2016 New England Patriots: Not An All-Time Team, But An All-Time Win
By Ryan Whitfield
It is the only word to describe the 2016-2017 New England Patriots. No single team in my lifetime overcame more than this year’s Patriots team. Toughness – “The state of being strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough handling”. Withstanding suspensions, injuries (though a relatively healthy season) and the largest deficit to be overcome in Super Bowl history.
This article was not meant to opine on the 2016 Patriots, in fact I spent so many days recovering I feared I had missed the boat on writing about this team, though you can hear our always punctual podcast recap HERE. I planned to start this article addressing the scary impending 2017 offseason. But as I dug into the topic, I decided it was impossible to tackle without looking at the 2016 team and this dynasty as a whole.
The 2003, 2004, 2014 and even 2001 Patriots were better teams. Yes, the 2001 Patriots were 14 point underdogs against the high-flying Rams in the Super Bowl. But thanks to the disaster that was the end of the Pete Carrol era in the late nineties in Foxboro people forget how talented that team was. That Patriots defense included Willie McGinest, Lawyer Milloy, Tedy Bruschi, Bryan Cox and, my childhood hero, Ty Law. The offense was complimentary and had weapons that were beginning to emerge. In the much maligned 2000 5-11 season, all but two losses finished one possession games. This 2016 team, however, overcame playing games with a 3rd string quarterback, an injury to their best offensive weapon, the midseason trade of probably the most athletic player on defense and a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl.
The immaculate comeback was jaw dropping, once in a lifetime and was the sweetest one (especially given how undermanned this team was). This game basically boiled down to Tom Brady and Dont’a Hightower for me. And now Hightower leads a terrifying and long list of free agents for the upcoming offseason for the Patriots. All indications point to him seeking at least $12 million per year with at least half guaranteed. And after this postseason run, at least in my eyes, you have to give it to him. The Patriots are notoriously stingy in negotiations but for certain players they open up the checkbook. Hightower is a leader and a playmaker.
Bottom line, after what I saw 8 days ago, as long as you have Brady, Belichick, Edelman, Butler and Hightower, you can fill in the rest. If I’m Bill I pay the latter two and let the likes of Martellus Bennett, Jabaal Sheard, Logan Ryan and Chris Long walk.