Thank You, 12

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

I want to make something very clear before I start: I am not of the “End of the Dynasty” camp. I am not writing this because I think he’ll retire, or because I believe the Brady wanting out of the organization rumors. I will not accept that man’s last day as a Patriot until the words leave his very own lips (or in this day and age, the Notes app announcement is posted to his social media). This isn’t a goodbye. It’s a pause; a reflection.

It’s no secret that Saturday’s loss is frustrating. And is hurts. Until the 4th quarter, a win felt so possible. If you were to ask me the point I began to panic, where the reality of a loss began to set in, it’d be Vrabel’s penalty game. But that’s a topic for another post. As we spend the rest of January watching other teams reach places ours have ruled over for the past eight straight years, we’ve got a lot to mull over. And one of those is the past, present, and future of our QB1.

Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida would make it seem like I’d have taken to the Jaguars and that’d be it. At the age of 10, I was so turned off by my hometown organization that watching football wasn’t even enjoyable anymore. So I took an NFL hiatus. And then a few years later, Super Bowl XLVI came around. Every one of my friends had picked their dog in the fight in the days, weeks preceding the game. But I just couldn’t decide. My decision came on the day of the game, when I noticed the patches the Patriots were wearing. After learning the initials were that of Robert Kraft’s wife, I decided the Patriots would receive my well wishes that day; they seemed like good guys.

Eli Manning came out on top that day, but the Patriots gained a fan for life. All of Boston did. Growing up, I watched prime time New England games with my dad (a Brady fan from the day he was drafted, he likes to think of New England as his second team). I was familiar with the team, but not at all like I became following that game. I went all in. It wasn’t the success, it was the underdog story. I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and it’s made me appreciative of those that value hard work over pageantry. From then on out, I was a Patriots fan.

Soon, I was learning all I could about Boston. And as I branched out into other sports, I never questioned which team would be my team. When my uncle’s baseball career took off, I started following the Red Sox. When my freshman year journalism teacher shared his love of basketball and Shea Serrano with us, I started following the Celtics. When someone finally introduced hockey to this Florida girl, I started cheering for the Bruins. And after a week-long New England road trip with my dad and cousin in 2015, I was completely sold.

My mom and I frequently talk about a mutual feeling we share (hers about Denver, mine about Boston). We’re thankful for where we live. Growing up in Florida is an experience like no other. But it doesn’t feel like home. For me, New England feels like home. There’s nowhere else that gives me the same sense of belonging. And at the end of the day, I’ve got Tom Brady to inadvertently thank for leading me to my greatest love.

Watching Tom Brady’s dominant success for the past two decades has been an absolute treasure for everyone. Love him or hate him, claiming he’s not one of the greatest to ever do it is just plain idiocy at this point. TB12 holds the record for most consecutive AFC championship appearances, most Super Bowl MVP titles, most divisional titles, all-time passing yards and passing touchdowns (regular and post season combined), and postseason passing yards and touchdowns. He’s been selected for 14 Pro Bowls (but who plays this s–t to go to Pro Bowls?). He’s second in regular season passing yards and touchdown passes. He’s the second Quarterback in history to play in the postseason at 42. He was honored this year as a member of the NFL 100 All-Time team. His on-field talent could be raved about for days. His accolades, however, aren’t all he’s got to be proud of though.

Following the loss to the Titans, many teammates weighed in on their time with Brady. NESN’s Zack Cox had quotes from multiple Patriots concerning their feelings on their quarterback. Many had the same things to share: Tom’s work ethic, football IQ, and true-to-self nature put him ahead of the rest just as much as his records and awards do. He’s shaped the culture of the team, and it’s a culture that cultivates winning. The Brady-Belichick dynamic has fostered an environment of focused, driven individuals centered around the same goal: success. And it’s rewarded us tenfold.

A loss in the playoffs doesn’t signal the end of the dynasty. If that was true, the dynasty would’ve ended in 2007, or 2009, or 2011, 2013, 2015, or 2017 for that matter. The end of an era? Yes. We’d all be remiss if we pretended there isn’t an extremely talented class of young quarterbacks dominating right now. But just because we’re ushering in a new era, doesn’t mean the dynasty has to stop here.

Robert Kraft says he “hopes and prays” Tom stays with the Pats in 2020. I think majority of us share that sentiment. Regardless of where TB12 winds up come the fall, I’ll always be thankful for the time we got with him. I’m thankful for every high and every low (though let’s be real, there’s been very few lows). I’m thankful for the tireless dedication he’s shown the organization. I’m thankful for enough excitement to last a lifetime. I’m thankful for a man who is the perfect example of knowing exactly what you’re capable of and stopping at nothing to prove it to everyone else. I’m thankful for a guy who’s sacrificed his health and time with his family year after year for 20 seasons so far. I’m thankful to pick #199 for introducing me to not only a team, but an entire region that has my heart for the rest of my life.

Robert Kraft once recounted his first time meeting Tom Brady. He says Tom looked right at him and said, “I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.” 20 years later, you’ve more than proved them right, 12. Thanks for an incredible 20, here’s to however many more you’re willing to give us.

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