"It" is the 16-0 banner at Gillette Stadium, and it needs to go. Soon.
With the news that Procter & Gamble and the Patriots have agreed that the name of the stadium won't change until at least 2031, it's time to start some long-term planning. That begins with the northwest corner of the stadium.
Really, the banner should never should have been put up in the first place. The Patriots were one defensive stop away from being crowned one of, if not the single greatest football team ever assembled. Tom Brady hit Randy Moss in the back of the end zone to put the Pats up 14-10 in Super Bowl XLII, creating a moment that could have been on the cover of either player's autobiography. Instead, the moment was rendered meaningless, as was the entire undefeated campaign.
OK, meaningless is a bit harsh. That Patriots team was a juggernaut, steamrolling through the league and letting everyone know that they weren't messing around. Brady and Moss were setting records while the entire team rallied around Bill Belichick, whose character was suddenly in question thanks to Eric Mangini. A Super Bowl victory would have been one of the greatest moments in Boston sports history.
But it didn't happen. It definitely didn't happen. And the last thing that fans want to be reminded of when they sit in their $120 seats at Gillette Stadium is the painful, horrific, cruel reminder that it did not happen.
Plus, the banner's undeniably brought some bad karma with it. In its first regular-season game, Brady's knee exploded. Coincidence? Well, yeah, of course. But the banner is guilty by association if you ask me.
That year, the Patriots became the first team to win 11 games and not make the playoffs, but hey, at least they had that cool 16-0 banner to look up at and remember the good ol' days. Then, last year, they went undefeated at home, which was really nifty … until Ray Rice and the Ravens showed up in January and sucked the life out of the stadium before most folks had reached their seats.
Was it all the banner's fault? I see no other explanation.
Results aside, the banner is one of the most embarrassing in all of sports. The Miami Heat have something to say about that, as they have retired the names and numbers of Michael Jordan and Dan Marino — both of whom did not play for the Heat and one of whom did not even play the sport of basketball. The Patriots might as well throw up a banner of Desmond Howard's kickoff return from Super Bowl XXXI, or maybe retire Bernard Pollard's number, or even get a nice photo of Ray Hamilton's roughing the passer call and spray paint it on the field. Maybe they should hand out some of these T-shirts to the first 10,000 fans to walk through the gates.
It's clearly time to move on, and the team might already be moving in that direction.
This past summer, the Patriots, seemingly led by Belichick, removed all photos from the glory years from the walls of the stadium, a move meant to inspire this year's players to create some of their own great moments. If that's the direction of the team, why remind them of a regular-season accomplishment that turned out to mean diddly squat when Asante Samuel decided he didn't feel like catching a gift-wrapped interception, or when Mike Carey didn't feel like calling a holding penalty, or when Jay Alford and Justin Tuck magically transformed into the second and third comings of Reggie White, or when … well. OK. I'll stop.
The fact that most Patriots fans couldn't read that last paragraph without getting nauseous is reason enough to take down the banner.
What do you think of the 16-0 banner at Gillette Stadium? Share your thoughts below.