Let’s cut to the chase: the New England Patriots were the undisputed best football team in the league for two decades, fostered by a plethora of circumstances that led to six Super Bowl championships. And at the face of those accomplishments were two people: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
While the distribution of credit will vary from person to person, it does not change the fact that both were instrumental in their contributions to the entire organization. Because of them, the greatness of the New England Patriots soon became the norm rather than the aspiration, and dedicated fans were treated to a dynasty of excitement and excellence. From the devastating Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants to the glorious comeback against the Atlanta Falcons, being a fan of the Patriots for these two decades was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that garnered incomprehensible amounts of love from supporters and hate from detractors.
Brady and Belichick were there the entire way. When history looks back upon the legacy of the New England Patriots, they will define the organization.
Yet many will also remember March 17, 2020. Even amidst the coronavirus outbreak, New England Patriots fans will remember with great sadness Brady’s announcement of his departure from the team.
Fans who keep up with the latest football news would be hard-pressed to claim that there was not a precedent for this announcement. The rumors were circling around the sports world for weeks, unearthing the potential struggles in negotiations amongst multiple parties to bring Brady back. Yet it did not disintegrate the hope that he could make a glorious comeback with the Patriots after a wild card loss to the Tennessee Titans this past season.
I imagine most of us are experiencing a range of emotions: sadness, astonishment, denial, bittersweetness. However, I believe I speak for the vast majority of Patriots fans when I assert that there was not a hint of anger or resentment in our reactions to Brady’s departure. His entire football journey, from the moment we was picked 199th in the NFL Draft from the University of Michigan to now, is nothing short of inspiring. He embodied the essence of “clutch”, and his mental toughness is unrivaled by his peers. As a healthy quarterback, he managed win after win, including an undefeated 2007 regular season. In the toughest games, us fans watched in awe as he orchestrated unimaginable comebacks. Off the field, he found success in TB12 and maintained a high sense of humility.
He might be considered the GOAT on paper. He might be considered a Los Angeles Charger or a Tampa Bay Buccaneer for the rest of his career. But in the collective hearts of our fans, he will always be considered a New England Patriot. We were so fortunate to have him for twenty years, and his presence will never be forgotten for years to come. It will take another lifetime to fill the shoes of Brady, but I am content knowing there will be no one else like him.
So to the GOAT himself: thank you. I extend my best wishes as you find a fresh start elsewhere. I have literally never known a day in my life where you weren’t the quarterback of the New England Patriots. There will certainly be a period of bittersweet reminiscence, but know that I amongst millions of others will support your NFL career through to the end.
…unless you join the New York Giants ;)…