We’re still 13 days away from Super Bowl LI between the Patriots and Falcons, so now is as good a time as any for us to take a moment and pinch ourselves.
Our Patriots are now not only the greatest football dynasty of all-time, but this run now stacks up against the greatest dynasties in pro sports history.
In reaching a seventh Super Bowl game, Tom Brady has now been to his sport’s final round more times than Michael Jordan reached the NBA final round. Yes, Jordan went a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals, but it is unquestionably harder to have sustained greatness in football than it is in basketball. The NBA is littered with teams, typically led by one superstar, with windows of dominance. Back-to-back titles are the norm in that sport.
In football, though, we haven’t had a back-to-back champion since Brady and the Pats accomplished the feat in 2003-04, and there has never been a team to win three straight Super Bowls. In the NBA, there’s been five times that a team has accomplished a “three-peat.” In baseball, there’s been four times when a team has pulled off three straight title victories, and in the NHL there’s been five “three-peaters.”
In other words, sustained excellence is almost impossible in football – mostly because there are so many variables and so many players. Every football team has 53 men, of course, so the turnover over the course of five years, 10 years and 15 years is incredible.
In New England, the turnover is also incredible – but Brady and Bill Belichick continue to have the Patriots in position to contend for a Lombardi Trophy each and every winter.
Consider that just five years ago, the Patriots’ leading rusher was BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Their leading wide receivers were Wes Welker and Deion Branch. Their top defensive player was Jerod Mayo.
None of those players from five years ago remain on this AFC-winning roster but the Pats are right back to where they were five years ago today – heading to the Super Bowl.
The landscape in Foxboro, the landscape across the NFL, and the landscape across pro sports has changed so much since Brady and Belichick arrived here in 2000.
That year, Nomar Garciaparra was still considered the savior for the Red Sox and the manager of that team was Jimy Williams. That year, the Celtics were led by a 23-year-old Antoine Walker and a 22-year-old Paul Pierce and their head coach was some sleaze named Rick Pitino. That year, Joe Thornton led the Bruins in scoring with 60 points and the B’s head coach was the late Pat Burns.
Outside of our little sports bubble, Bill Clinton was still the U.S. President and Donald Trump was still four years away from launching “The Apprentice.”
Not much in the world remains the same as it was 6,126 days ago – the day Brady was the newest member of the Patriots and Belichick was just getting his feet wet as head coach. That includes the both of them, as they have grown considerably as a player and head coach over the course of 16-plus years.
These 16 unreal years will likely turn into 17 unreal years, and those 17 unreal years could very well turn into 20 unreal years before all is said and done. Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure when this unprecedented run will be over, but now is a great time to appreciate it, in this lull before the Patriots’ latest “big game.”