Written By: Rusty Miller
The year is 2000, Bill Belichick has just been promoted by the New York Jets to be their head coach after head coach Bill Parcells stepped down. But, as Belichick headed towards his acceptance press conference, he had an abnormal speech planned for the gathered New York media. Next, he stepped up to the podium and announced his decision to resign as the head coach of the New York Jets, thus ending his tenure after just one day on the job. However, Belichick did not just change his mind about the Jets out of nowhere. The New England Patriots had been talking to the Jets since Parcells stepped down but New York consistently told the Patriots that Belichick was in line to ascend to the head coach position. Per his contract, Belichick automatically inherited the Jets’ head coaching job once Parcells stepped down but Belichick had been worried about Parcells’ future role with the team and with the uncertainty of ownership after owner Leon Hess had passed away the year earlier. So, Belichick resigned and the two teams worked out a deal that sent the Patriots’ 2000 first-round pick and other picks to the Jets for coach Belichick and some of the Jets’ picks, thus the second piece of the immaculate dynasty we know today was in place. The first piece of the Patriots’ puzzle came six years earlier in 1994.
Years before Bill Belichick was introduced as the fifteenth head coach in franchise history, the fourth owner in franchise history, Robert Kraft, set the tone for a team that would become a powerhouse in the ever-changing National Football League (NFL). Kraft came into the Patriots’ ownership as a 23-year season ticket holder and a longtime football fan. Before Kraft’s ownership, the Patriots has won just 229 games versus the 294 since he became chairman and CEO of the team. Kraft inherited Bill Parcells as head coach and watched him guide the team to the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. Although Kraft eventually let go of Parcells after the 1997 season and hired then fired Pete Carroll (1998, 1999), he made a franchise-altering move when he hired Bill Belichick before the 2000 season. Belichick, in his first season as head coach, did not produce quite the season that Parcells did in Kraft’s first season of ownership, going 5-11 and finishing last in the AFC East. This first season under Belichick would end up being an outlier and the first of only two times New England would finish under 10 wins in the Belichick era. Thus, with Kraft and Belichick in tow, the Patriots needed just one more thing before they could truly become winners, a quarterback.
Without their first-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft as compensation for Belichick, the Patriots were left with 10 picks including a peculiar sixth-round quarterback from Michigan, Tom Brady. Seven seasons prior, the Patriots drafted quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the first round to be their franchise quarterback and he played very well. From 1993 to 1999, Bledsoe averaged 3,709 yards, 21 touchdowns, and a 55.7 % completion percentage. The problem was his turnovers. Bledsoe averaged 18 interceptions and 8 fumbles (5 lost) in that seven-year span. Another issue was his protection as he was sacked an average of 30 times per season and two per game over his first seven seasons in New England. Bledsoe’s numbers, no matter how great, would mean nothing after a fateful hit on September 23, 2001, from Jets’ linebacker Mo Lewis that could have cost him his life. The team lost the game and Brady made his first career start the next week against the Indianapolis Colts. They won 44-13, a score that included two defensive touchdowns. That game would end up being the start of a Hall of Fame career for Brady and the beginning of the end for Bledsoe in New England. The Patriots, under Brady, went 11-5 that season en route to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. The final piece of the Patriots’ puzzle was finally in place, and it paid off with a championship.
The trio of Kraft, Belichick and Brady have been miraculous in their achievements. The team has won 5 Super Bowl titles, 9 conference championships (3 straight) and 16 division titles (10 straight) in the 18 years the three have been together. They have also been to 8 straight conference championships and 9 Super Bowls which are more than any other team in NFL history. Their 5 Super Bowls puts them tied for second with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers except that those two teams did it in a 25- and 14-year periods. Those two dynasties fall right in line with what the current Patriots team is doing. This year, as they head to their ninth Super Bowl after winning their sixteenth division title and having a home playoff game for the tenth straight year, they look to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only two teams with 6 Super Bowl titles. Tom Brady, who already has the most Super Bowl rings by a quarterback in NFL history and is tied for the most by any player with Charles Haley who won five as a member of both the Cowboys and 49ers, is attempting to become the only player in NFL history with 6 Super Bowl rings.
Every year, the Patriots look different whether it’s different players, coaches, uniforms, or executives, they find a way to win. Belichick is a master at adapting to his team and understands exactly what they are capable of each and every year. The “Patriot Way” as many call it, is a way of life both on and off the field and for those who have been a part of this miraculous run over 18 years, no matter how big or small their role was, will always say there is something special in the way the team is run from Kraft down to the last man on the practice squad roster. Their first three Super Bowls in four years was declared a dynasty originally, but the entirety of the excellence that has been achieved is much more of a dynasty that will ever be seen. No one knows how much time is left for this team’s unbelievable winning culture, but one thing is for sure, no matter how much longer it lasts, there will never be anything like it ever again.