A Dynasty Done and Over With?

Gigi Duncan ‘20

It’s September of 2001 and the second week of the NFL regular season. The Jets are playing their longtime rivals in the New England Patriots. With time left in the fourth quarter and at third down, Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe runs along the sideline in desperation for the first down when he gets hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. Bledsoe sustains a sheared blood vessel in his chest and must leave the game. Enter backup quarterback Tom Brady… and the rest is history.


Since then, the Patriots have gone to win thirteen conference title games and the Super Bowl in six out of nine appearances (including last year’s win against the Los Angeles Rams), with Brady being the quarterback with the most Super Bowl wins in history. Led by Coach Bill Belicheck, the Patriots have always posed both an efficient offense run by Brady and an excellent defense ranked second in Total Defense (YPG) this past season [1]


However, with an early exit from the playoffs in the Wild-Card round to the Tennessee Titans (20-13) and looming questions over Tom Brady’s free agency in 2020, many fans from every team across the football spectrum have questioned whether or not the Patriot dynasty has finally come to an end. 


In an uncanny manner, the Patriots lost their last regular season game to the 5-11 Miami Dolphins, meaning that they were reduced to the #3 seed and lost a bye-week in the playoffs. Going into the Wild-Card round against the Titans, the majority of both ESPN and CBS Sports analysts picked the Patriots to win by a margin ranging from one to eight points. However, as the game progressed, these odds drastically changed as coach Mike Vrabel (who had previously played for the Patriots for eight seasons) led his Titans to the upset victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. While the Titans capped off a great win with quarterback Ryan Tannehill (8-of-15 complete passes for 72 yards), running back Derrick Henry (182 yards with a touchdown on 34 carries; had 204 of Titans’s 272 yards of total offense) and an excellent defense that didn’t allow a Patriot point in the second half, the Patriots’ statistics fell flat from what they have normally boasted in past seasons [2]. The Titans’ defense limited Brady to only 20-of-37 passing for 209 yards, one interception, and no touchdowns. His passer rating was 59.4; this was not only among his worst in postseason history, but the lowest he has had since playing the Denver Broncos in 2016. Despite the Pats’ valid defensive effort in putting constant pressure on Tannehill, this simply wasn’t enough to win the game at Gillette Stadium and the Patriots finished 12-4 on the season. 


Following their defeat, many sports analysts and critics of the Patriots have come out claiming that their successful run–which started with Brady and his 2002 Super Bowl win–has come to a finish. And despite how hard it may seem to imagine him in any other uniform, Brady’s free agency garners the possibility of the 43-year-old signing with a different team. Additionally, Brady recently listed his Brookline, Massachusetts home for sale and according to reports, has relocated with his family to a new home in Greenwich, Connecticut– a near three hour-drive to Gillette Stadium. With instances such as these, many sports fans have speculated that Brady will either outright retire or sign with another team. American sports anchor and common Patriots-critic Rob Parker even went as far as saying that “the reign of terror will finally be over” [3]


Most people either strongly adore the Pats or despise them; however, despite one’s preference, one should not be too quick to instantly count them out of the race. Many instances in the past sparked speculation on the Patriots’ reign ending, whether it be Brady blowing out his knee in the 2008 opener, a 10-year Super Bowl drought that included two losses to the New York Giants, early playoff exits thanks to players such as Mark Sanchez and Peyton Manning, or being outplayed by Nick Foles and the Eagles on the biggest stage and under the brightest lights only three years ago. Despite these setbacks, the Patriots have proved time and time again that they were not only in the race, but were equipped to win it in various ways. 


Perhaps the Patriots dynasty will never be the same as it was once, but it will continue on. Brady has repeatedly stated his desire to retire at the age of 45 and regardless of rumors that he and the Patriots intend to part ways and to avoid agreeing on another extension on his contract before March, it seems highly unlikely that Brady will retire with any other team besides the Pats. Love them or hate them, root for them or wish them utter defeat, one cannot deny: if the Patriots’ reign is over, then their dynasty was one hell of a run in all of sports history.