Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Feb. 1-7)

The Dark Side Reigns Supreme: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady Football’s Villains

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At halftime of Super Bowl LI the New England Patriots trailed the Atlanta Falcons 21-3. By the third quarter, they would trail by as many as 25 points. It seemed as though the Patriots were going to fall short, and some fans had even given up on them. Even celebrities such as Mark Wahlberg, a Boston native and devout Patriots fan left the game with his family during the third quarter. At 28-9, U.S. President Donald Trump left his viewing party, giving up on the team he had picked to win. What came in the fourth quarter was the crowning achievement of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s careers. The pair led the Patriots to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history and proved why they are the greatest player-coach combination in sports.

Rewind to April 16th, 2000 when the Patriot franchise changed forever. In the sixth round, with the 199th pick, the team selected Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. Playing a hunch, Head Coach Bill Belichick took a chance on the lightly regarded prospect. There were six quarterbacks taken ahead of Brady; none of them would lead their teams to a Super Bowl victory. On September 23rd, 2001, Patriots’ starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe suffered internal bleeding off a hit from New York Jets line-backer Mo Lewis. In need of a quarterback, Belichick turned to Brady. The Patriots lost that game, and Brady did would continue to struggle over the next few games. This would soon change.

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In Brady’s third career start, the Patriots trailed the San Diego Chargers 26-16 in the fourth quarter. Brady, though, would lead the Patriots to two scoring drives to tie the game and force overtime, where he led a drive to setup the game-winning field goal. From there on out Brady was the star of the team, leading them to a Super Bowl victory later that year. He has now led the Patriots to five Super Bowl victories and seven appearances. Brady’s seven appearances are the most ever by a player and, his five wins are the most ever by a quarterback. His coach Bill Belichick has the most ever appearances and wins by a head coach. Through their sixteen seasons together, the two have created memories, magic, and marvelous careers.

The dominance of these two men is unprecedented in this era of sports. Behind only Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels, Belichick is the third longest tenured current head coach in North America’s Big 4. He has led the Patriots to the playoffs fourteen times, and had only one losing season, his first with New England. In his one season without Brady, Belichick still coached the Pats to an 11-5 record with perennial backup Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback. Cassel had not started a football game since high school, having been a backup his entire college career. Belichick, a mastermind of football, knows how to get the best out of every single one of his players each and every game.

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Brady and Belichick’s record together suggest that they are the greatest player-coach combination of all-time. In an era of parity and inconsistency atop North American sport, these two have consistently made the Patriots Super Bowl favourites every year. Over their dynasty’s sixteen-year span the Patriots have worked with unknowns, like Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. Belichick would develop them into primetime targets for Tom Brady and leading receivers in the league. Moreover, they famously reinvigorated the career of Randy Moss, who, paired with Brady, put together a career year in 2007.

Arguments may arise that Brady and Belichick are not the greatest player-coach duo. Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, for instance, saw unprecedented success in the NBA. I believe Tom Brady is consistently the deal breaker in this argument. Brady has been the unquestioned leader of the Patriots ever since he earned the starting job. Since 2000, Tom Brady has the third most touchdowns and passing yards, the fourth best quarterback rating, and, most importantly, the most wins. Brady also manages to win through punishment: since 2000, Brady has been sacked the second most in the NFL at 417 times. Yet through all this punishment Brady has consistently produced and managed to win football games.

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New England’s performance in Super Bowl LI exemplified the duo’s dominance. Facing a loss, and with most supporters having gave up on the Patriots, Brady and Belichick turned the game around. After an underwhelming first half and early third quarter, Brady began to open up the Falcons’ secondary. In the late-third and fourth quarter, James White, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola looked unstoppable catching passes from Brady. Then, when it mattered most, Brady found Julian Edelman for a fabulous reception under triple coverage. The Patriots would score on a James White rushing touchdown, then convert a two-point conversion to tie and send the game to overtime. After winning the coin toss, Brady marched the Patriots down the field. Running eight plays in under four minutes, Brady would use four different receivers, and finally gave the ball to James White for a touchdown.

Tom Brady was awarded Super Bowl MVP, having thrown for 466 yards with two touchdowns and completing 43 passes on 62 attempts. Most importantly, he won his fifth Super Bowl. Atop the podium, Belichick and Brady stood by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, ready to take the Vince Lombardi Trophy from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell had suspended Brady for the first four games of the NFL season, and had accused the Patriots of cheating in 2015; yet, Brady and the Patriots stood on top. Once again, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady defied the odds and cemented their legacy as the greatest player-coach duo of all-time.

 

NHL News

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The Penalty Box

  • After ten years at the helm of the Boston Bruins Claude Julien was fired this past Tuesday. This coming as the Bruins have dipped in the Eastern conference standings, and now find themselves struggling to make the playoffs. Dating back to the 2007-08 season the Bruins have recorded the sixth most wins in the NHL and have only recently experienced struggles. Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney put together a mediocre roster at best this season, and despite Julien’s best efforts he could not keep the team in the thick of the Atlantic division race. Julien’s firing is little of his fault, as this is more of personnel problem, than a coaching problem. The Bruins will be hard pressed to find a better coach than Julien.
  • The Montreal Canadiens have lost their last four games, including an embarrassing 4-0 loss at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, who are the worst team in the league. Montreal has only managed to score a meagre three goals over this four game stretch. Consequently, the Habs have left the door open for the Ottawa Senators or the Toronto Maple Leafs to gain ground and possibly challenge for the Atlantic division crown. If the Canadiens indeed managed to lose the division title, and got bumped in the first round you would have to think blood would be shed in Montreal’s front office. They need to turn it around quickly.

