It’s been a difficult year for St. Louis football fans.
First, the Rams left for Los Angeles, and now the New England Patriots are dragging up bad memories for any Rams fans still in Missouri.
The Patriots will celebrate the 15-year anniversary of their Super Bowl XXXVI win over the Rams on Sunday when they take on Los Angeles at Gillette Stadium. Over 40 former Patriots from the 2001 team will be in town for the celebration, while the quarterback, Tom Brady, and head coach, Bill Belichick, amazingly still will be on the field and sideline.
Yet back in 2001, it was the Rams, not the Patriots, who were supposed to be the NFL’s next great dynasty. The Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV over Jeff Fisher’s Tennessee Titans in the 1999 season with Kurt Warner at quarterback and Dick Vermeil as head coach. Vermeil retired and handed the reins Mike Martz, who brought his team to a 10-6 record in 2000 and 14-2 in 2001.
So, how did the Patriots become the dynasty of the 2000s? It starts with Belichick and Brady, who perhaps are the greatest head coach and quarterback in the history of football. The continuity they’ve provided over 15 seasons is why New England can have success year after year.
They’re not the only Patriots employees still around from 2001, though. Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft and president Jonathan Kraft, tight ends coach Brian Daboll, running backs coach Ivan Fears, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, director of player personnel Nick Caserio, director of scouting administration Nancy Meier, scouts Brian Smith and Larry Cook, director of football head coach administration Berj Najarian, football research director Ernie Adams and assistant athletic trainer and director of rehabilitation Joe Van Allen all have Super Bowl XXXVI rings.
Brady’s health also is a major factor. The Rams benched and subsequently cut Warner just two seasons after Super Bowl XXXVI because of injuries and turnovers despite the QB leading his team to a 35-15 record as a starter. Warner went on to lead the Arizona Cardinals to a Super Bowl late in his career, while his replacement in St. Louis, Marc Bulger, went 1-2 in the postseason with more interceptions than touchdowns. Patience is a virtue, but it’s easier to stay patient when your quarterback is as dependable as Brady.
The Patriots have maintained continuity in part because Belichick has full control and is willing to stay in-house: When a coordinator leaves, the role is filled from within. The Rams flipped through coordinators in the early 2000s, hiring from outside the organization, and have been through eight head coaches since 2001. Their latest, Fisher, remains employed despite a 31-43-1 record as Rams head coach. Vermeil had full control of the Rams as head coach and general manager, but Martz wasn’t given the same authority and was gone midway through his sixth season.
New England has had a winning record in every season since 2001, making the postseason every year other than 2002 and 2008. The team is 196-55 in that span with three Super Bowl wins, while the Rams have gone 103-147-1.
Rams fans must be amazed by how little as changed in New England since that Super Bowl, which likely feels like ages ago. But that’s why the Patriots remain successful while the Rams constantly are in flux.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sport Images
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