Hackett: Taking stock of each of the Patriots' 6 Super Bowl championships

Jim Hackett
February 07, 2019 - 10:43 am

I remember all six of the Patriots Super Bowl championships like they happened yesterday. Each one has its own unique and special place in my memory and to really bask in the glory and wonder of everything they have accomplished, I find myself trying to harness all of it. These days I’m more fascinated with the Patriots' legacy in its entirety versus what just happened on Sunday. I’m trying to capture all of it to fully comprehend the totality of what is happening before all of our eyes. 

Let’s start at the beginning ...

Super Bowl XXXVI was on TV on Wednesday and I instantly smiled. Whatever topped my endless task list at that moment soon became deprioritized. As Lloyd Christmas said in Dumb and Dumber: "Tractor beam ... sucked me right in." You never forget your first love and for many of us, the Patriots upset win over the then St. Louis Rams filled a hole that at the time felt like it would only widen, worsen and become bottomless. The sheer joy, astonishment, tension, hope and euphoria of that singular moment and what it meant to Patriots fans, Boston sports fans and a region living in constant yearning, can never be duplicated. Breaking through to win one in Boston at that time meant so much on its own, but adding in the makeup of that special team and realizing from where they came literally had the feel of a Disney movie. It was the ultimate tonic for the otherwise unquenchable yearning soul of Boston. It’s unforgettable on its own merit. What has followed is nothing short of remarkable.

The 2003 Patriots had a far different look than its championship predecessors from the 2001-02 Super Bowl winning season. I remember being at the final game of the season when the Pats beat the Dolphins in overtime. They hadn’t yet lost the tiebreaker to the Jets that would keep them out of the playoffs, just one year removed from their first Super Bowl title. At halftime of that game, I’ll never forget a friend of mine saying "I just hope they make the damn playoffs." Translation: He was worried that the Patriots would be perceived as a one and done franchise and he wasn’t alone. They didn’t make it that year, going 9-7 and losing the tie-breaker, but man did things change in 2003. 

The arrival of Rodney Harrison and nose tackle Ted Washington fortified an already battle-tested defense. Those two acquisitions along with a strong draft was a sure sign the Patriots meant business in 2003. At the same time their young quarterback Tom Brady was about to take a level jump and what transpired over the next two seasons and 38 games was pure dominance. 

Super Bowl XXXVIII proved it was no fluke and started to open eyes about the actual talent this team had on its roster. Ty Law was becoming a Hall of Fame player before our eyes, just ask Peyton Manning. Moreover, Law was just one of four All-Pro players from the Patriots that season. Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison joined Law as first-team All-Pro’s and Tedy Bruschi earned second-team honors. The affirmation this Super Bowl championship provided was palpable and proof that something truly great was in process. That greatness was cemented throughout the year to come.

Super Bowl XXXIX like the two prior was a one score game and came right down to the end, but Andy Reid’s clock mismanagement for the Eagles stole a bit of the drama out of it. Though the actual game lacked that late game tension of the first two, the season and the path to the Super Bowl was dominant. Chests were never broader for Patriots fan during this season. The actual championship served as confirmation that a dynasty was in process in an era crafted specifically to prevent one from happening.

The next championship era: 2014-present day. 

Before securing their elusive fourth Super Bowl Championship the years in between for the Patriots were anything but quiet. These were some of the most newsworthy years of this dynasty, now spanning nearly two decades. There was the missed opportunity of the 2006 AFC Championship in Indy, which at the time was Brady’s finest season. That near miss was followed by the nearly perfect 2007 season that featured record-breaking offense and ended with a devastating first Super Bowl defeat to the New York Giants. Then in 2011, an upstart Patriots team went on a Kill-Bill Version III revenge tour that nearly found its own Hollywood ending versus the New York Giants only to fall a bit short again.

Ugliness of both the overblown and unfair variety darkened these years some with the shroud of "Spygate" hanging over the team. Talking heads across the nation used it as fuel to try and discredit what the Patriots had earned and accomplished. Anyone who cared to seek the truth and the complete story would easily realize that the outrage over "Spygate" proved to be the equivalent of a parking ticket. "Deflategate" was a total witch hunt and a farce like nothing I can remember. However, as painful as this was to tolerate it made the next wave of championships that much sweeter.

Tom and the giant middle finger.

Super Bowl XLIX. This is my personal favorite. The Patriots thrilling 28-24 victory over Seattle had everything. Some may call it redemption, I will not because no souls needed to be redeemed. However, many loudmouths and doubters needed to be schooled and corrected. Lesson learned? The New England Patriots are legitimate, great and it needed to be unquestioned. How do you accomplish that? Just win and what a win it was. Brady as he so often had, led the Patriots back from what others would seem to be unsurmountable odds. For Brady and the seasoned, tough minded Patriots, they simply did what they always do, put themselves in a position to win. 

The ending featured the greatest athletic play my eyes have ever seen, as Malcolm Butler snatched victory out of the arms of sure defeat as time was expiring. I literally had a heart event when it happened. I’m not sure if it was a panic attack, heart attack or an aggressive form of indigestion but something happened. What happened on the field was nothing short of spectacular. It’s the greatest single play in my lifetime. Mike Eruzione’s game-winning goal vs. the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic semi-finals is the only other single play that compares in my opinion.

Super Bowl LI. The Greatest Comeback in sports history. 

I’m not sure that I’ve fully processed this one yet and it was two years ago. This is the Super Bowl I’ve watched the most. It’s got to be 20 times by now and I still cannot believe it happened. The moment that sticks in my mind the most isn’t from the actual game, but the mic’d up replay that airs on Showtime days after. I’ve got this one recorded and have watched it many times. My favorite part? Up 28-3, Showtime captures audio from the Falcons sideline and in a brief moment one Falcon says to the other, "Hey, that’s Tom Brady over there." He knew it wasn’t over and boy was he right. Since then, I always get a good hearty laugh when I see the Atlanta 28-3 tee shirts. Priceless and that’s exactly what this game was. Priceless. The greatest quarterback and coach in the game were finally recognized as GOATS and only a few dumb naysayers remained. You know who they are.

Super Bowl LIII. The legacy is now backfilled, tamped with tar and sealed with concrete. The greatness of Pittsburgh’s six Super Bowls has been supplanted. The football genius of Bill Belichick is now at levels of Greek Mythology and it’s all deserved. Those who wish to poke and prod seeking for reasons why just sound dumber by the day. It used to bother me, but no longer does. Usually when you let a moron talk long enough you begin to realize just how moronic they are. 

Facts are facts and the fact is that the New England Patriots are America’s most impressive dynasty. It’s not the longest list of achievement as noted in my article last week but it’s the most impressive.

So while the haters try to continue to hate, I’m just processing the facts and breaking out into occasional grins and smirks as I’ve been known to do. If you know me, you’ve seen the expression. When I think of the Pats and what they’ve accomplished that grin and smirk appear. So if you see me with that stupid look on my face, now you’ll know why.