By Mark Paulette
At what point do Super Bowl victories no longer matter? It’s a foolish question, I know. One that would bring forth a scowl and possibly a muffled curse from Bill Belichick. One that would get an insincere smile from Tom Brady as he toes the party line of the day. (The Patriot Party, of course…we’re not going there.) To these men, the notion that something so coveted and so holy does not matter would be purely ludicrous, and that is why these men are the G.O.A.T of their respective crafts. But the simple answer of whether or not a victory for the Patriots in Super Bowl 51 matters, is no.
The legacies are set in stone. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever live. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach to ever strut the sideline. Put the two together and you get the greatest dynastic run the sport has ever seen. The only thing that would require construction crews to get out their chisels and alter the marble would be if the Patriots were the team doing confetti angels on the field of NRG Stadium come late Sunday night.
After seven Super Bowl trips in 15 years, a record shattering number of wins, 13 divisional crowns, six straight Conference Championship games and 11 in total. Anything else that this team accomplishes at this point is the cherry on top of the icing which was long ago added to an already delicious cake.
Earlier this week, the Boston Globe posed the question of “Is this the biggest game in franchise history?” This isn’t even the biggest game in the last three years. Super Bowl 49 versus Seattle was a more crucial tilt than Sunday’s upcoming game. The Pats hadn’t won since 2004, or more notably, since Spygate. The game was on the heels of two relentless weeks of distraction caused by the Deflategate saga. A loss in that game would’ve dropped the Patriots to 3-3 in Super Bowls under the “Bradychick” reign, including three consecutive defeats. (Bradychick, did you like that? I was trying it out, not sure what I think about it.)
But the Pats rallied in the fourth, the Seahawks threw the ball from the one-yard line and Malcolm Butler stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette to cement the team’s place in history. That was supposed to be the mic drop for this organization, for Brady and Belichick. But this pair is never happy with the past. They’re intent on picking up that mic and dropping it over and over until it shatters, and with it, go any arguments against their greatness.
This game in Houston will not be greater than the Patriots’ first Super Bowl win which came in New Orleans. Facing the “Greatest show on turf” as 14-point underdogs, at the end of Mardi Gras, at the conclusion of a season which was delayed by 9/11. Robert Kraft articulated the sentiment shared by many that night after Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard game-winner, saying, “Tonight, we are all Patriots.” That victory went beyond the gridiron, beyond the team and stood for more than a franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
The biggest game in New England history was, of course, one that has haunted Patriots’ Nation ever since. I have spent countless hours consumed by self-conducted therapy attempting to block the memory from my mind. The date was February 3, 2008. The Patriots flew to Arizona with a record of 18-0, while their opponents, the New York Giants, went an uninspiring 9-7 in the regular season. Tom Brady had set the NFL record with 50 passing touchdowns and three weeks prior completed 26-of-28 passes in a playoff game against Jacksonville. Randy Moss set the all-time record with 24 receiving Touchdowns during the regular season. This squad was as close to perfection as the sport’s world had ever seen, and were a mere 60 minutes from completing the impossible task. And then…David f****** Tyree.
So the fact that unless the Patriots hang a 50-piece on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and I am forced to get a Patriots-themed tattoo somewhere on my person, this Super Bowl will fail to crack the top-three most important appearances in franchise history. 18 teams in the NFL haven’t even appeared in three Super Bowls, including the Falcons, which further speaks to the greatness of New England.
Should the Pats fall on Sunday, they would do so to a historically great offense. Though it would be hugely disappointing and I most likely would not leave my dark room for several days, it wouldn’t change the legacy of Brady, Belichick or the organization. They have accomplished more in 15 years than all but three other franchises have in the history of the league. At this point, the wins are still as sweet as the first, with the added incentive this year of utterly embarrassing the scumbag commissioner. But rest assured that a loss won’t change a thing.
Mark Paulette is the Senior Producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.