a title is a long time for any team to throw the word dynasty around. But if the ride is over, as much hate and criticism as they’ve faced the past few years, it has been a fun ride for me as a fan of football and what I would strive for my franchise to be modeled after if I was an owner.
But before we write their epitaph and they reel off another 13 win season in 2013, I’ll not be planning the funeral for their title hopes while Tom Brady can still put on the pads and Bill Belichick still dons the headset.