If you told anyone at the start of the 2001 season that some kid named Tom Brady was going to replace Drew Bledsoe and lead the Patriots to three Super Bowls in four years, they would have called you crazy. You would have received a similar reaction if you told someone at the start of the 2014 season that 37 year-old Brady was about to win three more Super Bowls despite not reaching the mountaintop for a whole decade. And if you had reiterated that statement a few weeks later after the Pats lost 41-14 to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football to fall to 2-2, Trent Dilfer would’ve had some choice words for you.
One day, Tom Brady won’t be capable of leading a team to a Super Bowl. We just have no idea when that will be, so it’s best to stop guessing. Some thought it was in 2010 when the Patriots had gone a whopping three years without a playoff win, beginning with Brady’s injury-plagued season in 2008. Then there was the second Super Bowl loss to the Giants in 2011, the AFC Championship loss to the Ravens in 2012, and the AFC Championship loss to Peyton Manning (remember him?) and the Broncos in 2013. Brady and company had shown that they weren’t dead in the water and were still fully capable of competing for a title, but there were questions about whether or not they could actually finish the job and get ring number four after such a long drought.
That Week 4 loss to Kansas City in 2014 marked the beginning of the second leg of Brady and Belichick’s dynasty. This is the moment when, instead of declining like everyone had predicted, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time became arguably better than he had ever been. Super Bowl MVP in ‘14, overcoming the deflategate debacle to win another Super Bowl MVP in ‘16, NFL MVP in ‘17, and a sixth Lombardi in ‘18. Now, five years after football fans across America celebrated the Patriots “demise”, Tom Brady has established himself as the undisputed greatest football player to ever walk the planet and the Patriots are once again favorites to win a title. That’s gotta hurt.
There was a time when the idea of a 42 year-old quarterback leading the best team in football seemed completely unfathomable. But when you’re Tom Brady and you’ve gone to the AFC Championship every single year since age 33, you’ve pretty much conditioned everyone’s brain to assume you’ll at least be playing into late January regardless of your age. Until someone stops that from happening, there’s no logical reason to pick any other team as the favorite to win it all.
“I’m never going to bet against Tom Brady” were the words of rapper and Green Bay Packers fan Lil Wayne during his appearance on FS1’s undisputed this past week. “It’s Tom Brady and it’s Bill Belichick. It’s all we know and it’s all we’ve seen.”
Sound advice from someone who isn’t afraid to look at the facts and put his own fandom aside. Go with the defending champs who have now been in the mix almost every year for two decades. Go with the team that hasn’t lost in the divisional round since Mark Sanchez was considered a decent quarterback for the Jets. Since the Celtics still had the Big 3 and were in the midst of their Shaquille O’Neal experiment. Since people were still listening to Eminem’s “Recovery” album. Since 26 year-old me was a senior in high school. Since before the Bruins won the 2011 Cup. Think of everything that has gone on in your life in the past eight years, and understand that the one constant has been the Patriots competing as one of the four best teams in football. Be smart with your money. Pick the Pats.