Stars of the Week

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  • After struggling mightily early in the season, the New York Islanders have turned it around since former head coach Jack Capuano was fired. Doug Weight has done an excellent job since taking over Capuano’s role, and the Islanders now sit only three points back of the Philadelphia Flyers for the final playoff wild card spot. The Islanders also have three games in hand on the Flyers, which bodes well for a team that is red-hot. Islanders’ captain John Tavares has took it upon himself to lead the Islanders since Capuano’s firing. Accompanied by veterans Anders Lee and Nick Leddy the Islanders are 6-1-2 since Capuano was fired, and now have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
  • The Minnesota Wild have won seven of their last nine games and have run out to a six point lead in the Central division. During this nine game stretch the Wild have been led offensively by Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, and Nino Niederreiter, all of whom have produced over a point per game. Wednesday, they play a pivotal matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks, who are second in the Central division. It is one of the biggest games of the NHL season thus far, and could be a preview of a potential second round playoff matchup.

 

NBA News

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The Weekly Rap

  • DeMar DeRozan is finally back and the now the Toronto Raptors can get back to winning. The Raptors certainly had their downs without DeRozan in the lineup, as Kyle Lowry could not carry the load himself showing signs of fatigue without his all-star shooting guard. With DeRozan back, the Raptors were able to get a big win on Monday night over the Los Angeles Clippers. Now they will need to have a good stretch of play to close the gap on the Boston Celtics in the Atlantic division, as they trail by two games.
  • Jonas Valanciunas is a curious case. One night he holds superstar Anthony Davis to 4-18 shooting, the next night he gets in foul trouble and plays eleven minutes in a crucial game against the Celtics. Needless to say the big man needs to be more consistent for his team, if the Raptors want to challenge the Celtics, and maybe even the Cleveland Cavaliers they need JV to scrap for every rebound and make every touch count.

Top 5 NBA Power Rankings

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  1. Warriors (43-8)
  • The Golden State Warriors have been rolling, but were knocked off on Saturday against DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings. Regardless the Warriors have won eight of their last ten and continue to produce the best offensive attack in the NBA. Their next three opponents should be interesting as they will take on the Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Bulls have made a habit of beating big opponents this season, while the Grizzlies have beat the Warriors twice this year and finally on Saturday Kevin Durant makes his anticipated return to Oklahoma City. If the Warriors are not careful this week could turn sour quick, they will need to be at their best.
  1. Spurs (39-12)
  • San Antonio continues to play good basketball without Pau Gasol, however they were not very good without superstar Kawhi Leonard on Monday as they lost by 15 to the Memphis Grizzlies. Leonard was given the night off to rest his quad, which was a smart move by Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich who is never shy about resting his players. Leonard has already been cleared for Wednesday’s matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, as the Spurs continue on their six game road trip before the All-Star break.
  1. Celtics (33-18)
  • Isaiah Thomas cannot be stopped in the fourth quarter. The Celtics’ star is averaging over ten points in the fourth quarter this season, and is dropping nearly 30 points almost every night. This has translated to a whole lot of Celtics victories, as Boston is on a seven game win streak and have passed the Raptors for first place in the Atlantic division. At this pace, the Celtics may be able to challenge the Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern conference as they trail by only two and a half games.
  1. Cavaliers (35-15)
  • Perhaps it was trade rumours that sparked Kevin Love this past week as the struggling power forward emerged once again as a hot scorer. Love has recorded consecutive double-doubles, which included a 39 point outburst on Monday night. On Monday evening LeBron James and Kyrie Irving shined as well, with both hitting clutch shots to ensure a Cavaliers victory over the talented Washington Wizards. It appears as though the Cavaliers are back on track, but only time will tell if they can stay course.
  1. Wizards (30-21)
  • Washington may have lost on Monday to the Cavaliers, but give credit where it is due. This team had won seven in a row coming into Monday and hung tight with the NBA Champs until overtime where the Cavaliers won the game. With John Wall and Bradley Beal dominating opponents’ backcourts every night, the Wizards always have a chance to win. Credit should also be given to Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat who have stepped up to put together a fearsome starting five for the Wizards this season. If the Wizards continue to play at such a high level, this could be their breakthrough year.

 

What to watch this week?

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  • Wednesday: Cavaliers vs Pacers 7:30pm ET, Blackhawks vs Wild 8:00pm ET, Bulls vs Warriors 10:30pm ET
  • Thursday: Blues vs Maple Leafs 7:30pm ET, Cavaliers vs Thunder 8:00pm ET, Celtics vs Trail Blazers 10:30pm ET
  • Friday: Pacers vs Wizards 8:00pm ET, Warriors vs Grizzlies 8:00pm ET
  • Saturday: Ducks vs Capitals 7:30pm ET, Warriors vs Thunder 8:30pm ET, Celtics vs Jazz 10:00pm ET, Blackhawks vs Oilers 10:00pm ET
  • Sunday: Pistons vs Raptors 6:00pm ET, Canadiens vs Bruins 7:30pm ET
  • Monday: Spurs vs Pacers 7:00pm ET, Rangers vs Blue Jackets 7:30pm ET, Thunder vs Wizards 8:00pm ET
  • Tuesday: Raptors vs Bulls 8:00pm ET, Ducks vs Wild 8:00pm ET

 

Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe and Brayden Cavanagh for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.

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