Who has been Brady’s second banana?

by Gary Shelton on January 31, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Mickey Mantle had Roger Maris.

And so it goes. Greatness often travels in twos. If the right hand doesn't get you, the left one will.

Batman had Robin. Lennon had McCartney. Ben had Jerry.

It is often this way. Every great player needs an almost-great player to counterpunch for him. Call it brilliance in the side-car.

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Blanchard had Davis. Bill Russell had Sam Jones. Babe Ruth had Lou Gehrig.

The conventional wisdom is that, from time to time,  one star can be stopped.  Greatness usually is a partnership.

Starsky had Hutch. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. The Green Hornet had Kato.

But who does Tom Brady have?

If you examine the NFL's latest dynasty, that's the missing link. Oh, throughout the run of the Patriots, there have been a lot of great players. Randy Moss. Tedy Bruschi. Wes Welker. Richard Seymour. Rob Gronkowski. Adam Vinatierri. But they have only contributed for short spurts, and then they have been replaced -- capably -- by Belichick.

Yet, the question remains: Who is No. 2 among the Patriots?

Oh, the easy answer is Bill Belichick, and you can argue all day long whether Brady or Belichick is more important to the Pats' success. But if you're judging players, you're going to get an argument.

Maybe the constant movement is why a Patriots' Super Bowl is never a blowout. The five wins have come by a total of 19 points. The two losses have come by seven. There have been comebacks and last-second heroics.

Tom had Jerry. Abbott had Costello. Seigfried had Roy.

In some ways, that's the best thing you can say about this run of the Patriots. They adapt as well as anyone ever has. The old Steelers were great, but they were a force that stayed together over the years. Before free agency, most teams were like that. Some players were at the beginning of their careers when others were at the end, but for the most part, it was one team that rose above the others.

The Patriots are like a long-running play where the cast keeps changing. Think of it this way: This is the eighth Super Bowl of Tom Brady's run. In those years, he's had seven different leading rushers. He's had seven different leading receivers. The team has had seven different leading tacklers.

Look at the team's Pro Bowlers. For a dynasty, there really haven't been that many selections: Four this year. Four last year. Only once in their Super Bowl years has New England had more than five players chosen. They've had 36 total in their eight seasons.

Bert had Ernie. Cheech had Chong. Butch had Sundance.

So, in the Patriots' dynasty, who's second?

The choices:

Randy Moss: In 2007. Moss was nearly unstoppable. He caught 98 passes for 1,452 yards and 23 touchdowns. He had two more 1,000-yard seasons for the Patriots, but he never again made the impact of 2007.

Rob Gronkowski: He's made the Pro Bowl two of the last three years, and when he's healthy, he's been a force. In those three years, he's caught at least 69 passes for at least 1,000 yards.

Tedy Bruschi: Any player who plays through a stroke is impressive. He was the heart of the Patriots' defense while he played, but he made just one Pro Bowl.

Wes Welker: He had four seasons with more than 100 catches for the Patriots. He didn't hang onto one at the end against the Giants, however.

Richard Seymour: He made five Pro Bowls for the Patriots. Bill Belichick has a knack for knowing when to let go of a player, however, and Seymour was one.

Rodney Harrison: He was 31 when he joined the Patriots, but he played six seasons and led the team in tackles twice.

Troy Brown: In the early stages of the dynasty, when Brady was finding his way, Brown was his best skill player. In consecutive years, he caught 83, 101 and 97 passes.




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