New England Patriots
Not even the post-Belichick/Brady hangover that’s inevitably coming will ease the animosity this team has attracted since engineering the biggest upset in Super Bowl history, but here’s to thinking this team’s GOAT head coach and GOAT quarterback wouldn’t trade a single win for all the love in the world For the Patriot haters out there – and gods know there are so so many – history provides a welcome reminder of just how pathetic and straight-up lame this turn usually was before the arrival of the Golden Boy in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL Draft.
In fact, excepting a brief and mostly forgettable run by the Boston Yanks in the mid-1940s, Boston and the entire New England area was ignored by the NFL for four decades. Thus was the nation’s then 13th-most populous city an easy choice for a franchise for the brand new American Football League in 1960. The Boston Patriots made the AFL championship game following the ’63 season but were crushed by the San Diego Chargers, 51-10.
That would be the team’s last appearance in a championship game for 22 years. In fact, after the 1964 AFL Championship Game, the Pats would post losing records in 10 of the next 12 seasons (including their five in the merged NFL) and not make the playoffs once. In 1976, the team’s best shot at its first Super Bowl bid was lost thanks to a phantom “roughing the passer” call in the Oakland Raiders’ favor in the fourth quarter of the divisional playoff game.
In 1985, sophomore sensation Tony Eason led the plucky Patriots into Super Bowl XX, where they were crushed by Dah Bears, 46-10; Eason turned in probably the single worst Super Bowl performance by any player ever. This fleeting success portended disaster, though: By 1990, an idiot by the name of Rod Rust “led” his team of delinquents to a 1-15 record and multiple allegations of sexual harassment of female reporters. The next two seasons saw the Patriots under the nearly equally vacant-headed Dick MacPherson go a combined 8-24.
Following MacPherson, however, the Patriots have employed just three head coaches, all Super Bowl winners (though not necessarily with New England): Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. Parcells and Carroll enjoyed four playoff runs between them – including the appearance in Super Bowl XXXI – in seven seasons. It was during this run in the 1990s when Patriots football history nearly changed forever.
In the tradition of the time, franchise owner Robert Kraft decided that his now-winning team should have a spiffy new high-tech stadium. Near the conclusion of the 1998 season, then-Connecticut governor John Rowland publicly announced plans to invest up to $1 billion (at that time, a would-be record figure) into a 70,000-seat stadium in Hartford as a prelude to the Patriots’ relocation for the 2000 season. Rowland went so far as to claim that Kraft had signed a contract. However, by March ’99, the proposal was dead thanks in large part to an environmental report stating that extensive cleanup of the proposed site would be necessary. Oops.
So the Patriots stayed in the revamped Gillette Stadium, drafted the most under-the-radar superstar ever in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft and pulled off the win as 17-point underdogs in Super Bowl XXXV. And then came the Spygate accusations.
The team went 18-0 and looked poised to add not only a fourth Lombardi Trophy but the first-ever 19-0 NFL season before Eli Manning the Helmet Catch knocked them out of this potential spot of immortality. And then came Deflategate. Shortly after taking another upset loss to their nemeses in New York, the Patriots were gifted Super Bowl wins against the suddenly-addled Carroll and later Dan Quinn. Surely, many are with us when we say (write?), “Thank the gods for Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles.”
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