In true Tom Brady fashion, the New England Patriots staged a historic comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday night. Brady led the charge with 466 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, finding an unlikely target in running back James White for 14 receptions. White also punched in the game-winning touchdown early in overtime. With the win, Brady and company have cemented their legacies in NFL history. While they are undoubtedly among the football greats, Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick have become the most polarizing pair in professional football.
With enough Super Bowl rings to cover a full fist, it’s hard to dispute Brady and Belichick’s legacies and unwavering–almost methodical–commitment to victory. Grumbling dissenters can point to Brady and the Patriots’ infamous Deflategate and Spygate scandals that may tarnish their legacy; however, regardless of personal feelings, there is no denying that the New England teams of recent years have been titans in the NFL. The two most infamous Patriots of the past 20 years are largely responsible for their lack of appeal among non-local NFL fans.
While 157 head coaches have come and gone across the NFL over his 17 years in New England, Belichick has been a constant presence, leading the Patriots to championship titles and near-perfect seasons. Unlike the other 31 head coaches in the league, Belichick has near complete autonomy over his team, including free reign over all coaching and player personnel decisions. His seeming lack of apathy for those under him and short, emotionless interviews has allowed fans to develop a strong distaste for him. Coupled with the fact he’s probably trashed your favourite team a few times over his tenure, there really isn’t a reason to like Belichick.
As for Brady, the situation appears to be the opposite. For many, he seems to be just a nice guy who doesn’t run his mouth in the media, like so many other players have a tendency to do. Unlike Belichick, Brady seems almost too perfect. Perhaps that is exactly why he has become such a polarizing figure. A recent poll found that Brady was both the most-liked quarterback in the NFL, recieving 22 per cent of the vote, while also the least-liked, finishing first with 24 per cent of the vote. The statistics illustrate the stark division among football fans. Everybody hates a smug winner, and Brady has been exactly that on a consistent basis for the past 15-odd years.
No NFL team has won more games since the 2000 season than the Patriots. With five Super Bowl championships over the past 17 years, the sheer domination becomes clear after realizing that no team has won more than twice over the same timeframe. With Brady turning 40 in August and Belichick having been an NFL coach since 1975, the two seem to be on the back end of a dynasty. Regardless of the football community’s undying love or vehement hatred for the team and its two figureheads, Brady and Belichick will be inextricably linked to greatness—a legacy sought by every sportsman.
Some call them cheaters, others call them icons, but above all, the New England Patriots are again, the indisputable champions.