I know it hurts. You liked the view from the top of the mountain. You loved being picked by the pundits to win the Super Bowl. You loved being No. 1 in everyone’s power rankings.
You wondered if Brady and Moss would outdo their 2007 performance. You saw the schedule and could see another16-0 season in the making. You thought San Diego and Indy were the only real threats. You enjoyed crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentations of their women.
Well, those days are gone...For now.
We’re no longer the hated favorite. No one is picking us to win the Super Bowl. Peter King’s got us at No. 6 in his "Fine 15," and that’s probably generous. Moss will be lucky to get half the touchdown catches he had last year. We’re probably going to lose a game or five. Get over it. We’re underdogs again.
Bill Belichick’s Patriots will never feel sorry for themselves, and we as fans must do the same. We still have a pretty good team, and as Week One of 2008 proved, pretty good teams can take down the mighty Chargers, Colts, and Jaguars.
Remember how you felt when Bledsoe went down in 2001? Okay, some of you can’t remember that because you weren’t on the bandwagon at that time. Now might be a good time for you people to find another team to root for.
For the rest of the Pats fans, who were here before things got good, you remember what it’s like to step into the unknown on the arm of an unproven quarterback.
Of course, Matt Cassel is not Tom Brady, and no one expects him to be. He might not even be Hugh Millen (bandwagoners, if you’re still here, probably don’t get that one), but he’s the Patriots quarterback now. Like it or not, that’s the truth. And if you’re a true Patriots fan, you owe it to him to get behind him, no matter what mistakes he’s made or will make.
Forgive me if I sound like John Madden, but this is a guy who’s been waiting a long time to get a shot at being a starting quarterback. He sat on the bench, watching some great players ahead of him, in both college and the pros.
He was good; he just wasn’t great. Or at least he never had a shot to be great. Well now he has his shot, with a Super Bowl-caliber supporting cast around him. He might not be Tom Brady, but how many quarterbacks are?
The Patriots can and will win games with Cassel. I find it easy to root for someone that has been working his butt off and patiently waiting for his one shot, when it looked like he might never see the field.
Forget what you know about the New England Patriots. They are no longer that team. Now, each and every week will be a dogfight, no matter who the opponent is. But that will also make the taste of victory even sweeter, because it wasn’t already a foregone conclusion before the mighty Patriots took the field.
Ultimately, we have nothing to lose. When we win, we did it without Tom Brady. And when we lose, opposing teams will know that we didn’t have Tom Brady.
We’ve been spoiled as fans for going on eight seasons. We’ve gotten to watch one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and yes, Belichick willing, we will get to watch him again. But this year will be something different. We’ll have to earn every yard, every completion, and every touchdown.
Irreplaceable players have been replaced countless times in the Belichick regime. Injuries, free agency, surprise cuts, every time, new players have stepped up and performed at a level that has made the Patriots the dynasty of the new millennium. This will be the biggest test of that philosophy.
One game at a time. Do your job. You know the Hoodied Mantra, trust in that.
Most of all, no matter how bad it gets, remember that Brady will one day return.
Until then, enjoy the new unpredictable underdog Patriots of 2008.
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