Before last weekend’s NFC and AFC Championship Games, I reached out to fearless Manolith Editor David Woods, demanding a prediction for the Super Bowl XLVII match-up. Within a simple answer, I was offered some food for thought (food I didn’t find very tasty): “I strongly believe Brady and Belichick win at least one more together.” Quite frankly, I don’t see it happening.
So, what better way to discuss the legacy and future of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick Patriots than through a rousing point/counterpoint?
I say no, Woods says yes. Let’s get it on.
James Sheldon: “Brady will not win another Super Bowl”
Conventional football wisdom and recent trends suggest that I’m a fool for trying to argue this point. Fact: Tom Patriot and Bill Belihoodie did just host the AFC Championship game. The season prior, the Pats were AFC Super Bowl representatives. However, recent history would also suggest that something has gone awry in Patriot Nation: the Pats have not won the big game since 2004, pre-Spygate scandal, and they looked more vulnerable than ever during a home playoff game last Sunday.
Tom Brady is losing his edge. Some variables contributing to his softening: the embarrassment of accidentally fathering a child with Bridget Moynahan, settling down and marrying Gisele Bundchen and the fact that he’s a daddy now and his priorities have changed. He wears Uggs. From time to time, you’ll see an old Tom Brady ember catch flame, but in the biggest of games — including last weekend at home against Baltimore — he has looked intimidated, confused, frustrated with his comrades and at a serious disadvantage. His hunger seems to be waning, regardless of the numbers he puts up.
However, the real reason Brady will not win another Super Bowl with the New England Patriots: he plays for the best-dressed man in all of professional sports, Bill Belichick. Shannon Sharpe hit the nail on the head during his post-game rant on Sunday: “Bill Belichick makes it real easy for you to root against the Patriots.” There was incredible power in the pre-Spygate “Myth of Belichick.” Sure, the guy can coach. But he comes across as a total prick. He has put a target on his team, and that team will remain the villain of the NFL.
David Woods: “Brady and Belichick have one more Super Bowl in them”
I’ll admit I was blindsided by the Patriots’ loss to the Ravens last weekend, just as I was blindsided by every playoffs loss the team has suffered since they last won the Super Bowl in 2004. The Patriots have been, without question, the NFL’s best team over that stretch and it’s remarkable the team has been shut out when it comes to picking up additional Lombardis. I just can’t conjure an image of Brady walking away from the game without raising that trophy one last time.
Make no mistake: I’m not a fan of the Patriots. I’m merely an admirer of the best-run franchise the NFL seen in recent memory. I’m a believer that the best team on the field deserves to win, no matter how distasteful its players and coaches may be off the field. Sure, it’s easy to hate on Brady and Belichick, but that’s primarily because they are so damn good.
Unlike James, I don’t see a Brady who’s gone soft. Quite the opposite — I see a player who appears increasingly aware of his football mortality and increasingly desperate to cap his career with the title that would cement his place on pro football’s Mount Rushmore. I see the same fire in Belichick. At ages 36 and 61 respectively (when next season begins), both men know that there isn’t much sand left in the hourglass. This is the kind of extra motivation that leads to playoff wins.
And the Patriots are as close as a team can be to winning it all.
If not for a few key injuries — primarily to Rob Gronkowski last year and again this year — the Patriots would already have another ring, or be on the verge of winning another ring. Eventually, the law of averages dictates the Patriots are going to enter the playoffs with a healthy team. They aren’t climbing a mountain — they’re just trying to get over that last hump.
Sure, the team is set to lose a few key players to free agency in the next season or two (Wes Welker appears 50-50 to return in 2013), but the Patriots organization is finally showing signs that it knows the window is closing. Rather than trading back for future draft picks, as had become the norm, the Patriots actually moved up in the 2012 draft to select both Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower (two players I expect to emerge as studs next year). I expect this “win now” mentality to continue to grow this off-season. We may even see the Patriots go after a big-name free agent (Mike Wallace, anyone?) — something previously unheard of in New England.
It’s just too bizarre for Brady and Belichick’s legacy to include three Super Bowl wins at the top and then a string of near misses before it all falls apart. Both men are too important to football’s pantheon to leave the game without their hands raised. I predict they win one final Super Bowl together and retire as a pair.
If I had to place a bet today, I’d pick the Patriots winning Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey — home of the hated Giants. How poetic would that be?