Yet it is 2015 and Brady and Belichick have won their fourth Super Bowl in six appearances across fourteen years. Their sustained success across that length of time with multiple generations of NFL players is one of the greatest accomplishments by any team in the history of American sports.
I was a few months from graduating high school and beginning my first year as a Communication Studies major at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA later that fall. At the same time, LeGarrette Blount was making plans to start his collegiate football career at East Mississippi Community College because he hadn't been recruited.
Julian Edelman wasn’t recruited either, so his transition out of high school in Woodside, CA and into the real world later that year would also begin via community college at the College of San Mateo. Three hours southeast of Edelman in Fresno, CA, Ryan Wendell had just finished his freshman season with the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Kyle Arrington had also recently logged his first college football season at Hofstra in Hempstead, NY. Brandon LaFell was being highly recruited out of high school, and would redshirt as a true freshman that ensuing fall at LSU.
While they were all kids in the early stages of chasing their dreams, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were already being hailed as possibly the greatest coaching-QB duo of all-time. Hall of Fame status for both of them was a regular topic of discussion. In 2007, after the SpyGate scandal attempted to tarnish the shine of their Super Bowl dynasty earlier, the Patriots rode the first 16-0 regular season all the way back to the Super Bowl.
But they finished 18-1. That’s when the second half of Brady’s career really began. The first seven seasons of his tenure as a starting quarterback were as great as any QB had produced in the history of the NFL. The second seven were a little more humbling.
Among the first of the additions to the post-Golden-Era Patriots in 2008 was the undrafted Wendell. Arrington, whose alma mater’s football program is now defunct, also went undrafted in 2008. In 2009, the Patriots drafted Edelman in the seventh round. Blount went undrafted in 2010 after a controversy-riddled college career left many feeling he was more of a liability than an asset. LaFell was drafted in the third round by the Carolina Panthers that same year.
Those five members of the Super Bowl XLIX Champion New England Patriots were were at that amazing, promising age of eighteen when the the Patriots last won, with no clue that the next ten years of their lives would culminate alongside Brady and Belichick under red, white and blue confetti.
The group of players dumping Gatorade on Belichick’s head in Glendale, Arizona in 2015 were impossibly improbable successors to the original Patriots’ dynasty. The Pats hoisted their third trophy while their heirs were kids that were watching from their parents’ basements and freshman dorm rooms. Kids who fought and faced adversity and screwed up and had flashes of brilliance. Kids that were undrafted, undrafted, drafted in seventh round, undrafted and drafted in the third round.
In 2005, it would have been inconceivable that a couple of teenagers about to play football at community college would be the leading rusher and wide receiver in Tom Brady’s fourth Super Bowl win. It would have been stunning to know that years after Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Troy Brown and Rodney Harrison had hung up their cleats and become veteran NFL analysts that Tom Brady would still be winning Super Bowls.
I certainly never imagined I’d be 28 years old writing viral columns covering the Patriots road to their sixth Super Bowl with the same coach and quarterback that I’d written about while honing my early skills in my Plymouth South High School journalism class. It’s implausible at best.
Because the Patriots adjusted and pushed and believed in young and prospering talent, they turned what could have been a four year dynasty into one that has spanned a decade and a half. That's why the Brady/Belichick-era Patriots are one of the greatest dynasties ever; and the man that won his third Super Bowl MVP on Sunday, surrounded by those wistful teenagers of 2005, is the greatest quarterback of all time.