Patriots legacy hangs in the balance


Patriots legacy hangs in the balance

INDIANAPOLIS Help me out, because I might be getting this all wrong.

Am I to understand that, if Asante Samuel had closed his hands a little quicker at about 10 oclock on February 3, 2008, then Tom Brady would be the best quarterback that ever played and Bill Belichick would be the greatest coach in NFL history and the Patriots would stand above the '70s Steelers and the '90s Cowboys and the '60s Packers as the greatest dynasty in NFL history?

Because, apparently, thats what it boils down to. Sunday in Indianapolis, the Patriots will play the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI and if the Patriots win, Brady, Belichick and the entire franchise vault into greatest ever with little conversation position.

Four Super Bowl wins and five appearances in 10 seasons. The sixth ring for Belichick in his coaching career, Brady with a 141-40 lifetime record and a 17-5 postseason mark.

If they lose? Then Brady and Belichick go from a pair that won three Super Bowls in a four-year stretch but despite going 86-26 since their last Super Bowl win in 2004 and authoring the only undefeated, 16-game regular-season in NFL history they have had a blemished record since 2004 because . . . well, really because Asante Samuel didnt close his hands fast enough.

If Samuel had done so in Super Bowl 42 and picked off Eli Manning on that second-and-2 play with 80 seconds remaining and the Patriots up on the Giants 14-10, then New England would have won and this game Sunday would be all about adding another layer of icing to the best team ever cake.

But Samuels failure to come up with that pick and the resultant touchdown pass to cap that Giants' drive and the 17-14 New York win, thats what makes the Patriots of 2001-2011 just greatest-ever also-rans?

Apparently so.

Because Sundays game from a Patriots standpoint has been framed as an all-or-nothing proposition. Win and end the argument. Lose and invite being relegated to a lifetime of Yeah, buts . . .

Seems kind of odd, but thats what I gather.

Brady, if he never wins another game, is already a certified Hall of Famer, Bob Costas said last week. If somehow the Patriots had won the game four years ago, and Brady has the epic season he has and then completes a perfect season and then goes and wins this one, then the only real discussion is, Is Tom Brady the greatest quarterback whos ever played? Hes still in that discussion as it is, but it might have been a 'case-closed' discussion if he could have won that one and then added this one.

And the Patriots? Would a win against the Giants make them the greatest team ever?

I think in the estimation of many, they would, said Costas. You have to remember that Walshs 49ers won three, and then won a couple more under George Seifert. Chuck
Noll was a perfect 4-for-4 in Super Bowls (with the '70s Steelers). People will contend that the league was different then and in many ways it may have been more difficult to win. You can also make the opposite case. There are always going to be apples and oranges. I dont think it would establish Bill Belichick and the Patriots as beyond question the greatest coach and the greatest team. But theyd be right there in the argument.

Costas perfectly sums up the prevailing opinion. If the Patriots win Sunday, they are then and only then in the discussion. Lose? No dice.

Which brings us back to Asante Samuel.

Which makes me wonder, is that all there is? Super Bowl wins? Thats the trump card? Even if the difference between a win and a loss in a Super Bowl is a few inches of skin and the head coach and quarterback did all they could?

Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, every Patriot coach and player had left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium expect for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

After all his teammates had left, Brady stood in one of the end zones, wearing a black jacket and black jeans, a camera dangling from his neck. He gathered in a small informal circle with his parents, Tom Brady Sr., and mother Galynn and three sisters, Maureen, Julie and Nancy. They spoke for a few minutes before Brady kissed them each and left the field.

Belichick left the field just before Brady, having spent his final minutes on the stadium turf talking to boyhood and college friends.

By 10:30 p.m. Sunday on the field they seemed almost reluctant to leave on Saturday their NFL legacies will be altered. For better or worse.

Till death and beyond.

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

The Patriots should always be motivated heading into games against the Ravens. After all, Baltimore might be the team’s primary rival. 

Yet Monday’s matchup might be about more than past meetings. It could be a revenge game for the Ravens’ role in the Deflategate fiasco. 

As Tom E. Curran notes in the above video, the then-recently eliminated Ravens set off the ordeal when they tipped off the Colts entering the 2014 AFC Championship game. From there, the year-and-a-half-long saga played itself out, ultimately resulting in Tom Brady accepting a four-game suspension from the league. 

Curran and Mike Giardi discussed whether Monday could be a revenge game, with them both concluding that they feel the Patriots are still “pissed off” at the Ravens. 

"I’m just reading the tea leaves,” Curran said. “Bill Belichick will usually throw bouquet after bouquet at the Baltimore Ravens any time they play, from Ozzie Newsome, to George Kokinis, to Eric DeCosta, to John Harbaugh, Dean Pees, everyone. Not a lot of that today. Make of that what you will; I don’t think it’s a coincidence because I do know that when the Patriots were going through the process early on, the fact that the Ravens had dropped a dime -- their assistant special teams coach Jerry Rosburg calling the Indianapolis Colts and saying, “Look there was some foolishness going on with the K balls.’

“Additionally, when that email from the Colts to the NFL was sent to Mike Kensil, it said, 'It’s well-known throughout the league that the Patriots screw with the balls after they’ve been checked by the officials.' So if that conversation was going on during the week between those two teams, one certainly has to surmise that they also spoke about the fact of deflating footballs. 

“So as much as John Harbaugh has tried to dissuade anyone from thinking there was involvement, Dean Pees was interviewed by Ted Wells, Jerry Rosburg was interviewed by Ted Wells. Those are the only two principals from other organizations who were involved, so yeah, I think they’re still probably pretty pissed off about it.” 

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

FOXBORO -- Ever wonder what might've been if Bill Belichick had remained the coach of the Browns, and later the Ravens, after they moved from Cleveland? He says he doesn't.

[And maybe it's a good thing that he doesn't, as his last memories with the organization saw fans literally rip the team's stadium apart and throw it onto the field.]

"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, no," Belichick told Baltimore reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. "I try to think ahead and make the best of the situation that I’m in, which is what I tried to do when I was in Cleveland. I took a team that wasn’t very good in 1991, prior to free agency and all of that, had a real good team in 1994. The team moved in 1995."

The decision to move the team helped undo the Browns season in 1995, and Belichick was later fired. There's little denying, though, that he left the pieces of a competitive roster behind. And he helped stock the Ravens' cupboard with valuable assets.

Five years after Belichick's tenure in Cleveland had expired, the franchise won a Super Bowl with linebacker Ray Lewis -- drafted with a pick Belichick had acquired -- as its foundational piece. 

"We made a trade that provided two first-round picks that Ozzie [Newsome] did a great job with," Belichick continued. "Ozzie and Ray Lewis were two of the cornerstones of that eventual championship team.

"I have a lot of confidence in my ability, I had a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and the players that we had at that time – 1995 wasn’t obviously a great year for us. I don’t think we need to talk about that. We all know what happened. But yeah, I think we would have been competitive if I had been the head coach there. I think we would have been competitive. We had a good team, we had a good staff, and we had a lot of good players.

"Ozzie did a good job with that team and made it better, and they won a championship five years later [with] some of the same players that we started with. But you know, it wasn’t my choice, Ted [Marchibroda] came in there and was going to transition that for what they needed at that point in time. But I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, no."