So who is the greatest football team of all time? Is it the Dallas Cowboys? They dominated in the 70s and first half of the 90s. They are tied for the most Super Bowl titles for one team. They were America's Team. Or is it the Pittsburgh Steelers, who, like Dallas, dominated the 70s and most of the 90s. They won four titles in the 70s, and were the winningest team in the NFL since they hired Bill Cowher, crowning that era of dominance with a fifth championship in 2006. Others may also argue for the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Now those were all some great teams from the past. But lets move forward about ten years. Brady Quinn will be the best quarterback in the league, likely having already won a championship or two. Some kid that you have probably never heard of, Ryan Torain, Arizona State's starting tailback, will be a stud running back in the league (not to mention a name you should remember for the 2008 draft). And the greatest team of all time will be the New England Patriots of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
I'm sure many of you are either skeptical or mocking me for jumping on the bandwagon. But that is because you just don't want to believe it. For as great as Peyton Manning is, he wouldn't have made it to the Super Bowl if not for the maddeningly low talent level in the Pats receiving corps. I know I'm only 21 and that I probably will see worse, but I have never seen a receiver blow a game as bad as Reche Caldwell did the AFC Championship for the Pats. Everytime he dropped an easily catchable ball, I could hear the collective groan of Boston all the way in Kansas City. It would have been worse if Caldwell's college teammate, Jabar Gaffney, hadn't made up for one Caldwell's endzone drops with an incredible catch at the back of the endzone on the next play. Yes, Brady threw the interception that sealed the game for the Colts. He was trying to make the big play in the clutch and forced the ball. Anybody who caught the end of that game would say that Brady choked. But Brady was doing what any great quarterback would do in that situation. A quarterback's job is to get the ball in his playmaker's hands. But all game, Brady's playmakers had been dropping the ball and just not making plays. Brady lost trust in them. So Brady did what those other greats would have done and tried to make the plays himself, to will his team to victory. And he made a mistake. He's made mistakes in the past, just not in the clutch like that. But he's also had his playmakers making those catches in the past. Brady went the way of the old Manning. As recently as the previous season, Manning would also try and put the team on his shoulders and make the plays to win the ball game. Manning didn't have any trust in his playmakers, and this was a guy who had former first round picks at both his receiver spots, at running back, and at tight end. He had talented guys around him. But he would still put it on himself. And Manning would make mistakes. Manning eventually realized that if he wanted to win a championship, he would have to let that talent shine and put the ball in their hands so they could make plays. And he won a Super Bowl. But again, he wouldn't have gotten there if not for Brady's playmakers losing his trust by not making plays.
The kicker in all that is that Brady wanted the guys he trusted, such as Deion Branch and David Givens, and made it possible for the team to sign them by signing a contract worth much less then what many teams would have offered him. He is making considerably less then Manning, the one other quarterback considered the league's best along with Brady. But Belichick thought he could still win without those guys. So one can imagine that Brady being forced to put it all on himself, and subsequently losing, was quite the reality check for Belichick. And that seems to be the truth, considering what Belichick has done this offseason. It seemed like he had set up Brady very nicely with the additions of pesky chain-mover Wes Welker, big and athletic Kelley Washington, and deep ball threat Donte Stallworth. But then Belichick went out and traded for Randy Moss, even at 30 probably still the most talented, albiet epically underachieving, receiver in the league. He even added new blood to his aging defense, throwing in linebacker Adailus Thomas in free agency and safety Brandon Meriweather in the first round of the draft. Belichick wants to win. He wants his quarterback to be able to trust his teammates enough to put the ball in their hands in clutch time. Brady is the type that if he knows his receivers will catch the ball, he will take care of the rest. He will find the right receiver, and put the ball right where that receiver wants it. He will put his team in a postition to win. And Belichick has put his team in the position to win big.
All this could blow up in his face. Injuries could decimate the team. Of course they've dealt with that in the past and still won it all. Moss could continue to not care and underachieve. But that isn't likely with him playing for the greatest quarterback in the league. The one constant for this team is that they know they can count on Brady to get them there. Last year was an abberation that you know Brady doesn't intend to duplicate. Brady is a quarterback who is at his best when he is making plays by choosing the perfect spots to put the ball in his playmaker's hands. But it's a little bit different now. By upgrading Brady's group of playmakers, Belichick is putting the ball in HIS playmaker's hands. That is the kind of trust he has in Brady. Now it is up to Brady to trust his playmakers like his coach has, like he always had before that fateful playoff run. It is up to him to beat Manning. It is up to him to win. It is up to him to become the greatest quarterback of all time leading the greatest team of all time.