It is far too early to contemplate the Super Bowl LVI matchup, but it is not too early to dream about what is lurking in the back of nearly every NFL fan’s mind.
Unless you hail from one of the cities that still feels its team has a legitimate chance to reach Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California on February 13, 2022, what you want to see is not Super Bowl LVI. You want Grievance Bowl I.
You want Brady vs. Belichick.
Come on. Admit it! Instead of Tom vs. Time, it would now be Tom vs. Hoodie. Genius vs. GOAT. What more could you ask for?
Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick is in the back of everyone’s mind these days because Sunday the defending Super Bowl Buccaneers seemed to right their ship by coming from behind to beat the hot-as-a-pistol Indianapolis Colts. That pushed their record to 8-3 and gives them a shot to leapfrog the Packers and upstart Arizona Cardinals and secure home field advantage in the NFC playoffs with six games to play.
Of course, it is only in your mind. Because back in New England Belichick is again glowering on the sidelines like Darth Vader while his team of Hessians, led by a kid who looks like he shaves once a month, won six straight games and sits within hailing distance of the AFC-leading Baltimore Ravens and the conference’s No. 1 seed.
As with many things he has done since arriving in New England 21 years ago, Belichick seems to have become the rarest of commodities: a head coach who spent like a drunken sailor in free agency and lived to tell the story. Even Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft was publicly skeptical after Belichick spent $175,000,000 on free agents, with $163,000,000 of that money guaranteed.
Historically this is neither a winning formula or the Patriot Way.
“We always used to make fun of the people who won the headlines in March,” Kraft said last spring. “I’m very cognizant of that. I do remember we always made fun of the teams that spent a lot in the offseason. So we know nothing is guaranteed, and I'm very cognizant of that (too). So, we’ll see.
“In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft because that’s when you’re able to get people of great talent, whether it’s Willie McGinest or Tom Brady, you get them at a price where you can build the team and be competitive.
“Once they get to their [second] contract, if they’re superstars, you can only balance so many of them. Really, the teams who draft well are the ones who will be consistently good….I don’t feel like we’ve done the greatest job [drafting] the last few years and I really hope and believe I’ve seen a different approach this year.”
As Kraft said, nothing is guaranteed, even though Tom Brady seems to come close when it comes to winning football games. But that $175,000,000 is paying dividends. And so is a draft that appears to have landed the Patriots not only their quarterback of the future but their quarterback of the moment.
Mac Jones was the last of five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft in April. Initially it was not even expected he’d play much until Belichick released sore-armed Cam Newton and installed Jones as his starting quarterback. Jones has now won more games than the four quarterbacks taken ahead of him combined, eight to six, and is 8-4 as a rookie starter. The others are a combined 6-21.
None of the others is even within a $50 Uber fare of a winning record. Not surprisingly, this has made Mac Jones the toast of the town in a town known for roasting more often than toasting its athletes.
“This kid is very serious about what he’s doing,” nine-time Pro Bowl Patriot Matthew Slater said. “He spends more time in this building than a lot of guys I can ever remember here. I can’t believe how quickly he’s developed, as far as understanding of the things we’re trying to do here — and that’s not just offensively. I’m talking about overall culture.”
If that means he’s a clone of Tom Brady, well, that’s more than anyone could have hoped. Certainly Jones has a long way to go before he can start bleating in the GOAT’s direction, but a Super Bowl Showdown in Sofi would be a start.
The Kid vs. The GOAT. The Baby-faced Assassin vs. Methuselah with Great Hair. The talking heads on ESPN, NFL Network, FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC and all the rest of the alphabet in between would have their well-coiffed locks sticking up like Don King’s by kickoff.
For two weeks, Bill would exalt Tom, and Tom would thank Bill. Butter would melt in their mouths whenever one was asked about the six Super Bowl trophies they won together. And then, bet on it, Tom’s Dad would chirp something provocative, and the FOBs (Friends of Bill, a fraternal marching society based in Foxborough, Mass.) would lob a grenade back, and we’d all have what we want.
Grievance Bowl I.
Sure the Packers are great and the Ravens are gritty and the Chiefs seem to be starting to find their explosiveness again. Yes, the Bills are on the rise, the Cowboys are still America’s Team, the Rams would love to be playing a Super Bowl in their own stadium and the upstart Arizona Cardinals are a feel-good story. Any of them could be in L.A. in February and would make for a great contest. But let’s get real.
What we’d all love to see on Feb. 13 is The Hoodie butting heads with The GOAT. It would be as much theatre as football, as much drama as sporting event.
Will it happen? Not likely.
But admit it, you Cheeseheads and Bills Mafia members. You know even you’d love to see it happen.