“The Dynasty,” a 10-part docuseries about the New England Patriots’ historic run of success debuted Feb. 16 on Apple TV+. Two episodes are released every Friday, and we’ll dig into each episode with takeaways. First up, Episode 1.

The first episode of the series begins with a look at how Drew Bledsoe defined the early years of the Robert Kraft ownership. Bledsoe’s injury in 2001 opened the door for Tom Brady, who obviously went on to become the most successful player in NFL history — after Bill Belichick staked his career on a difficult (and unpopular) decision.


— It takes all of two minutes to realize how good this series is going to be. The opening montage with Queen’s ‘Under Pressure” playing in the background crescendos like a damn action movie. You’ve got Brady in tears, Belichick telling a locker room “there’s gonna be some things that aren’t (expletive) great,” and comes to a close with the coach talking about a maniacal devotion to winning — one that might have led to the rupture of the greatest dynasty in sports.

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— The story really starts with the Mo Lewis game, the Patriots’ first after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, leading to this weird line from Kraft: “New Englanders or Bostonians needed hope more than ever before, so I was depending on Drew to deliver.” Kind of a lot to put on a football player, no? Kraft, now 82, does seemingly have a habit of overstating things from the past, and we see that early in the series.

— That said, this seemingly earnest quote from Kraft about Bledsoe stood out: “The quarterback, who we loved, might not ever recover. He had done that working for us, so we always felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to his family.”

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— It’s always kind of wild to hear just how bad Bledsoe’s injury was, with blood filling his lungs after the punishing hit. As Dr. David Berger points out, “Untreated, he probably would have died.”

— It doesn’t take long to realize that this isn’t going to be a “see a side you’ve never seen of him” performance from Belichick. It seemed fitting for his first time on camera for a sitdown interview is him cracking his neck.

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— Even if you know nothing about filmmaking or documentaries (guilty), it’s striking how shrewd some of the editing is. Like when former Patriots center Damien Woody recalls a story about Brady giving a speech to the team.

“(Brady was) basically saying, like, ‘Believe in me. Let’s get it together. I’m gonna work my ass off. You’re gonna work your ass off. We got it. We got this.’ For him to really come out and say that, takes a lot of balls. … Imagine saying that to the Willie McGinests and Tedy Bruschis and all these veterans?”

Then, it cuts to Bruschi, laughing: “Tom gathered us around, and I remember thinking ‘Aw, look at the kid. He’s trying.'”

Then, an even better Bruschi line: “For anyone that says ‘Oh, yeah, we knew Tom was gonna lead us to victories, that’s bull (expletive). I mean, come on. This guy has never done anything for us before.”

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— Ty Law is going to be one of the stars of the entire series. He’s hilarious. But he also nails the feeling around Brady early in his career, especially during the ups and downs of that 2001 season.

“They didn’t try to put too much on him. He didn’t put too much on himself because he wasn’t that Tom. He wasn’t Tom Brady, the GOAT. He’s just Tom.”

Then, it cuts to the infamous scouting combine footage.

“Back then, he damn sure ain’t gonna wow you when he takes off his shirt,” Law adds. “At all. When you looked at him, it’s like, OK, he came in as a goddamn nobody rookie.”

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Law then capped it all with a meme-able shrug.

— Speaking of Law, he sold his condo to Brady back then, and the quarterback moved in with teammate and good friend David Nugent. Law claims he left $150,000 on the table and cut Brady a deal.

Brady (hilariously) objected to that, nearly 25 years later: “He’s full of (expletive). Ty fleeced me. Ty thinks, ‘Oh I gave you some big gift.’ I’m like, ‘Ty, I overpaid.’ I love Ty to death, but no, you didn’t give me a (expletive) deal, Ty. Get that (expletive) out of here.”

One thing worth noting about Brady: This is a side of him those of us outside the locker room or practice field rarely get to see. There’s an undeniable vibe of “Tom Brady, just another guy,” as opposed to “one of the most popular men in the world, Tom Brady.” It’s in these moments you can see why he has a reputation for being such a good teammate — even when he’s the most famous person in every locker room he’s been in for the last 15 years of his career.

