BOSTON (CBS) -- What will the New England Patriots look like without Tom Brady? The cancellation of preseason has delayed any attempt to answer that question. But we should have the beginnings of an answer this Sunday, when the Pats open up their season at home against the Miami Dolphins.
Looking back, it's hard to overstate how good this team has been over the last two decades. And a lot of it comes down to coaching and quarterback play.
"The Patriots dynasty is so rare," says NFL On CBS lead NFL analyst Tony Romo. "There's a good chance you'll never see it again, no matter what. I've said it for a long time, I've said it on air, you don't get the best coach ever with possibly the best player ever on the same team. And when they do... What have they played in nine Super Bowls? That's not even a real number. It's unfathomable. Jim Nantz told me, when I first started at CBS -- and he's dead right -- I'm really glad you came in now, because we don't know how long the Patriots dynasty is going to go. Now, he's been through all the Peyton Manning, all the Steelers, all the rivalries that have come and gone. I want you to see it when you're broadcasting, so you have a standard for everybody else going forward."
"He actually was dead right, because having seen that standard, it is different," Romo continued. "They were that good. They were that unique. It's going to be really fun. This football season is going to be really enjoyable. We're doing New England early, and I'm excited, because I know how gifted Bill Belichick is. He's rare times 10,000. And I also know how gifted Tom Brady is. He's rare times 10,000. And these two just went separate. This is going to be fun as just a fan. Are they better together? Yes, because they're both the best at what they do."
Meeting that standard will take a Herculean effort stretching almost two decades. Just as an example, Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid would need to lead their Kansas City Chiefs to eight more Super Bowls over their remaining careers. A bit of luck avoiding injuries and an otherwise subpar division would also help. For as good as the Chiefs are, that seems unlikely.
With the Brady-Belichick pairing split up, many have already started referring to the Patriots dynasty in the past tense. But it's still probably too soon to come to that conclusion. They are coming off a 12-4 season in which the defense largely led the way. One thing Belichick has showed time and again over his Hall of Fame career is a knack for making the adjustments needed to win. Cam Newton's abilities at quarterback open up options in the offense that haven't previously been available.
Another part of Belichick's rare talent is his ability to surprise, even after two decades in the limelight. "I think there's a lot more to Bill Belichick than meets the eye," says Jim Nantz, NFL On CBS Lead Play-by-Play Announcer. "[At] press conferences, on a daily basis, I'm actually quite amused by him. I enjoy watching him for entertainment value."
"Away from football, you get a chance to tell who the real Bill Belichick is," Nantz notes. "And, by the way, he did get nominated for an Emmy Award for what he did with that NFL Top 100 as a studio analyst."
And then there's Belichick's new Subway commercial. His ability to surprise is alive and well. And he comes into the season with enough talent to transfer that ability to the field once again. All the talk about the end of the Patriots dynasty may just be a little premature.
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