The Patriots’ Complex Dynasty

As you’re no doubt aware by now, the New England Patriots just won another Super Bowl, breaking several NFL playoff records in the process and further cementing themselves as one of the great American sports dynasties. There really aren’t any more questions to ask about their elite level throughout the 21st century so far. Tom Brady is the best quarterback, Bill Belichick is the best coach, and no football team has ever been better for longer.

On top of all of that, the Patriots probably aren’t even done yet. Brady has all but declared he intends to keep playing until he’s 45. The franchise, particularly through its last few Super Bowl wins, has shown an ability to adapt on the fly and put together the pieces needed to contend. And for these reasons, the early take from the bookmakers is that the Patriots, Rams, and Chiefs are favorites to win Super Bowl LIV in 2020. Can anyone really imagine getting to this point a year from now and not seeing New England at least in the mix? A seventh Super Bowl appears to be well within their reach.

As astounding as all of this is though, it’s also hard to escape the idea that this is one of the more complex dynasties in modern sports histories. Perhaps it’s bound to happen over such a long stretch, but through all the championships there have been numerous scandals and ugly side stories that have lingered over this franchise. Five, in particular, stand out.

Spygate – Spygate was ultimately explained away by a lot of fans with an “everybody’s probably doing it” sort of attitude. But it bears mentioning that for years the Patriots had a habit of taping their opponents on the sidelines to steal signals and information. According to ESPN reporting at the time this happened for eight seasons, and we more or less let it go.

Aaron Hernandez – It is not the Patriots’ fault that one-time star tight end Aaron Hernandez wound up convicted of murder (and suspected of additional killings). It is also not the responsibility of the organization that Hernandez ultimately decided to take his own life. These were horrible events that unfortunately could have surfaced regarding any player on any team. It still left a strange and off-putting air hanging over the team for a few seasons though, and one could argue the Patriots’ condemnation of Hernandez’s actions could have been stronger, by and large.

Deflategate – The “Deflategate” scandal was the one that famously got Tom Brady suspended and lost the Patriots a draft pick on the grounds that Brady and an equipment manager had strategically deflated footballs to his liking during games. To be clear, this has more or less been scientifically proven to be nonsense. Again though, it left something of a stench surrounding the Patriots, and even if it’s nonsense in a vacuum, the context of Spygate makes it feel to many fans a bit more like cheating.

Julian Edelman’s Suspension – This past season, star New England wide receiver Julian Edelman missed the first four games serving a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He then became the MVP of the Super Bowl, and was arguably the biggest reason that the Patriots were able to win number six. To say whatever drugs he took helped him to win this particular game is undoubtedly a stretch, but many will view this championship as being tarnished due to his being allowed to play in the first place.

The MAGA Connection – With this final point, it’s again debatable the extent to which the Patriots are responsible for negative associations. There is no denying, however, that the team has links to some of the more extreme figures on the American far right, which, like it or not, is off-putting to just about everyone not in the far right. Owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, and Brady himself have been hesitant if not wholly unwilling to speak out against Donald Trump regarding his racist rants against black NFL players. And white supremacist figures such as Richard Spencer have publicly supported the Patriots as a result. It’s not exactly a good public relations look, and certainly isn’t endearing the Patriots to any more fans.
Any way you analyze it, this has been an incredible sports dynasty, and will quite possibly continue to be one for a few more years. The Patriots of the 21st century have put themselves in the history books not just in football or the United States, but in world sporting history. But the journey to this point has not been without significant bumps, and the whole picture when it’s all said and done is going to have some significant blemishes.

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Posted by on Feb 8 2019. Filed under Local News, World News, Sport, Business & Finance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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