|2014 NBA Playoffs Expert Picks: First Round||NBA First Round Predictions||Datsyuk’s Late Heroics Topple Bruins in Game 1||Celtics Go 1-1 in Draft Order Tiebreakers|
Over the past 12 years, the New England Patriots have dominated the league with three Super Bowl wins and five overall appearances to become one of the best franchises since 2000. The dynasty they established was due in large part to the undeniable success of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. The dynasty has stalled in terms of actually winning a ring since its last championship win in 2004, despite numerous playoff appearances since. With Brady turning 36 next month, there is some doubt of whether he will be able to win another ring before retirement.
Brady, revered as one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, recently told Peter King of Sports Illustrated in an interview that he still has “plenty of chances” to win another Super Bowl. He spoke with confidence when talking about his team saying, “What I like about this franchise is we’ve got a shot every year. I love the fact we were in the AFC title game last year, the Super Bowl the year before that, and 14-2 the year before that. Can we win this year? It’ll be determined by our level of commitment, the mental toughness. We’ll find it out before the season. How committed are we?”
Brady is correct in his statements except for the one when he says he has “plenty of chances” to win another ring. With an aging Brady, he has a small window, probably of three years, to compete for another Super Bowl. However, the question is not whether the Brady and his bunch can contend for another Super Bowl, but if they can produce a championship-caliber team. As long as Brady is healthy and behind center, there is no reason to believe another Super Bowl victory is not within reach.
Critics can argue Brady has lost a step but he has consistently proven over the past seasons to be one of the best quarterbacks in the pocket and two-minute drill, and his ability to read defenses is immaculate. He possesses all the intangibles of a championship quarterback, but Brady cannot win the title by himself. Like Brady stated, it will be about the team’s commitment and mental toughness. Brady has always led his team with a competitive edge but in order for him to win another ring, his supporting cast will need to step up and match Brady’s intensity and commitment.
Brady will also have another opportunity to win the Super Bowl as long as he remains a Patriot and Bill Belichick continues to be the head coach. Both understand age is not on their side and are hungry for that one elusive Super Bowl win, especially post Spygate. This hunger is also shared by Brady’s teammates, as only a few have experienced the high of winning a Super Bowl.
However, no matter how terrific Brady is behind center, improvements will need to be made around Brady to provide him with the tools he needs to once again be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. The Patriots will need to provide Brady with support and should take a page out of the 2007 undefeated season, when they were one catch defended away from their fourth championship. The 2007 team was based on the foundation of going back to basics and of everyone doing their jobs. In order for the Patriots to provide Brady with the necessary support, they will need to focus on their defense, run game and wide receivers.
1.) Defense- With the recent transition to pass happy offenses, defenses have taken a backseat. However, many still believe defense wins championships so it will be imperative for the defense to step up if Brady wants another ring. When the Patriots were undefeated in 2007, they had a defense other teams around the league feared led by tough veterans like Rodney Harrison. Recently, the defense has been finding itself holding steady at the bottom of many categories, especially pass defense. Our secondary make quarterbacks like Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Joe Montana. The defense used to be known for its competitive edge but it seems lately they have gone soft especially with their lack of a pass rush. The bright side is the Patriots have been improving with second year players such as Chandler Jones learning from veterans like Vince Wilfork. If those players, along with other defensive potential stars like Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower can have Pro Bowl like seasons, the offense will be able to be more versatile and help Brady forget about all the weapons he lost in the offseason.
2.) Running Game- Running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vareen have brought the Patriots running game back to a championship winning level. The running game last year was an improvement from the past couple of years and Ridley had a season reminiscent of Corey Dillon. Ridley will need to stay healthy and focused. If Ridley can not only emulate the season he had last year, minus the fumbles, but carry more of the load on offense to take the pressure off Brady, the Patriots will be able to make a deep run in the playoffs.
3.) Wide Receivers- If the defense and running game are able to do their jobs successfully, Brady will not need weapons in the receiving core in order to win another title. Just take a look at the 2004 championship season when Brady threw to a receiving core with players like David Givens. Of course it does not hurt Brady to have reliable targets to throw to. Compare the 2004 season to 2007 when Brady was paired with deep threat Randy Moss and both had record setting seasons that year. It would be nice for Brady to have reliable receivers around him to balance the offense. A major plus for Brady would be if tight end Rob Gronkowski comes back healthy and becomes the red zone threat he was last season.
If the Patriots follow that blueprint to success and make it back to the Super Bowl there is still one factor out of their control that could interfere with Brady’s hopes of another title and that is the New York Giants. As long as the Giants is not the team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl, Brady’s chances of winning another title is great. And how amazing would it be if the Patriots won the Super Bowl this season in MetLife Stadium, home of the Giants. That would be the sweetest revenge for all of New England.