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"The Dynasty" episode review: The Tom Brady origin story

Sports Final: Jeff Benedict, author of The Dynasty, talks about his book and new series on Patriots
Sports Final: Jeff Benedict, author of The Dynasty, talks about his book and new series on Patriots 09:34

BOSTON -- When a football dynasty spans nearly 20 years, there's bound to be some audio and video documentation compiled along the way. And for the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady-Robert Kraft Patriots, there's been plenty.

From the old Super Bowl DVDs, to "The Brady 6," to "A Football Life: Bill Belichick," to "Do Your Job" and its two sequels, to the "America's Game" compilations, to "Tom Vs. Time," to "Man In The Arena," to all of the NFL Films mic'd up content, to "The Tuck Rule," to "The Two Bills," to "Belichick and Saban: The Art of Coaching," there's been no shortage of content available for consumption over the years.

So, with Apple TV+ releasing an appropriately named 10-part documentary series called "The Dynasty," there might be some skepticism about the programming providing anything new. Understandably so.

And while there's no doubt quite a bit of rehash in the first two episodes of the series -- which debuted on the streaming platform on Friday morning -- the series that took years to complete no doubt provides a compelling and dramatic look at the early days of the dynasty.

With two episodes debuting every Friday, we'll be running reviews of some of the highlights that really popped each week. That begins with episodes 1 and 2, which became available to stream on Friday.

"The Dynasty" Episode 1: "Backup Plan"

--Patriots fans know the history of the franchise well, but Robert Kraft's acquisition of the team is briefly covered. Comedian Bill Burr properly sums up the state of the Patriots during the pre-Kraft era: "The old Patriots -- like, they shouldn't even be in the league. Like, that's how I felt. I get sick to my stomach when I look back, because of the pain."

--The opening montage is killer. Even though you likely witnessed everything Patriots-related that's happened since 2001 (that is, after all, the target market for this program), you'll still get the juices flowing watching the three-minute opening montage. Shoutout to David Bowie, and to the people who put that together.

--The tale of Tom Brady taking Drew Bledsoe's job is told in detail. Arguably more detail than necessary. But the episode properly details the weight of the decision being made by Belichick, while also spotlighting just how unlikely the rise from Brady was. Damien Woody recalls with astonishment that Brady made a rah-rah speech to all of the Patriots veterans about how he'd be doing his part to lead the team, and Tedy Bruschi remembers kind of laughing at Brady's effort.

--The Bryan Cox hit on Jerome Pathon gets some nice placement. Real die-hards of the early days of the dynasty look at that hit as the moment that the 2001 season really started. 

--Some sweet camcorder footage from former defensive lineman David Nugent captures rookie Tom Brady around his new house. Some of the never-before-seen or very-rarely-seen footage helps the episode along as it retells stories that most New Englanders have heard countless times before, and seeing a 23-year-old Brady chugging food and being generally goofy is part of that. (Nugent tells some good stories about Brady used to slam controllers and intentionally freeze the Nintendo whenever he was losing at Tecmo Bowl. The man has never taken well to losing.)

--A "Sports Final" clip featuring Bob Lobel, Steve Burton, Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy gets a nice extended play. And what kind of company man would I be if I didn't note how great it was? The clip involves Lobel stirring the pot by introducing the potential for a quarterback controversy once Bledsoe recovered from his injuries. Everyone agrees that Bledsoe will get his job back.

--Robert Kraft stated clearly that he didn't agree at the time with Belichick's decision to keep Brady as the starter once Bledsoe was medically cleared to return. "I didn't feel good about it. And I felt that Drew was treated unfairly," Kraft said.

Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady in 2001
Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady in 2001 Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

"The Dynasty" Episode 2: "The Snow Bowl"

--The second episode has just two areas of focus: Tom Brady's origin story, and the Snow Bowl. For longtime Patriots fans, there's not too much new information here. Yet the behind-the-scenes draft day footage from 2000 showed Belichick apologizing over the phone to Brady for making him wait so long.

 --Ernie Adams made his series debut and let his opinion on sports writers be known. "It's just a lot of people who don't have a clue what they're talking about, frankly." Hey! Not nice. Scott Pioli also did his best Ernie Adams impression.

--More camcorder footage, this time of a seemingly inebriated Tom Brady playing pool. It's crazy that such a tape probably sat in a box in a dusty attic for decades before being unearthed here.

--This is just an idle thought, but during some of the highlights from the 2001 season, it just looks like a different sport than the NFL we watch today. Bigger, bulkier, slower, basic. A camera shot outside the Patriots' locker room after the Snow Bowl shows a bank of pay phones available for player use, for perspective. The fact that Brady was playing as recently as two seasons ago remains ludicrous. 

--One major criticism from me comes during a recreated drive to the stadium for Ernie Adams, during which some sports radio clips are played. The sports radio clips sound ... fake. Manufactured for the purpose of this recreated drive to a stadium. One of the "sports radio callers" sounded an awful lot like Tommy Guarino, a popular Boston sports fan on Instagram who appeared in an interview in the first episode. Another "caller" said, "I am very concerned that we're gonna turn into a big, fat pumpkin." And a third "caller" said, "We're gonna lose the final game in Foxboro Stadium. I'm afraid we're all gonna get our butts handed to us." It all sounded fake. Radio footage from January 2002 is presumably difficult if not impossible to track down all these years later. But omitting it rather than recreating it -- if that's indeed what took place -- would have been the better move. Likewise, having Adams recreate his drive to the old stadium on a snowy Saturday night wasn't necessary to telling the story.

--A couple of quotes on the Snow Bowl stand out. Robert Kraft said, "The snow just came continuously, and we tried to clear it by the rules, but as little as we had to. I know I'm not supposed to say that, but that's the truth." And on the tuck rule, Brady said, "It felt like a fumble to me, and it looked like a fumble to basically anyone else. Except that's not the way the rule was written. So, we didn't write the f---in' rule!" That Tom Brady has a real pottymouth in this series.

--Look, as far as Snow Bowl documentaries go ... this one is excellent. Great footage, great encapsulation of most of the events of the night, and great commentary from the players involved. Again, you surely know just about all there is to know about the Snow Bowl if you've followed the Patriots already. But the presentation is very well done.

Tom Brady runs for a touchdown in the Snow Bowl. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

--The episode ends on a cliff-hanger, as Tom Brady is seen getting injured in Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game. We'll see how it works out for the team next week in episode 3. Perhaps that Bledsoe guy will make another appearance.

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