Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the New England Patriots.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
The New England Patriots are the best dynasty in sports history. I've written about this before, but let me go over it again. Five Super Bowl titles in the 17 years since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady arrived. Seven conference titles in that span (plus two more before the Belichick-Brady era). A 16-0 season. They've missed the playoffs twice since 2001 -- and had nine and 11 wins in those seasons, respectively, with the latter of those campaigns playing out sans Brady (and with Matt freaking Cassel). Pretty amazing.
OK, I know a bunch of other great teams are flooding your mind right now -- but please stop. They all played in an era without free agency. It was easy for the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers or even the Canton Bulldogs to be competitive forever, because they had a hold on their players. Not so with the Patriots. In fact, they've gone the other way.
The Patriots trade or cut players who are in or near their prime and suffer no consequences. Seriously. Every year, the Patriots will jettison some high-profile player, like Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork or Logan Mankins, prompting all of the pundits to write, "I don't know if the Patriots can survive the loss of this high-profile player." And they still win. Hell, it happened last year with Jamie Collins.
And oh my God -- they won it all without Rob Gronkowski last season. I warned all of you I would be insufferable about this if it happened, and I'm going to be, fools! Is there any other team that lost one of its truly indispensable players and still went on to win the Super Bowl? I'm thinking, what, the 1990 New York Giants, who won with Jeff Hostetler at quarterback after Phil Simms went down? That seems fair, no? Although there is something about that team that kind of rings a bell. Hmmm ...
Oh, that's right. The defensive coordinator of that team was mother-freaking Bill Belichick. Game. Set. Match. I won't even entertain your arguments to the contrary.
The franchise's -- and the NFL's -- best
Tom Brady is the best quarterback who ever lived. He's the best football player I have ever seen in my life. If we lived in a world in which Serena Williams never played a sport, I might make the case for him to be the most dominant professional athlete ever (though Mike Trout is going to pass him soon). Notice that I haven't even mentioned the 25-point comeback in Super Bowl LI yet -- which I will do here.
Although, before we get there, let's go back to Brady's fourth Super Bowl title, which he secured by defeating a Seattle Seahawks defense that made Peyton Manning look like an awkward teen in a rom-com. (Like if Michael Cera's character from "Superbad" became an NFL quarterback for a day. I mean, in a career of playoff pratfalls for No. 18, that might have been the worst.) Brady shredded that defense for 328 yards and four touchdowns in Super Bowl XLIX.
Then, just a few months ago, the Patriots were down 28-3 to the Falcons in Super Bowl LI -- and Brady went for 234 yards and a touchdown. Oh, I'm sorry. Those were just his fourth-quarter numbers. He finished with 466 and two touchdowns and graciously let James White bring home both the game-tying and game-winning scores. The Patriots rallied because they knew Brady could do it. I love Jimmy Garoppolo, but I don't think that happens with him under center.
I know James White played a great game, but James White is James White -- he's not Jerry Rice. I bring up Rice because I know you want to say something ridiculous, like, Joe Montana never lost a Super Bowl (though he tried to throw one away in Super Bowl XXIII). But Montana never faced down his version of the Seahawks, the 1985 Chicago Bears. And while Montana had Rice, who was the big-time receiver Brady played with? Brady spent two full seasons with late-career Randy Moss, setting a record for most touchdown passes in a season in his first year with Moss. Otherwise, it's been castoffs and former college quarterbacks catching passes for him. There's no debate. Brady is the G.O.A.T.
Rob Gronkowski is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL. Most find his antics sophomoric -- and those people might be right. I find him to be one of the most enjoyable players going. Don't be so jealous.
No, this has nothing to do with him helping Mojo Rawley win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. (Maybe a little.) But he played along when I told him he was the star of my Madden Ultimate Team.
The "Madden" thing
Gronk did that interview as part of his obligations for being on the cover of "Madden." And folks who believe in the "Madden" curse were sort of justified when Gronk missed the Patriots' playoff run after going on injured reserve in December. It didn't help that Gronk chose to taunt the Madden curse in a commercial.
BTW, who's on the cover of "Madden" this year?
All right. It will be cool, Tom. Just don't taunt the curse.
The Patriots haven't acted like normal Super Bowl champions. In fact, they appear to be reloaded, maybe not just for this season, but perhaps for some post-Brady years in the future. The Patriots added receiver Brandin Cooks, who should make an immediate impact. The role of lead back has been recast, with LeGarrette Blount replaced by Mike Gillislee. New England lost second tight end Martellus Bennett but added Dwayne Allen. And the Pats brought in Rex Burkhead, because why not? Oh my God, they are going to run the table, aren't they?
The Butler did it
There are defensive stars on this team, of course. One of them is Malcolm Butler, who had that memorable interception against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. I have watched this play at great length, and it still seems impossible that it happened. Like, if you were playing your buddy on "Madden" and that interception happened, you would throw the controller and swear the game was cheating.
But like most defensive players in recent Patriots history, Butler is someone you shouldn't get too attached to. Butler was the subject of trade rumors this offseason, and at one point, it seemed like he was headed to the Saints. With free agency looming for Butler, he's probably going to be playing for another team next season. (I hear Chicago is nice.) Rooting for Patriots defenders is like rooting for one-and-done college basketball players.
It's also worth noting the Patriots added Stephon Gilmore in the offseason, because that just seems fair. What's weird is Belichick is a defensive G, but it's the Pats' offense that never fails to impress. And that's crazy, because how many times do you see a coach's team dominate on his side of the ball and be terrible on the other? (I'm looking at you, Sean Payton.) Belichick is well-rounded. Mostly because he's the best ever.
Not enough credit
I always hate to say Brady didn't play with any good receivers, because he did have some. The most notable was Troy Brown, who had his finest season in 2001. Later, he would step in to be a slot corner and played pretty well. He retired as the team's all-time leader in receptions and punt return yards. He did everything for the Pats, but still garnered just one Pro Bowl nod. Which is odd.
Tony Eason. That 1985 team was a lot better than people give it credit for being. Those Pats crushed the Dolphins (who some people still believe would have had a chance in the Super Bowl) and earned that AFC title. It's not their fault they played the greatest team in NFL history. But they never had a chance with Eason at quarterback.
Rock that Willie McGinest No. 55 jersey, for sure. He was a key member of the Patriots' first three Super Bowls, and -- I'll just say this -- is an all-around good guy. I'll also never forget his huge playoff game against the Jags in 2006. Dude had 4.5 sacks, which was pretty magical. It's a record that still stands to this day.
Closing fun fact
I feel like I shouldn't have to say this. We as the NFL are not advocating you abandon your team for the Patriots. You can't do that. You may admire them. You may believe Tom Brady is the best football player in NFL history. But you can't just switch teams like that. However, if you're new, or perhaps you're a young person enjoying the NFL in Australia and you've always wanted to support a team, well, the Patriots are a choice. (Yes, Jarrod, I'm talking to you.) There are a lot of reasons to be attracted to the Patriots. Everybody wants to be a part of a winner. Still, it would be akin to getting into the Premier League and choosing Chelsea as the team to get behind. (I might get some blowback on this, because you might believe Man U is a better representation. But I conferred my with footie muse, Laura Woods, and she said Chelsea was the obvious choice, so I'm going with that.)
Gronk spike to send this home!