As the Patriots prepare the streets of Boston for a fifth Super Bowl parade, the three step-children of the AFC East continue to wonder – when will it end? Two decades of chasing a divisional silver medal should be nearing its triumphed conclusion. Instead, the 39 year old quarterback and curmudgeon coach that consistently turns undrafted unknowns into post-season heroes are fitting their thumbs for a fifth ring.
While Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets have alternated turns as the challenger to the title holders, it appears as though the Dolphins are the most imminent threat to unseat the throne occupants.
With the best head coach in the division and by far the most stability at the quarterback position, the Dolphins are at least competent at the two most important spots within any given organization.
The homer of the Miami Dolphins will spell out a handful of reasons why the demise is on the horizon.
The cynic would tell you that we’ve been over this exact same scenario a dozen times in the last 12 years. Rather than fulfilling an agenda, I’m going to lay out the argument from each side and let you make up your mind.
Is it waffling without much conviction? Perhaps. But these are all questions I ponder daily as I drive to work, take a shower, or complete any other mind-numbing task.
Homer: Once Brady is gone, it’ll be a different story for Belichick and the Patriots.
Cynic: Jimmy Garoppolo went 2-0 as a starter with four touchdowns, zero turnovers and a 113 passer rating. He was a second round pick and an outstanding prospect that has been groomed under the greatest to ever do it. They won’t skip a beat.
Homer: Tom Brady will be 40 when the Patriots kickoff the 2017 season. Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino all fell from stardom just as quickly as they rose to it – and at a similar age. Although elite today, the cliff is near, and the plummet is too.
Cynic: Age is just a number. As Jon Gruden put it, Tom Brady is pliable. He has another three to five years of elite level play and the Dolphins will simply have to continue to wait.
Homer: The Patriots have nine key free agents, they’ve recently traded Chandler Jones and Jaime Collins, Rob Gronkowski has a chronic back issue and that roster was exposed for lacking talent in certain areas in the Super Bowl.
Cynic: Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler, Kyle Van Noy, Alan Branch, Dion Lewis: the list of contributing players the Patriots find on the scrap heap is endless.
Homer: The Patriots mantra in 2016 was “one more win.” Now that they’ve got the fifth ring and stuck it to Roger Goodell, the competitive juices will wear thin and the Pats will become content. Most teams that play in the Super Bowl suffer a set back the following year.
Cynic: That’s what everyone failed to measure when scouting Brady back in 2000 out of Michigan. His desire to compete is unrelenting and Belichick will never satisfy his tremendous ego. He’s going to coach until he’s 90!
Homer: The Falcons, at least for 30 minutes, laid out a blue print on how to defeat the Patriots. The Dolphins have the length on the perimeter to play man coverage and have the four man pass rush to slow that offense.
Cynic: The Pats will just evolve. Whether it’s a steady dose of LeGarrette Blount, running borderline illegal pick plays or any other variation of innovation, this team overcomes anything and everything.
Homer: Adam Gase is the next Belichick and the light has come on for Ryan Tannehill.
Cynic: We said that about Nick Saban and Tony Sparano and Chad Henne was the next savior after the Drew Brees debacle.
The Patriots have essentially put a block on any success for the other teams in the AFC East for the better part of two decades.
I need to make it abundantly clear that I’m not saying the Dolphins would’ve otherwise filled their trophy case. Miami had plenty of internal issues that resulted in losing seasons.
For the optimist, they honestly never had a chance. In all but a few seasons from the last 16, these were the Dolphins two paths to the Super Bowl:
1.) Win 12, 13, even sometimes 14 games to secure the AFC East title and get a home playoff game in the divisional round.
2.) Go on the road to Foxboro in January as heavy under dogs and unseat Belichick, Brady and company.
It was never going to happen. So will the Patriots reign end? Yes, it has to. When will it happen? With a three receivers and a star running back all 24 years of age and younger, a 28 year old quarterback hitting his prime, a head coach that looks to be the next great one, when is the Dolphins time?
It might be sooner than you think.
Or is it?