It’s Super Bowl Media Week, and everyone is getting a closer look at the athletes and coaches involved in Super Bowl LII. This is far from the Patriots’ first rodeo, it’s actually the eighth time this team has gone to the Super Bowl with Bill Belichick as head coach and with Tom Brady under center. Apart from whispers of Brady looking to cement himself as the greatest team sport athlete of all time with a sixth ring, this group really has nothing left to prove to the world. Or do they?
The two Patriot losses in the Super Bowl over the last 17 years came in Super Bowl XLII in 2007 and Super Bowl XLVI in 2011, both to the New York Giants. With Eli Manning on the last leg of his professional career and the Giants far from the playing field in Minneapolis, there may be a temptation for the Patriots to relax a bit. Heaven knows that behind closed doors they’re studying film and changing the oil in the TIE fighters, but they’re showing a slightly different, more translucent wall this year than in years past.
Just recently, Brady began releasing a six-part docuseries called Tom vs. Time via Facebook. The series gives viewers an in-depth view into Brady’s life; his family, his training, his insane diet, his home, cars, everything. Bill Belichick will be featured in a 30 for 30 documentary highlighting his relationship with former coach Bill Parcells. At Media Week, both have appeared in good moods and even chipper, by Belichick standards, which would make the KGB look like Tigger.
Why now? Why have Brady and Belichick, the first family of the Patriots, so infamously short with media, so guarded, so secretive, chosen this week and this time to open up, even if it’s ever so slightly? Obviously they both had a degree of say in the production of these pieces, but this is an unprecedented step made by two of the most influential men in football, in championship football.
It’s already not going the way they likely intended. Earlier this week, Brady went on WEEI Radio’s Kirk & Callahan in Boston and briefly addressed comments made by another host on the network calling his daughter an “annoying little pissant”. Brady expressed that this comment (understandably) upset him, and that he would be reconsidering going back on the program, despite years of good relations between himself and the station.
Still, the Patriots are doing their job to be pesky and get into the minds of their opponents. It’s already clear that a cut on Brady’s hand isn’t going to stop him from throwing the football. Having the cut or bandages even remotely visible isn’t going to factor into the Eagles’ pass rush strategy; it’s tough to target a specific spot on the hand during a strip sack at 20 MPH. Despite this, Tom continues to wear gloves during all media appearances. The Eagles likely don’t even care, and the Patriots think they’re getting somewhere with it. Or, Tom just likes gloves. That’s always possible.
They’re no stranger to controversy or distractions. It seems every Patriots Super Bowl is surrounded by a particular scandal or something that gets the media buzzing. Deflategate and Spygate are at the very top of that list. The Patriots have shown their ability to push through the noise and play the game, but have their opponents? Perhaps these steps to allow people to glimpse into their lives are just that: a distraction for their opponents. If the Pats can stay focused and get the guys on the other side to spend even five minutes thinking about what Tom Brady’s countertops are made of, they’ve won those five minutes. But was the backlash and the additional distraction for the Patriots part of the plan?
Remember the Madden Curse. For those who are unfamiliar, there is a very real pattern that follows any NFL player featured on the cover of the Madden video game franchise. Some notable victims are Peyton Hillis, Richard Sherman, Odell Beckham Jr., and Rob Gronkowski. Who was the featured athlete this last year? Tom Brady. The Madden Curse essentially ended Hillis’ career, began the downfall of the Legion of Boom, made Beckham super dramatic and annoying, and began possibly the decline of Gronk’s health. Brady has one game left to disprove the Madden Curse.
In the end, football is football, but sports are so incredibly mental. If these steps were intentional by the Patriots to distract their opponents, it’s an interesting move. If the distraction backfires in the New England locker room, then the Madden Curse could be that much closer to striking Brady down, and this Super Bowl just got a whole lot more interesting.