the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Ryan Jainchill ’23
Week four of the 2021 NFL Season featured many key divisional games and high-scoring contests. However, the return of former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to Gillette Stadium — now as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — overshadowed all. The game was one of the most anticipated regular-season games in recent memory. Brady, who won six Super Bowls with the Patriots and one with Tampa Bay last season, was facing off against his former head coach, legendary Bill Belichick. Before the game, much narrative focused on ‘Brady vs. Belichick’ and how their deteriorating relationship supposedly led Brady out of New England and towards Bruce Arians’ Buccaneers. This game was the first time Brady and Belichick had faced off on separate sides. Brady left a legacy of championships and glory in New England and went to Tampa and won the franchise’s first Super Bowl since 2004, while the Patriots headed in the opposite direction.
A year removed from losing arguably the best quarterback of all time, the Patriots finished with a disappointing 7-9 record, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Cam Newton quarterbacked the offense, leaving much to be desired after a COVID-19 diagnosis derailed a promising season after three games. In the offseason, the Patriots spent around $260 million on signing free agents along with drafting Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at 15th overall. Brady, as mentioned, led the Bucs to a Superbowl over Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs, capturing his seventh Super Bowl ring. Former Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski, who took a brief retirement stint in 2019, returned to play for the Buccaneers in 2020 and won his fourth ring.
Like true New Englanders, the fans showed their affection for their former quarterback as he ran onto the field, but booed him towards the end of the game. Much of the lead-up into the game was about Brady and Belichick, but other players had played for both Tampa Bay and New England. Those include the aforementioned Rob Gronkowski, who played nine seasons in New England before heading to Tampa, and Antonio Brown, who played a mere one game for the Pats in 2019. Brown was signed before week one of that season, fresh off being released from Oakland due to personal issues. He caught a touchdown in a blowout win vs. Miami in week two and was promptly released following accusations of sexual assault.
Tom Brady embracing his former coach after a 19-17 Buccaneers victory Sunday, Oct. 3. What happens from here? Tom Brady accomplished the feat of beating all 32 NFL franchises and broke the all-time passing yards record, previously held by Drew Brees. However, this game was very telling for the Patriot brand of football. Despite falling to 1-3 on the season (after the conclusion of the Tampa game, currently 2-4) and tied for last in the AFC East, Mac Jones has impressed many. The defense has shown improvement, especially off the edge, a spot they lacked skill in last season. New England still has some issues, such as stopping the run, but the team has improved from a lackluster 2020 and is going to continue to improve every week.
As for the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, they are as dangerous as ever. Despite not throwing a touchdown against his former team, Tom Brady still threw with precision and accuracy and managed his offense efficiently. The team was missing former pro-bowl edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, fan-favorite Rob Gronkowski, and a few defensive backs were lost during the game.
With Tom Brady’s much-anticipated return in the books, the Buccaneers look even better than they did last season. On the other hand, the Patriots look to build off of this game and the development of their new signal-caller. With that being said, the average Patriot fan has a lot to look forward to with Mac Jones and the offense for the future. But the battle of Brady vs. Belichick — mostly pushed by the sports media outlets in the US — overshadows the friendship the two and owner Robert Kraft developed during the quarterback’s time in New England and how they were so successful. From a fanatical standpoint, Tom Brady is still evading father time, now with even more offensive weapons and protection. After a lackluster first year without the “G.O.A.T.”, the Patriots have a bright future with their impressive defense, quarterback Mac Jones, and of course, Bill Belichick. The question lingers: who should be credited with the Patriots’ success, coach or quarterback?