HOUSTON -- This won't be a popular opinion, but the reality is in the facts:

The New England Patriots dynasty is one born of luck.

As much as you can respect what the Patriots have done, winning four Super Bowls and going for a fifth Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, making it the greatest dynasty in league history, the reality is it doesn't happen without luck.

I'm not talking Tuck Rule luck or fortuitous-bounces-of-the-football luck. I am talking about the foundation of their dynasty, quarterback Tom Brady.

They got lucky in getting him, plain and simple.

Without Brady, this doesn't happen. Without him, Bill Belichick isn't the greatest coach in NFL history. And the legions of fans who hate the Pats might even feel a little sorry for the franchise, rather than cringing every time they are mentioned.

Luck did all of this. That's what I call it when a team waits until the sixth round to pick their franchise passer. That's the luck equivalent of finding a lottery ticket on the street and cashing it in for the Mega-Millions prize.

Tom Brady is that prize.

You disagree? I offer these six players as proof of their luck:

  1. OL Adrian Klemm, a second-round pick
  2. RB J.R. Redmond, a third-round pick
  3. OL Greg Randall, a fourth-round pick
  4. TE Dave Stachelski, a fifth-round pick
  5. DT Jeff Marriott, a fifth-round pick
  6. DB Antwan Harris, a sixth-round pick

Look at that list. The Patriots selected all of them ahead of Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft. They combined for 65 career starts, with Randall leading the way at 39.

Brady and Belichick have been nearly unstoppable, and it all started with some good fortune. USATSI

Brady has 235 regular-season starts and 33 playoff starts, more than half of the rest of his draft class's combined career total.

That's luck.

Patriots fans hate to hear that, but it's true. I know the Patriots had Drew Bledsoe at the time, and he was considered a franchise passer, which is why they didn't need to draft a quarterback early. So Belichick and crew did the smart thing and drafted one late, anyway, in Brady. They passed on him several times for positions of need.

I am all for that tactic. Drafting quarterbacks on a constant basis, even with one on the roster who is talented, makes sense. So it's understandable to use a late-round pick on Brady, the skinny kid from Michigan who looked like he would crumble in the arms of an NFL defensive end.

Nobody, including the rest of the NFL, thought Brady could become possibly the best to ever put on pads. The Patriots surely didn't, otherwise they wouldn't have waited until the sixth round to take him.

Some will argue it was football brilliance by the Patriots, and it certainly looks that way now. We all know all the stories of how quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein pushed to draft Brady, influencing the decision to take him. He thought highly of him, but the team clearly didn't think that highly of him.

At the time, nobody could have seen this coming. That's why it takes luck sometimes.

What if Brady ended up somewhere else?

Does the Patriots dynasty happen? Not a chance. Brady has carried this team during all the victories, the changes, the turmoil and, yes, the controversy. He has been the cornerstone.

If the Pats win Sunday, he also will be the first quarterback with five Super Bowl rings, making him the greatest quarterback of all time in the minds of many. At 39, the amazing thing is that he is still going strong. He is the Patriots.

Belichick makes it all work around him, and he's arguably the greatest coach ever, but I wonder what he would be if Brady never found his way to New England.

Even Belichick, if pressed, would have to admit some luck was involved.

How else can you explain maybe the greatest football player of all time being drafted in the sixth round, 12 picks after the Patriots took a corner who ended up being a special-teams player?

Luck, dammit.

This is a dynasty built on hard work, sharp coaching, but, most of all, luck.