Bloomington, Minn. • Minnesota might be the only place outside of New England where the Patriots are embraced.
The rest of the world may be tiring of New England’s dynasty, but the Patriots were greeted warmly when they were introduced during the Super Bowl opening night in St. Paul. The Philadelphia Eagles received boos.
That treatment stemmed from the Eagles denying the Minnesota Vikings the opportunity to play in Sunday’s Super Bowl LII on their home field, thanks to a rout in the NFC championship game. So the Patriots will have some local support beyond their own fans at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The rest of the world seems ready to move on from New England. Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy of BYU certainly gets that sense. “No one likes somebody winning over and over,” Van Noy said. “They get mad, for whatever reason. Sometimes you’ve got to love greatness.”
Or do you? Patriots fatigue and Patriots appreciation are the dueling forces in this Super Bowl, with the Eagles representing the proud tradition of football in Philadelphia — and something different.
Sustained success is not the only reason people are worn out by the Patriots. Various allegations of cheating over the years have affected the perception of them. In any case, they just keep winning.
The Patriots are playing in their eighth Super Bowl in 17 seasons. A victory Sunday would give them three championships in four years, which is exactly how the dynasty started early in this century. In between, New England made two other appearances, losing each time to the New York Giants.
Twelve of the NFC’s 16 franchises have qualified for the Super Bowl during this 17-year period: St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Carolina (twice), Philadelphia (twice), Seattle (three times), Chicago, New York Giants (twice), Arizona, New Orleans, Green Bay, San Francisco and Atlanta.
That’s basically how the NFL is designed. The draft, strength of scheduling and especially the salary cap all function as safeguards against a dynasty. The Patriots have defied that system, thanks mainly to the work of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
Oakland, Pittsburgh (three times), Denver (twice), Indianapolis (twice) and Baltimore are the only other AFC teams that have played in the Super Bowl during New England’s reign.
Tony Dungy, now an NBC Sports analyst, won a Super Bowl when Indianapolis briefly dislodged the Patriots. New England’s dynasty is “good,” Dungy said, “because it forces people to catch up.”
Yet the only apparent hope for the Patriots’ rivals is the thought that Belichick, 65, and Brady, 40, can’t keep doing this forever after being together for 18 seasons.
In the coaching profession, Belichick’s “longevity has been incredible,” said Dungy, who views his own 13-year NFL head coaching career with two teams as “a long time.”
Belichick shows no sign of wearing down, though. Brady said again this week that he intends to play into his mid-40s, and his level of performance remains as high as ever.
The only historical trend that could work against the Patriots is that after their third title in four years (following the 2004 season), Belichick lost his top two assistants. That reportedly will happen again next week, when defensive coordinator Matt Patricia (Detroit) and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (Indianapolis) become head coaches.
Otherwise, the dynasty may continue indefinitely. The only consolation for people tired of the Patriots is that opponents are making them earn everything lately. New England needed an end zone interception against Seattle and a miraculous comeback against Atlanta to win its last two Super Bowls, and the Patriots rallied from 10 points behind in the fourth quarter to beat Jacksonville in the AFC title game on their way to Minnesota.