New England Patriots this, Tom Brady that; I’m sick of this love-fest for the most mediocre, overrated “dynasty” in NFL history — if such a term can even be used. “Last I looked, they still have Tom Brady. And quite frankly, that’s all you need,” blathers writer- turned-TV personality Stephen A. Smith in a commercial for his new show on ESPN. Actually, what you really need is an asinine rule, a terrible overturn of a call, a brain-dead head coach, a kickoff out-of-bounds, and an injured ankle. The Patriots are the equivalent of a seven-time lotto winner; “lucky” doesn’t even begin to describe how they obtained their Super Bowl trophies.
Let’s start with the Patsies’ first championship run. On a snowy night in late January, trailing 13-10 and facing 1st-and-10 on the Raiders’ 48-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Tom Brady was blitzed. Sensing the rush, he brought the ball towards his body, but cornerback Charles Woodson hit him, dislodging the ball and causing a fumble. The Raiders recovered the ball, and with no way for the Patriots to stop Oakland from running out the clock, the game was essentially over. But the refs had other plans.
The call came from upstairs that the play was being reviewed. Referee Walt Coleman peered into the replay booth for several minutes and then emerged with quite possibly the worst call in the history of sports. With a loose grasp of logic, he stated that while Tom Brady was tucking the ball toward his body, his arm was moving forward, making the play an incomplete pass. This judgment was based on Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2 of the NFL rule book: “…any intentional forward movement of [the passer’s] arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body.” I won’t even get into how idiotic this rule is, except to say that it would have most certainly been changed had league officials not wanted to avoid de-legitimizing the Patriots’ Super Bowl win.
First off, the play was initially ruled a fumble, so it was supposed to take “incontrovertible visual evidence” to overturn the call. That didn’t deter the ref, however, as he somehow divined from the fuzzy replays that Tom Brady had not fully tucked the ball toward his body. He was somehow 100 percent sure, incontrovertibly sure, that it was an incomplete pass when every TV announcer and the majority of football fans across the United States (save for Patriots fans, of course) thought the play was too ambiguous to overturn or were sure of a fumble. Neither Tom Brady’s calm demeanor nor coach Belichick’s genius won the game that day. Rather, Patriots fans can thank Mr. Coleman for their first Super Bowl ring.
What has followed in each of the Patsies’ Super Bowl victories is best described as a series of events so fortuitous that they would make Cinderella blush. In their first Super Bowl, they played the high-flying Rams and Mike Martz, their head coach with a supposedly brilliant offensive mind. This offensive mind, however, decided to give his star running back that had rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries the week before only 17 carries. And it wasn’t because the Patriots were stopping Faulk; he still averaged a robust 4.5 yards on those carries. The Patriots just capitalized on a mistake of epic proportions, and they still only won by a field goal.
Another blunder fueled the Patriots’ second Super Bowl win. After the Panthers tied the game at 29 apiece with a little over a minute left in the game, Carolina Pro Bowl kicker John Kasay hooked the ensuing kickoff out-of-bounds, giving the ball to the Patriots on their 40-yard line. Brady was able to drive the offense a mere 37 yards and set up the winning field goal. Here we have again an example of an enormous break setting up a Super Bowl victory.
The biggest break of all, however, came when Dallas safety Roy Williams horse-collared Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens last season, causing him to tear several ligaments in his ankle. The Patriots therefore played a depleted Eagles team in their third Super Bowl, and again, managed to win by a mere three points despite playing a team with their best offensive player and only valid receiving threat hobbling on an ankle with a metal plate and two screws.
Luck, then, played a deciding role in each of the Patsies’ three Super Bowl wins. Not only that, the slim margin of victory in these three games (as well as in the Oakland game) demonstrate just how pedestrian of a champion team the Patriots are. Take, for example, the ’90s Cowboys, who destroyed their Super Bowl opponents 52-17, 30-13, and 27-17. Or look at Montana’s Niners of the 1980s, who demolished their four opponents by a margin of 139-63.
When I think of a “dynasty” I think of a team that not only wins championships but humiliates its opponents in the process. But maybe I’m asking too much from today’s NFL where parity rules. Maybe the price we fans have to pay for having a league in which a team can go from worst to first in its division is not being able to see a truly dominant team — one that doesn’t need incompetent refs and key injuries to its opponents to win. The Patriots are a good team, but quite frankly, they’ll never be considered great.
Dan Ly is a senior in Morse College.