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Review: “The Dynasty” Episode 5 – Torn



New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel throws a pass during the first quarter of an NFL football game New York Jets Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The New England Patriots’ incredible run under the trio of Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady is being captured in a docuseries called “The Dynasty” on Apple TV. Patriots Football Now will be reviewing each episode. There will be ‘spoilers’ about the content of the episodes in these reviews, but presumably, anyone reading already knows the outcomes of the actual events.

The fifth episode of “The Dynasty” begins where Episode 4 of the docuseries left off, with the 18-0 New England Patriots losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42.

Turning the Page to 2008

The incomplete pass from Tom Brady to Randy Moss on the Patriots’ final offensive play in Super Bowl 42 is shown in slow motion. The Giants are announced as Super Bowl champs.

Tom Brady is then shown speaking of that loss in the current time. He says if he could only change the outcome of one game that would be it.

“I think what you realize about football, and about life, is you never hate it quite mastered,” Brady reflects. “It was a tough lesson for me to learn.”

In a team meeting before the following season in 2008. Belichick speaks to the team, letting them know he always says to look ahead. However, he does not want them to forget going 16-0 because it was a special season. This seems odd considering “The Dynasty” covered that entire season in an episode called “Spygate” that made it appear anything but special, especially from Belichick’s perspective.

Brady also stands to speak about 2007 at the meeting, which the Krafs are present for as well. He gets emotional talking about how much it means to him. Then Belichick asks if anyone else wants to speak now, because “we’re moving on.”

New England is prepared to be a redeem team, finishing what they were unable to in 2007. But in the first game of the 2008 season, Tom Brady went down injured.

Tom Brady Out, Matt Cassel In

After Tom Brady is hit low by Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard (his name not mentioned in the episode) it is determined he tore his ACL. Despite Brady’s best efforts, he will be done for the season.

Matt Cassel is the new starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. He had never started a game in college, making him even more of a Cinderella story than Brady himself.

The fact that Tom Brady is “forgotten” by Bill Belichick is focused on here. Brady is unable to play, making him out of sight, out of mind. Brady acknowledges it becomes clear that “the show goes on” just as Drew Bledsoe had learned seven years earlier. But it seems the head coach focusing on his available players is frowned upon here.

Robert Kraft refers to it as, “The modus operandi of our head coach.”

Brady’s father, Tom Brady Sr., refers to Belichick as cold and calculating.

For his part, Bill Belichick states simply, “Tom’s the greatest player of all time” but he still had a team he needed to get ready to play. He was shown in footage telling the team how Kurt Warner came off the bench to lead the 1999 Rams to the Super Bowl, just as Brady did for the 2001 Patriots. Now the 2008 New England team was looking to Matt Cassel to do the same.

Belichick vs. Brady

The 2008 season is where the real discussion of “Belichick vs. Brady” is shown in terms of which one deserves more credit for the team’s success.

Belichick is shown in 2008 driving in his car, apparently listening to the chatter on sports radio. A montage is shown of talking heads on national sports talk shows making their cases about Brady or Belichick. New England playing well with Matt Cassel is evidence that Tom Brady is overrated, or Cassel is no Brady, etc.

One clip that stands out here is ESPN’s Tom Jackson speaking on the subject. It isn’t even a matter of what Jackson says, but rather which clip and year a Jackson clip is shown from.

Jackson famously said in 2003 that the New England players “hate their coach.” That was not part of the two minutes shown from that Super Bowl-winning season. But a clip of Tom Jackson from 2008 makes its way in? Felt odd (to say the least).

And even though the actual New England Patriots dynasty is about winning nine AFC Championships and six Super Bowls, this seems to be what the focus of the docuseries has been boiling down to, Belichick vs. Brady.

Drew Bledsoe chimes in as a reminder that Tom Brady isn’t the first Patriots quarterback to be forgotten when unavailable.

Matt Cassel credits Belichick for making the QB switch work and molding their game plan to Cassel’s strength and comfort level. “He changed our offensive gameplan perfectly.”

The Art of War

“Most coaches in the NFL are coaching football and he’s coaching warfare.”

That is a quote from former Patriots wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth on Bill Belichick.

The episode goes back to Bill Belichick and his mother talking about him studying football film with his father, Navy Assistant Coach Steve Belichick. It is complete with a photo of a young Bill Belichick and footage of old Navy games. This section is a highlight of the episode and gives a glimpse into the mind of Belichick.

“It was totally a type of military environment on the football team,” Belichick recollects. “So, I just kind of thought that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

It then shows Belichick coaching in that 2008 season (presumably) pointing out a sign that is on the hallway of the Patriots facilities. It is a quote from “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu.

The sign reads: “Every battle is won before it is fought.”

Mental Toughness

“It’s a hard life to live,” says longtime team captain Tedy Bruschi about playing for the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick with a chuckle. But Bruschi says it is what he wanted, making a metaphor of the player being a wet towel and Belichick attempting to wring every drop of greatness out of them.

Bruschi states it is important for players to realize why Belichick is doing what he does. It’s to make them prepared so they can achieve their greatness.

Cassel recollects sitting in a film room, knowing Belichick was going to focus on everything that went wrong. The quarterback supplies one of the best anecdotes of the episodes, recalling how Belichick didn’t want to have to write his mother a letter explaining that her son had died because he couldn’t pick up a corner blitz.

Despite the 2008 Brady-less Patriots falling short of the playoffs with an 11-5 record, Belichick is shown praising the team.

“Couldn’t be prouder of them,” Belichick says. “They worked hard, put up with me all year.”

Alex Guerrero Makes an Appearance

Tom Brady’s personal trainer Alex Guerrero is shown in this episode. He talks about “we” and “us” when discussing Tom Brady. As in, people were “doubting us” but “we didn’t mind.” Did anyone know who Alex Guerrero was at that point?

While the previous segment discussed Belichick’s attempts to have a more mentally tough team, Brady here discusses trying to make his body more able to sustain the harsh realities of NFL life as a starting quarterback. He says it is so he could play as long as he wanted to.

Brady’s 2009 Return

Despite Brady’s strong comeback in 2009, the Patriots ultimately fell to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. Belichick is heard saying, “We have no mental toughness.”

Sportstalk host Colin Cowherd states that the team can’t overcome Belichick getting rid of players such as Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, and Tedy Bruschi.

Of course, Belichick had no control over Harrison and Bruschi opting for retirement. Vrabel was traded with Cassel for a second-round pick that would turn into Patrick Chung. Vrabel would play two more seasons. Chung would win three Super Bowls in New England. None of that is apparent by how this is presented.

Michael Holley is shown, seemingly blaming Belichick for not adapting to a new generation of Patriots players.

Tom Brady acknowledges, “part of it is mental toughness” as to why the Patriots lost in his postgame press conference after the playoff exit.

Preface for Episode 6

The New England Patriots “war room” for the 2010 NFL Draft is shown. In the fourth round, they call in the selection of Aaron Hernandez. It appears this will be the feature of Episode 6.

Episode 5 Review: 6/10

The Dynasty devoted all of five minutes to the 2003 and 2004 seasons, which both ended with Super Bowl victories. It now devotes an entire episode to the 2008 and 2009 seasons, which end with one playoff appearance and no playoff wins. The way this docuseries is playing out, there seems to be significantly more failure, heartache, and scandal than success.

This episode serves as a segue of sorts from the first decade of success and the decade yet to follow. But almost none of the focus seems to be on the New England Patriots success, which is disappointing.

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