Huddle Up: If it's the end of an era, all is not lost


Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles and to their fans for getting their revenge for Super Bowl XXXIX and their first Lombardi Trophy. The better team won. It probably shouldn’t have been a one-score game at the end.

For all of the coincidences that would have made a Patriots’ win Sunday night  the perfect bookend to the first triple crown, the Eagles were the team of destiny and gave Tom Brady the knockout blow only the New York Giants could deliver historically.

If that double-decker sandwich of sorrow that separates the beginning and end points taught us one thing, it is always too soon to count out Tom Brady. But this time after a nerve-wracking Super Bowl with the Eagles, the franchise and its fans are braced for an encounter far more uncertainty about the team’s future this time.

The coach and quarterback’s future plans and, in the latter’s case, inevitable erosion of skills, will determine what is in store more than anything else. Those weren’t even a consideration a dozen years ago.

With that in mind, this season had the feel of the Celtics’ last Finals of the 1980s, a painfully thin team with its core on the verge of breaking down. And like the 1987 Celtics showed cracks all season, this Patriots team was obviously flawed, and faced with a tenuous future.

I’m envisioning Jordan Richards and Fred Roberts specifically when I think of cracks, incidentally.


If that’s that, it’s been a crazy 17 years with endless minds and emotions twisted into pretzels, which is peak intoxication for a Patriots fan.  

Many take for granted that the Patriots will become just another team once one or both ride off into the sunset. Odds are they are correct. Most of the franchises that dominated a decade  — the 1950s Cleveland Browns, 1960s Green Bay Packers, 1980s San Francisco 49ers, 1990s Chicago Bulls — have floundered for decades after their run. The Packers are the only one to add another championship, and it took them 30 years.

But there is hope that the franchise can maintain a level beyond modest success and remain a league power, though probably not a dynasty.Stable ownership, presumed stability in coaching or at least  leadership, for the foreseeable future, and enough young talent to get at least a head start on the franchise’s next chapter.

Much as it pains me, a life-long Pittsburgh Steelers hater, to admit this, the best case scenario for the Patriots’ post-Brady and as Belichick’s influence fades is the Steelers post-Steel Curtain era.

The Steelers never made a Super Bowl in the 1980s (yes, I know the fourth title the Steel Curtain won was played in January of 1980, semantics guy), and there were some pretty thin years at the end of the Chuck Noll era. But once Noll retired in 1992, they became relevant again, reaching three of the next six conference championships and one Super Bowl in the 1990s.

They’ve been the Patriots’ chief rivals in the last two decades, let’s be honest. They’ve won two Super Bowls, lost one, lost three conference championships to the Pats. 

I will take that, and any self-respecting Patriots fan should.

Or the Patriots could be right back in the Super Bowl next year and I’ll regret not just writing about Brady or something.