As Super Bowl 55 approaches, Patriots fans are faced with the reality that Tom Brady was as good as they always claimed.
The internet trolls and the TV talking heads said Brady was a ‘system QB’ -- a statement for nearly 20 years Pats fans were ready to go to war over.
Fast forward to Feb. 1, 2021, and New England fans are prepared to sit on their couches next Sunday and watch Brady compete for yet another championship. But this time, it won't be in a Patriots uniform.
So how did we get to this point?
Brady ‘led’ a New England defensive juggernaut that peaked too soon in 2019 to a 12-4 record, only to be bounced in the first round by the Titans.
Yes, there were some key departures on the defensive side of the ball for the Pats, but the roster itself did not change drastically from ‘19 to ‘20 (outside of Brady obviously.)
Brady dips, COVID-19 strikes, and the 2020 Patriots drop to a 7-9 record. Underperforming the previous season mark by five wins and their first time under .500 in 20 years.
Brady’s departure made abundantly clear the offensive deficiencies that had reared its ugly head towards the end of the 2019 season.
The ‘19 and ‘20 rosters lacked offensive weapons which pushed Brady out of town.
There are no trophies for staying with the same franchise forever. Some may look for participation trophies, but not Tom. His passion is Lombardi Trophies. As Brady has said many times, his “favorite [Lombardi Trophy] is the next one.”
A 7-9 2019 Buccaneers roster improved to 11-5 after the key addition of Brady. A roster that had established talent on the offensive side of the ball which lured Brady in.
A long, physical, X-receiver in Mike Evans. He’s a matchup nightmare, demanding safety help over the top on every snap and a double-team in the red zone. A build that Brady has only been teamed up with at one other point in his career: Randy Moss.
Chris Godwin, a fast and physical young receiver that can play in the slot or outside. Other young fast receivers like Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller hungry to make an impact helped round out the group coming into the preseason (which was nonexistent).
Tampa also showed a commitment to protecting their aging quarterback by reinforcing their weakest unit -- offensive line -- with the 13th overall pick in Tristan Wirfs.
When lining up the New England and Tampa Bay depth charts, it is no question which offensive unit is more talented.
Coming off his worst statistical season of the previous decade, Brady in 2020 jumped ship and joined Tampa, where he thought he had the better ability to win. Because, well, it was true.
It wasn’t a disdain for Belichick that drove him out of town. It was the anemic offense that Belichick had created.
This ‘lingering issue’ between Belichick and Brady was the lack of explosive weapons through free agency and the draft for years leading up to Brady’s 2020 departure. New England hasn't had a wideout with double-digit receiving touchdowns since Moss in 2009.
Yes, Belichick drafted Rob Gronkowski, but there have been plenty of opportunities to draft an explosive receiver in the past 10 years, yet Belichick has elected to punt. Missing on offensive playmakers in the draft has been an Achilles heel to the roster construction of the Patriots surely leading to Brady’s frustration, which is a topic for another day.
To Belichick’s defense, it has been New England's elite defense that has won Super Bowls, not their offense. ‘07, ‘11, ‘17, some of Brady’s best statistical seasons, have ended in losses in the Super Bowl.
It will be interesting to see this coming Sunday if Brady can take home a 7th Lombardi, this time with offense. A feat that has eluded him to this point in his Hall-of-Fame career.
Regardless of the outcome of Super Bowl LV, just simply having Brady on your roster gives you a shot at getting to the Super Bowl. And until the clock hits double zeros Brady has a chance to win.
New England fans never have to debate it ever again: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time. A bittersweet reality for all of Patriot Nation as they tune in on Feb. 7 as Brady takes the field in the season finale for the 10th time in his career. Battling against the Kansas City Chiefs and Father Time.
After 20 years of winning, from the outside looking in Patriot fans are left scratching their head asking the question: “How did we get here?”