In an ever changing world, one tends to hold onto constants to sort of keep things grounded. It may be sitting in an old chair in the living room or a familiar bar with your pals, just a place or thing that makes time feel non existent. Something that was the same when you were a kid, and won’t change, regardless of how much the world around you does. For a lot of people around my age, that one thing is the New England Football Patriots. Since 2001, every fall you could count on Thomas Edward Patrick Brady. Regardless of your age, every year the Pats being great at professional football is something you can count on. As soon as the hot summer air gets swapped with the crisp breeze of autumn, Sundays become mini holidays. For most, it means sitting with your friends and family watching number 12 light up opposing defenses. Yeah, there have been some awful losses, the 1 behind 18-1 is still the most heartbreaking moment of my life, but year in and year out the Patriots play meaningful games in January. Whether you love them or hate them, you can set your calendar to the Patriots. No matter the year, no matter what has changed over the past 365 days, Tom and the gang will be there for you on Sunday.
The league itself is changing yearly as well. Peyton Manning has long been replaced by Andrew Luck. Big Ben and Eli are both on their way out, even Aaron Rodgers is facing “is this it?” questions. Despite all that, once again Gillette Stadium will have a home game in January. Two games away from another Super Bowl appearance, and coming off a 30 point mauling of the Jets, everything should feel like business as usual, but it doesn’t. Because for the first time I can remember, I have to face the realization that this Patriots dynasty has a hell of a lot more yesterdays than tomorrows, and I’m not ready for it. Not in the slightest.
It’s not that I don’t want to sit through a rebuilding process. The Celtics are technically currently in one and this is the best team they’ve had in a while. The Bruins are mid rebuild, and are still the most entertaining team in Boston right now. The Red Sox spent two years in a rebuild and just won a World Series. The Patriots could fold as a franchise tomorrow and New England would still have meaningful games year round. With the Pats though, and more importantly Brady, it’s different.
I mean, think back to when he debuted and the other Boston sports figures who were here. Pedro, Ortiz, and Paul Pierce have all had their numbers retired. Guys like Manny Ramirez, Joe Thornton, and Kevin Garnett all showed up in Boston, had fantastic stints here, and were shipped out all during Tom’s run as our quarterback. Most great athletes define generations, but Brady has been the most iconic Boston athlete for two. When David Ortiz retired the city was sad, yet there was an underlying optimism for the future. Whenever Zdeno Chara decides to call it a career, we’ll all be ready to usher in a new era of Bruins, because we’ve all done it before. The Sox, Bruins, and Celtics have had multiple roster change over the last two decades, what’s one more? That team from Foxborough though, they’ve operated the exact same over that time. With consistency. Since 2001 the other Boston teams have combined for 12 losing seasons. The Patriots have had none. They’ve only missed the playoffs twice, and one was due to Brady’s ACL exploding. They have only had ONE season with less than ten wins over that span, but you probably know all that. However, I don’t think restating and appreciating all of these incredible stats is uncalled for, because Sunday at one it may all come to an end.
This Sunday may be the last Sunday as you know it. January 13th, 2019 might end the one true constant in all of New England since the turn of the century. I mean, this team itself has changed from even last year. Key contributors like Dont’a Hightower and Julian Edelman look like shells of the players they once were. Look at Gronk this season! He is no longer the touchdown catching, club dancing, football machine he has always been. A year ago he was hands down the greatest tight end who has ever lived, now he goes entire games without having any impact at all. Brady himself has had these struggles this year as well. Against Detroit, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville he looked downright awful. Did he look like himself for large portions of this season? No doubt. Were there games he looked like a 40+ year old quarterback at the end of his career? Absolutely, and it terrifies me. This Chargers team is very good. Philip Rivers is playing at an all time high, their receivers are lightning (no pun intended) quick, and Melvin Gordon is an animal. The defense is incredible upfront with a solid secondary to back up the pass rush. The Patriots teams of old have played and beaten far better teams. However, these Patriots don’t look like the Patriots of old, they just look old.
At some point Tom will have to ride off into the sunset. At some point his Hall of Fame career will be over and the Patriots, and the fans, are going to have to move on without him. The one thing that hasn’t changed will have to drastically. This isn’t the first time the end seemed imminent either. After the 2013 AFC championship loss, Bill drafted Tom’s replacement. Tom responded by playing the best he ever has, winning two Super Bowls, and a MVP to boot. Maybe that will happen again. Maybe he has one more dynasty run in him. Sunday we will find out, but no one is ready for this to end. The Patriots are that old chair in the living room, they are that local bar you and all your friends pour into. Think back to where you were and who you were with during the Patriots first banner raising. Odds are that place and some of those people aren’t around anymore, yet regardless of the change in setting and company the product has never wavered. If all that truly does come to an end, then we can’t be too upset. Most fan bases can only dream of one title, forget about five. However, just because something is inevitable, that doesn’t mean you have to be ready for it. And I, for one, am not ready for the Pats to stink. Sunday it all comes to a head, and there is no one I’d rather have taking the snaps, and it’s been that way forever. Here’s to forevermore.
Hit the music.
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