I came into this season believing that Belichick and the Patriots needed to win the Super Bowl to secure their legacy, or at least the perception of their legacy. It's difficult to admit if you're a fan, but the painful truth is that SpyGate is a stain that will be removed only with a fourth championship.
Suddenly, Belichick has an unexpected way to restore his and his franchise's good name: he can succeed, and greatly exceed expectations, without his superstar quarterback. I'm convinced Belichick is already invigorated by this challenge.
The coach has seemed weird the last couple of days (well, weird-er). You thought he'd be black-cloud gloomy during his weekly appearance on the Big Show; instead, he chuckled at all the sycophants' eighth-grade level jokes. He appeared to even crack a smile while stonewalling the media during Monday's press conference confirming Brady's status.
I'm certain he knows something we don't, probably concerning his new starting quarterback. Maybe Phil Simms is right, and Belichick thinks he has something special in Cassel, who looked more than competent Sunday after an uninspiring preseason. Maybe he likes his team's chances in a league in which a team led by the likes of Tavaris Jackson is considered a Super Bowl contender. Maybe recalls 2001, and the greatest coaching job most of us have ever witnessed, and thinks he just might be capable of a sequel. Maybe he realizes the Patriots' 20-game regular-season winning streak isn't due entirely to the quarterback.
I don't mean to downplay Brady's injury, or to suggest Belichick would prefer anything but having his franchise QB for all 16 games and all the way to Tampa. Of course losing Brady is devastating. Devastating. It's terrible when any great athlete loses a season of his prime, and so much worse when it's one of Your Guys. But there's no sympathy in the NFL. There are 15 games to play, hopefully more. The schedule waits for no one.
It's funny, I've become indifferent to the Yankees now, the euphoria of 2004 and '07 rendering all of the dark history meaningless. I like it this way, just as I suppose all of the Patriot haters would prefer their enemy faded away to mediocrity and irrelevance. But they'd better be cautious. Because right now, it seems the only people giving up on the Patriots are the ones who should have learned their lesson long ago. Their reminder will arrive soon enough. That wicked witch? It ain't dead yet.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.