ATLANTA -- You might love the Patriots.
You might hate the Patriots.
You might even find ways to try to discredit them or undermine their historic greatness. But you will never, ever, see anything like this again in the National Football League. And probably not in any other professional sport for that matter, either. It's not happening again. No team is going on a run of championship game appearances and Super Bowls like this ever again. Forget about it. No chance. Super Bowl 53, now just a few days away here in Georgia, just further cements it.
If anything, I believe this Patriots dynasty has actually been underappreciated. It has been under-hyped, because of Spygate and Deflategate and the fact that a large portion of this country has been bogged down by Patriots fatigue after all of these February appearances. We don't appreciate it, fully, in the moment. It is ever a greater accomplishment than you think in this sport, of all, that utilizes an economic system that is tantamount to corporate socialism for billionaires, a sport that is geared toward parity above all else.
What Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have accomplished is even better than you think. It is more timeless than you think. It is more unparalleled than you think. And only with the passing of time will we truly comprehend that this is not how the NFL works and no team is supposed to be this great for this long, and no one is ever coming close to going on a near-20-year tear like this ever again. Only, say, 10 years after Brady hangs up the cleats will we truly be able to look back and see what an anomaly this is.
Once we see how this league really works again, will we be able to see this for what it is. The Patriots have gone to eight-straight AFC Championship Games. They have won at least one postseason game in 14 of the last 17 years. They are in the Super Bowl for the fifth time in eight years, and the third year in a row.
They are, actually, two dynasties in one – this is the second time since 2001 that they have played in three-straight Super Bowls. They went to four Super Bowls in seven years from 2001 to 2007, and now they have done it again. As Jeff Howe, who covers the Patriots for The Atlantic, pointed out on Twitter, if the Pats win this game they will have 35 players in franchise history with at least three Super Bowl rings; 21 from the 2001-2004 teams and 13 from this 2014-2018 incarnation.
Let that sink in for a moment.
There are only 34 men in history with four or more rings. If the Patriots manage to keep this thing going – and Brady has made it abundantly clear he isn't close to retiring yet – they could profoundly alter the league in ways unfathomable before Brady and Belichick began working together at the dawn of this millennium.
One more Lombardi Trophy and the Patriots would stand alone for the most in the history of the league … and they will have achieved all of them in less than 20 years. They have already set a new mark by reaching the playoffs for nine-straight years. And, again, this isn't ovah. Perhaps, not by a long shot. (Or at least a few more years).
This is the greatest coach of all time and the greatest quarterback of all time still pretty much at the top of their craft, with one in his early 40s and the other over his mid-60s. Belichick is one win away from tying Curly Lambeau and George Halas as the only individuals with six championships as a head coach. And the NFL has been playing postseason football since 1933.
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Belichick is now 30-11 all-time in the postseason, a ridiculous .732 winning percentage. No other current active head coach has more than 12 career postseason wins. This isn't even really close.
Brady owns every record you could imagine, or is at least in the top three. He has authored the greatest comebacks in the history of the game and been at the center of countless iconic moments, and has gone from an aw shucks, just happy-to-be-here youngster to a grizzled, football assassin the likes of which we have never before seen. What he is doing in his 40s, alone, is groundbreaking, and it comes at the end of a quarterbacking resume previously considered unimaginable.
As much as you may be sick of seeing these helmets on the field in the final game of the football season, and as much as Brady and Belichick may turn off some fans with the things they say and do, they are the greatest duo this game has ever seen. Don't bother wasting time considering what one may have been able to accomplish without the other. We'll never know and they'll never be apart.
They are, and will remain, intrinsically intertwined, and the history of this game cannot be written without them. I'd suggest you take in every pass, every huddle, heck, even every replay flag thrown. Because your eyes will never see anything like this again, and their final chapter is still far from unwritten.