By Jacob Thompson
Most NFL fans were less than impressed to see the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl again. I was not one of those fans, I was thrilled to see New England back in the big game.
No, I am not a Patriots fan; I’m a Cheesehead (Green Bay Packers fan) through and through, but with the Packers not even making the playoffs, I needed a team to root for, and I found it in the ‘ole reliable Patriots.
Since the time I was playing “house” and making macaroni art in kindergarten through my third attempt at finally finishing this Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer Degree I’m currently working on, I have watched Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots compete in eight Super Bowls over a 17-year span.
Yes, that isn’t every year, although they did attend back-to-back Super Bowls, but I have found a little piece of my life that has been missing with the Pats, and that is certain.In those 17 years the Patriots have made the AFC Championship game 11 times. Growing up in the 2000s and 2010s (yes, I will still need to grow up in the 2020s and 2030s, but I digress), I watched my nation fall under attack on 9/11, go to war in the Middle East, watched my stepbrother go to fight in that war, watched my younger brother almost die after an automobile accident and lost four grandparents. With life’s unavoidable variables, I feel comfort where most fans find anger and angst in the Patriots competing in the Super Bowl. I also enjoy watching underdogs defying the odds (sorry if that made you spit out your drink.) With all of Belichick and Brady’s successes, it may be long forgotten knowledge that both these men were underdogs early in their careers.
Belichick began his first NFL coaching job in 1975. Sixteen years later, Belichick was finally named a head coach by the Cleveland Browns. Belichick struggled with the Browns, but in 1994, he found a little bit of magic in Cleveland and led the Browns to Cleveland’s only playoff win in the last 20 seasons (Cleveland didn’t have a team from 1996-1999). After a subpar 5-11 record in 1995, the Browns were moved to Baltimore by owner Art Model and Belichick was let go as head coach.
Finishing his time in Cleveland with an overall record of 37-45, including playoffs, Belichick was once again an assistant coach until 2000 when he was hired as head coach of the New England Patriots. One year after his hiring and 5-11 record, Belichick found himself in the Super Bowl with now future Hall of Famer Tom Brady but at the time, Brady was just a kid from Michigan the Patriots took with the 199 pick in the 2000 NFL draft.
After an average-at-best career at the University of Michigan, throwing 30 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, NFL scouts were less than kind about Brady’s draft workout and future career in the NFL. According to Brady’s personal Instagram account the -scouts said, “Poor build, skinny, lacks great physical stature and strength, lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush, lacks a really strong arm, can’t drive the ball downfield, does not throw a really tight spiral, system-type player who can get exposed if forced to ad lib, gets knocked down easily.”
Looking back, it’s hard to believe how little faith the scouts had in Brady. Brady would back up Drew Bledsoe his first season in the league only throwing three passes the entire season, but early in the 2001 season Brady would finally get his shot.
After Bledsoe was injured in the second game of the 2001 season, Brady became New England’s starting quarterback and led the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where they would face quarterback Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams. As 14-point underdogs, Brady threw for 187 yards and one touchdown as the Patriots stunned the Rams 20-17. Brady was also named Super Bowl MVP. It was a great story, and the beginning of a dynasty.
The Pats would return to the Super Bowl in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016 and at last this season. Brady has won the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player award four times and holds 14 Super Bowl records. Belichick has won more Super Bowls as a head coach than Bill Walsh, Vince Lombardi (who the Super Bowl trophy is named after) and Tom Landry.
Yes, the Patriots lost Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, Tom Brady turned 40 this season. And if the rumors are true, Belichick and Brady might not be together for much longer. But even with that, I just wanted to thank the New England Patriots, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick for being the constant in my life. Hopefully I’ll see y’all in Super Bowl LIII.