We look back at the last 13 years of the dynasty and greatness that is the New England Patriots. It started with a simple hit to Drew Bledsoe that brought in the man, the myth, the legend that is Tom Brady. Everyone knows how this story goes. As time went on he went to capture two rings, becoming what some people call the greatest quarterback playing the game right now. In that time he had some key name players with him, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Corey Dillon & Wes Welker among others over the past years. But fast forward 13 years and we look around the Patriot locker room and the ‘big names’ seem to be dwindling.
While we all know Tom Brady is Tom Brady, a phrase that goes without saying, we also know that you need actual talent around you to perform at a high level. Please don’t mistake my words for ignorance, but if you don’t have the proper talent around you eventually it will come back to bite you. I looked at some numbers posted by NFL.com, Brady posted a 65.7 completion percentage, a 23-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 106.6 passer rating with 7.9 yards per attempt on snaps with tight end Rob Gronkowski on the field. Those numbers plummeted to a 58.9 completion percentage, an 11-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an 87.1 passer rating with 7.1 yards per attempt on snaps without Gronkowski. It was then later in that season that for the first time ever Tom Brady lost a game at home after leading at halftime against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC title game. Not only that but it was also the first time a road team beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship.
The Patriots have always been a team that I have respected very much regardless of the spy-gate scandal or what anyone says about their style of play. Tom Brady has always been a player that can escalate those around him of little to no face value and turn them into big stars. A guy like Wes Welker, who went undrafted in the 2004 draft before going to San Diego and Miami before he eventually landed in the arms the Patriots. Welker never even had a 700 yard season before having Brady as his quarterback. This is not meant to knock Welker in any kind of way. He will go on and most likely finish his career with Peyton Manning in Denver. But to say that the Patriots are now putting faith into their tight ends more than their receivers and running backs makes me shudder a bit. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have battled through injury over the past year or two, while their running game has always been a bit of a constant setback. And now with the current swirling controversy surrounding Aaron Hernandez involving a man accusing Hernandez of being shot in the face, many New England faithful must be wondering if Robert Kraft is making the right executive decisions. Not to mention signing Tim Tebow to a contract which will shift even more eyes to New England. And considering the other 3 teams in the AFC north all now have a young, healthy quarterback on their squads, the competition will only get tougher as time passes.
Patriot fans are known for their faith in good ol’ Tom Brady. That he can elevate anyone and everyone to his level. In my eyes, this year will be the ultimate test.