The return of the Prodigal Son. It always makes for great TV and entertainment in general. Ever since Star Wars imprinted the storyline into our minds we live for the return of the departed hero. Whether that is for the same team, a la Cristiano Ronaldo at Man Utd, or against the team that made them who they are. This weekend sees possibly the greatest ever example of this in sports, certainly in my lifetime.
Tom Brady and his Patriots dynasty will forever be etched into our brains. Watching him perform miracles game after game became almost the norm. I would argue the finest of these was the comeback Super Bowl win against the Falcons. Watching the masterclass as he brought the team back from 28-3 with 17 minutes left was amazing. It doesn’t matter who you support, that game was great. It was the perfect advert for what the NFL can be. Unless you’re a Falcons fan.
Tom Brady has more NFL records than I expect any of us could list in an hour (except the longest field goal….shameless Ravens nod there). This weekend he is going for the big one. The most passing yards accrued in the NFL, ever. This is the one that all the great QBs, of this generation at least, will look back on.
That he is going for this against the Patriots and, more importantly, Bill Belichick is poetic justice at it’s finest. The thing for me which makes this weekend even more enjoyable is that I don’t hate Brady anymore. For the record, I don’t think you do either…
The New Tom Brady
Since Tom Brady has arrived in Tampa it is like he has been reborn. The shackles of the drill master Belichick have been thrown off. Brady has embraced the sunshine and laid back lifestyle Tampa offers. Watching him just have fun is wholesome viewing for all concerned. The celebrations after the Super Bowl win on the boat, drunk, were a side of Brady we have never seen. To many of us he is this football robot sent from the future to ruin so many fans dreams.
The last 18 months have shown me that it was actually an ambivalence towards the dynasty rather than the players themselves which existed. Rob Gronkowski is Brady’s perfect foil. The clown to his ringleader. Even watching Brady in a Subway advert (Brady famously hasn’t eaten bread in a LONG time) shows he has just relaxed in general. It appears this has translated to his teammates. Yes he was a big draw for Free Agents but you get what you pay for. Tampa took a huge risk on an ageing Quarterback going into a new system. This wasn’t guaranteed to work at all. Jason Licht deserves huge credit for the work he has done in acquiring Brady and since.
There were worries when, last season, it appeared Brady had forgotten how to count to four in a game against the Bears. There were further worries when they were absolutely blown out by Drew Brees and the Saints in the regular season. We should never have worried. This is Tom Brady for god’s sake! What happened from that point was a buy in and commitment executed perfectly by the whole team. The fans were in for a treat!
For me, what this has amounted to, is that Tampa are now a team who I am quite happy to see win, unless it is against the Ravens. They are fun and Tom Brady is front and centre of that.
Was It All Brady Though?
The Patriots sustained success is owed to Belichick and Brady. How much to each though is a matter for discussion. In my mind early evidence indicates more Brady than Belichick. In the year and a half since Brady left Belichick has not been able to scheme up much in the way of anything above average. People will say it is down to not having the level of player available to him but that just supports my theory.
Mac Jones may well be the next great Patriots QB but it is far too early to tell at this point. The Saints certainly made him look mortal at the weekend. That said Bill Belichick is a master, possibly the greatest Head Coach of all time. Yes there are the greats, Lombardi et al, however in the modern era I’d argue that nobody comes close.
He always seems to be 5 steps ahead of the pack. Every now and then someone seems to be creeping up, Andy Reid in recent times could certainly male a claim to this. The adaption of the Patriots run game in the last 18 months also echoes how the Ravens have approached this. Belichick is the first to admit that he doesn’t know everything and is open to learning. This is what makes him the best.
The truth of the Patriots success probably lies somewhere between the two. They were the perfect storm of Coach and Quarterback coming together in the right circumstances. The closest we have seen since is Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. I would argue though that the buy in from the rest of the team is also paramount. You can’t have a team full of egos for sustained success to exist. Again, this is echoed in the way the Chiefs team presents itself. Yes there are marquee players but the majority of the squad are there to do whatever is asked of them and do so gladly.
The Return – The Unstoppable Force Meets The Immovable Object
The crux of the game this weekend is going to come down to how well the Patriots Defence can contain the all-singing, all-dancing Buccaneer Offense. If Brady and co get ahead in this match by a way I don’t have the faith in Jones to bring the Patriots back into the game.
The record is going to be Brady’s after this weekend, there is no doubt, he currently sits 67 yards behind Drew Brees. Barring Injury by the end of the first quarter on Sunday night the record will be his. This is another of those moments which you will be able to be say you were there for. Much like Brady v Rodgers and Brady v Brees last year in the playoffs. We are very much towards the end of this great career and as such we should be enjoying every second of it that we can.
For Belichick and co to triumph on Sunday the whole team will have to play out of it’s skin. They will need the perfect game plan and 110% buy in and execution. With Bill Belichick at the helm they have the best chance they could. Personally though, I don’t think that will be enough. By the end of 60 minutes I can’t see a result that isn’t a Buccaneers win by double figures. Brady is going to bring his absolute A game and when he’s on song there’s no stopping him.
Whatever side of the fence you sit on. Whether you despise Tom Brady or not, settle in on Sunday evening and enjoy the show that is going to be put on for you. The return of the prodigal son promises to be gripping!
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