Since the turn of the century, the New England Patriots have just completed arguably the most dominant twenty-year stretch in professional sports, where a bet on the New England Patriots seemed almost like a sure thing. However, some will remember that it wasn’t always parades and trophies for Massachusetts’s football franchise.
Much like division rivals Buffalo and New York, New England began its football history as the Boston Patriots, in the AFL’s fourth incarnation in 1960. Boston’s lone chance at a championship came in 1963, when it gave up over 300 yards rushing to San Diego and lost the title game, 51-10. The team would dreg around the lower half of the league until the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970. The year after, the team moved to a new stadium in Foxborough, and announced it would change its name to reflect all of New England.
Initially, the Patriots logo consisted of its mascot, Pat Patriot, ready to snap the football. The red, white, and blue colors were an obvious nod to the history of Boston in the American Revolution. The Patriots would use the white helmet with the red stripe and the aforementioned Pat Patriot until a rebrand in 1993, where it eschewed its old mascot for a streamlined, sleeker image of a revolutionary in a tricorn hat on an all-silver helmet.
The merge into the NFL would not bring success for New England, and the New England Patriots odds of winning a title were long at best. In 1971, the team drafted Heisman-trophy winning QB Jim Plunkett of Stanford, in an effort to lead the team out of the doldrums. However, Plunkett was average behind a shaky offensive line, and the team traded him to San Francisco in 1976. Ironically, and perhaps indicative of the New England Patriots odds in the early ‘70’s and ‘80’s, Plunkett would go on to win two Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders.
The Patriots turned to Steve Grogan, a 5th round pick who led the team to its first postseason appearance in twelve seasons in 1976. Then, in 1978, Grogan beat the New England Patriots odds and helped the team win its first AFC East title, even though the team officially had three (!) head coaches that the season. Unfortunately, the Patriots would end up getting blown out by Earl Campbell’s Houston Oilers, even though the New England Patriots odds were -6.0.
Incredibly, Grogan would remain on the team until 1990, functioning both as a starter and the backup. In 1985, Grogan and QB Steve Eason help beat the New England Patriots odds and reach the Super Bowl, even though they’d come in 3rd in their own division. Unfortunately, a bet on the New England Patriots in that game would’ve been a bad idea – they were blown out by the Chicago Bears, 46-10 in the most lopsided Super Bowl up until that point. The following season, Eason led the team to another division crown, but the Patriots lost to eventual AFC champion Denver in the divisional round.
The last ‘80’s and early ‘90’s were a wash for the Patriot franchise, but their luck changed when they hired Bill Parcells as head coach and drafted Washington St. QB Drew Bledsoe #1 overall in 1993. The Patriots lost a wildcard game in 1994 – ironically, to Bill Belichick’s Cleveland Browns – then made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 1996, where a Desmond Howard kickoff return in the 4th quarter would seal a Packers victory.
Bledsoe would remain the Patriots’ QB for eight seasons, making three more playoff appearances. Then, in the second game in the 2001 season, a seemingly routine play would change the course of Patriots and NFL history. Weeks after Bledsoe signed a $100-million contract extension, he was knocked out of a Week 2 contest with the New York Jets, a hit that caused internal bleeding and almost killed him. Unknown backup Tom Brady came in and remained the starter even after Bledsoe was healthy enough to play, a decision coach Bill Belichick termed, “the best decision for the team.” Belichick clearly knew something that fans and pundits alike didn’t – Brady would lead the Patriots to a division title, an AFC title, and a world championship in his first season.
The time to bet on the New England Patriots had arrived.
Brady would win the Super Bowl again in 2003 and 2004. A bet on the New England Patriots to win both games would’ve paid, as the team posted consecutive three-point victories over the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. In both games, however, a bet on the New England Patriots to cover would not have – the team was a 7-point favorite in both contests.
Brady wouldn’t make it back to the Super Bowl until 2007, when he led an offensive juggernaut to the second-ever perfect season – a clean 16-0. However, he ran into eventual nemesis Eli Manning and the New York Giants. The Giants’ pass rush frustrated Brady, and the team won 17-14 on a late touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, made possible by the famous “Helmet Catch” by David Tyree. A year later, Brady was injured in Week 1 of the NFL season, and the Patriots didn’t make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
A futures bet on the New England Patriots would remain popular and advised, although the Patriots wouldn’t win the AFC again until 2011, when they were beaten by Manning and the Giants again. They would lose consecutive AFC championship games to the Ravens and Broncos in 2012 & 2013, then return to the big game in 2014, when a Malcolm Butler interception on the goal line would seal a fourth title for Brady & co.
Brady kept father time at bay and kept beating the New England Patriots odds by appearing in yet another Super Bowl two years later. This time, the team came back from a 28-3 deficit to stun the Atlanta Falcons in OT and win yet another Vince Lombardi trophy. In 2017, Brady led the league in passing yards again for the first time in ten years, and the New England Patriots odds to repeat were good. But the team dropped a high-scoring affair to the Philadelphia Eagles and backup QB Nick Foles.
In 2018, the Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl championship, suffocating the high-flying Los Angeles Rams 13-3 and tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most titles ever. 2019 would be Brady’s last season with the team, and a wildcard loss to the upstart Tennessee Titans would be Brady’s last in a Patriots uniform. All told, Belichick and Brady won six Super Bowls, nine AFC championships and seventeen division titles in nineteen seasons.