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— We also got some great home video footage of Brady’s bachelor pad,

Hard to believe that’s the same guy in, like, a Hertz commercial these days.

— Eventually, the episode peaks with the era-defining Brady vs. Bledsoe decision for Belichick. To set the scene, we get a nostalgic look back at WBZ’s “Sports Final” where Steve Burton, Bob Lobel, Dan Shaughnessy and Bob Ryan talk about the looming decision. Lobel fires up Ryan when he earnestly suggests a quarterback controversy.

“Just say ‘I was just trying to be an agitator because it’s good television.’ That’s the answer. That’s the answer, Bob,” an apoplectic Ryan shouts at Lobel. “There’s no other answer because you know in your heart unless you really have lost it all upstairs, there is no issue that Bledsoe’s the quarterback as soon as he’s ready to play.”

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— Burton closed the segment by saying even Brady knows it’s Bledsoe’s job, but that’s when we get another great cut, alternating between Law and Lawyer Milloy.

Law: “I remember myself, Tom and Lawyer Milloy, we all went out to dinner together and Tom, he just said, ‘Hey,’ outta nowhere, ‘I ain’t giving this (expletive) back.’ … So me and Lawyer on the other end are like, ‘Hey, OK, all right, young buck. That’s the spirit.’ … Man, me and Lawyer looked at each other like, ‘When Drew comes back, his ass (Brady) back on the bench.”
Milloy: “In the back of our minds, we’re probably like, ‘Man, shut the (expletive) up.'”

— Bledsoe shared a telling recollection, informing Belichick he had been cleared to return from his injury: “I thought he would be a little more excited that I got clearance than he seemed on the phone.”

— This one isn’t new, but it’s worth mentioning: Bledsoe’s line at his locker, “I look forward for the chance to compete for my job,” is an underrated line in Boston sports history.

— Obviously, not everyone was thrilled with the move, including Maura Bledsoe, the QB’s wife: “For this one hit to change everything, I just thought there was no loyalty.” Kraft seemingly agreed with that assertion, saying “he didn’t feel good” about the decision, saying he felt Bledsoe was treated “unfairly.”

— Of course, Kraft owns the team and could have stepped in. Instead, he put the pressure on the football staff, as former Patriots VP of player personnel Scott Pioli recalled.

“To Robert, this was more than a player move. He expressed his disappointment, but in the end, he said, ‘Listen, if this is what you guys believe, and this is what it’s going to be, it just needs to be right.”

— Ultimately, it did, but the doc does a great job of comparing the situation to Belichick’s first coaching stint in Cleveland where he sat local legend Bernie Kosar. Ultimately, the whole Browns thing blew up in Belichick’s face.

“I remember saying to Bill,” Pioli recalls, ” … if we don’t handle this right, we’ve seen that movie before.”

— Quick diversion for this shot of Belichick playing with puppies from his time in Cleveland:

— Watching it all back, especially juxtaposed with how the Cleveland days turned out, it really did take some massive cajones for Belichick to stick with Brady. If it didn’t work out, he’d probably be fired, the entire dynasty never happens, and he might never have gotten another head-coaching job.

— Technically, some credit goes to Kraft for allowing his people to let it play out, but he does make sure to remind everyone of his role in the whole thing.

“Bill and I, we were under pressure, and the decisions we were about to make were going to determine the future of football in New England for the next 20 years.”

“At that time, the defense pretty much ran the team. We were the foundation. I remember corraling the defense and (being) like, ‘Look, next week we can’t give up points. We just can’t. As soon as the ball gets snapped, we’re gonna hit somebody in the f—–‘ mouth. It’s f—–‘ go time.”
Willie McGinest, talking about the need for the Patriots defense to step up in Brady’s first career start, a 44-13 drubbing of Peyton Manning and the Colts.

Ty Law

We didn’t necessarily learn much in the first episode, especially if you’ve actually read “The Dynasty” book on which this is based. That being said, we’re hooked. From the rarely-seen or forgotten footage from over the years or the candid on-camera appearances from just about everyone you’d want to hear from, this is shaping up to be an incredible piece of storytelling.

Screenshots used with permission via AppleTV+

Featured image via Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY Sports Images