A little less than 10 years ago, the St. Louis Rams were the best professional football team in the world.
Two seasons earlier, the team had captured Super Bowl XXXIV, and they were back for another title. Quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk had combined for the last three league Most Valuable Player awards. New coach Mike Martz had “The Greatest Show on Turf” running on all cylinders.
All the Rams had to do to begin legitimate talks of a dynasty was beat the 14-point underdog New England Patriots, they of few playmakers, a washed-up coach and the league’s greenest quarterback.
As tends to happen in the wacky world of sports, the unthinkable occurred. New England won on a last-second field goal, giving them a 20-17 upset and their first world championship in three tries.
Next Friday marks the 10th anniversary of that monumental upset, and what better way to celebrate than with another Super Bowl appearance for quarterback Tom Brady (the most accomplished man in the game at his craft) and coach Bill Belichick (ditto)?
With each passing year, it’s becoming increasingly tough for the naysayers to detract from the duo’s retrospective. They are two of the most hated men in football, but Brady and Belichick have met and conquered nearly every obstacle in their path.
Their greatness is hard to blight.
The gunslinger has set countless New England and league records in his 12-year tenure, and the hoodie-sporting coach has overseen a total of 155 victories. No other team has more than 136 in that same time period, never mind who was coaching them.
Since 2001, the Patriots have simply been the most dominant franchise in the NFL, with five total trips to the Super Bowl and three victories in the big game (both league highs during this span).
Although their first three appearances were full of fireworks, what happened in the fourth is the stuff of legends: Despite entering with an 18-0 record, the mighty Pats fell to Eli Manning and the New York Giants in the final minute of Super Bowl XLII.
This time around, the Patriots have a chance for redemption. While “The Greatest Show on Turf” never got another go-round against the surprising Patriots, Brady and Belichick will get another shot at Manning and his Giants.
Feb. 5 brings the first compelling rematch in Super Bowl history. If nothing else, a win will cement Brady and Belichick as the best of their generation and the Patriots of the new millennium as the most successful franchise in modern American sports.
Only one other quarterback (John Elway) has started five Super Bowls, and only two signal-callers (Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw) have led four championship squads. A win for Brady puts him on the same numeric level as all three of these legends, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
With his fifth Super Bowl appearance, Belichick is only one away from Don Shula’s record. If the Patriots win, he will share the record of four victories with Steelers legend Chuck Noll. It’s safe to say he is unrivaled by his peers in every substantial category.
But enough about Brady and Belichick’s current competition. If New England’s dynamic duo can avenge its only Super Bowl loss and beat the Giants on Feb. 5, Tom Brady will be the greatest quarterback of all time, and Bill Belichick will be second only to Vince Lombardi, the man after which the Super Bowl trophy is named.
Not bad for a washed-up coach and a no-name quarterback.