“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. Next up: Episode 5.

Episode 1: Backup Plan
Episode 2: The Snow Bowl
Episode 3: Borrowed Time
Episode 4: Spygate

As the Patriots try to turn the page and pick up the pieces from a shocking Super Bowl XLII loss, Tom Brady suffers a career-altering injury, that coincides with a downturn in the franchise’s dynasty.

–We start with a quick flashback to where Episode 4 left off, the loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

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“I was like, what the (expletive)?” Tom Brady says. “That year we dominated, we destroyed teams. How did we lose? If there’s one game in history, I’d change, it’s that game. But you can’t change it.”

— We’ve mentioned this in previous episodes, but some of the best stuff in this entire docuseries is the previously unseen behind-the-scenes in-house footage the Patriots have. We get a look here at Bill Belichick addressing the team ahead of the 2008 season, with Robert and Jonathan Kraft in the room. This is just a guess, but it looks like they’re handing out rings — presumably AFC champion rings. Doing so in the team auditorium as opposed to the lavish Super Bowl ring parties sure stands out. As does this from Belichick, who throws a curveball in his message to the team:

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“I know that you’ve heard me say, ‘Last year doesn’t mean anything, we don’t care about last year.’ But I hope that you will never forget those 16 wins. I’ve been through 5-11. I’ve been through 7-9. Those are the seasons you want to forget, believe me, not the 16-0 ones.”

Brady also addressed the team and was on the verge of tears in doing so.

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— Speaking of Brady, he’s the focal point to open this episode. Well, he and his family — literal and figurative. Anyway, this is the episode in which he tears his ACL in the season opener against the Chiefs. We don’t get a whole lot of new insight, other than Brady saying he could see it was bad by the look in the doctor’s eyes, and he knew it was bad right away.

“The pain, it just kept going,” he says. “It was super intense.”

— Quick detour: Obviously, a lot of football players get hurt, and Brady missing one season in a career of two decades is kind of almost expected. But let’s just imagine he did play that entire season. They were going to be good — very good. If you just average his 2007 and 2009 performances, he ends up somewhere like 4,600 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes.

All of a sudden, these become even more lopsided.

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The touchdown one is especially wild. Brady owning a 118-touchdown advantage over Brees (not including the playoffs, mind you) is hard to fathom. Deshaun Watson has 118 career touchdown passes. Anyway.

— The theme of the first half of the episode is Brady realizing he could suffer the same fate Drew Bledsoe did before him: getting injured and losing his job.

“I think his own vulnerability really kicked in big time,” Robert Kraft says. “Because he had observed over the years the modus operandi of our head coach. All players were expendable.”

Two things: It’s just kind of weird how Kraft sometimes refers to Belichick as “our head coach,” and also, if there’s one player who probably didn’t have to worry about losing their gig, it was Brady coming off 2007.

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— Another quick detour: There was some creative editing in this episode, with the filmmakers presenting footage from Belichick’s “A Football Life” documentary and Brady’s “Tom vs. Time” Facebook series like it happened in 2008.

— Regarding the on-field stuff, Matt Cassel is another focal point. He had a fine season, of course. There has been a lot of talk about this series in how it’s a hit piece against Belichick, and there is plenty of compelling evidence to support such claims. However, he gets a lot of love in this episode for what he did with that 2008 Patriots team and how he adjusted to fit Cassel’s strengths.

“As a coach, replacing Tom Brady, that’s a tough one. Tom’s the greatest player of all time, but you always try to find a way to win,” Belichick says. ” … You always want to play into the strength of your players and not have a system and force players to play the system. In Matt Cassel’s case, he had a lot of talent, he was smart and very athletic. We tried to tailor our offense to Matt’s strengths and his confidence.”

Generally speaking, it worked. The Patriots went 11-5, and Cassel was good enough to make teams believe he was a starter. New England franchise tagged him and then traded him to the Chiefs where he signed a contract worth $28 million guaranteed. He went on to make roughly $65 million in his career. Not bad for a guy who never started a game in college.

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— They do conveniently omit the struggles that team faced. Cassel was sacked more than any other quarterback that season, and after playing up his heroic performance in his first career start, they fail to mention the 38-14 home loss to Miami a week later. In fact, the Patriots were up and down for much of the year and at an impasse after a 33-10 home beatdown to Pittsburgh, Cassel’s worst game of the season in which the Patriots were 2.5-point favorites. That winning streak to end the season was nice, too, but it did come against teams the Patriots should have handled. They were favored in all four, three of them by at least a touchdown.

— Alex Guerrero makes his debut. Nancy Brady returns, as does Tom Brady Sr. None of them say anything overly memorable.

— Bledsoe does return, though. He adds some important context for how Brady might have been feeling, referring to how he lost his own job to Brady.

Bledsoe: “(Tom was thinking) That guy (Bledsoe), he came off the field, and next you know, he didn’t have his job anymore. I (Brady) can’t come off the field because if I do, that next guy might be waiting in the wings.”

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Again, Brady came back and had his job waiting for him.

— The 2009 season is rushed through, but it’s used to set up what’s coming down the road. There’s some more look into Belichick’s psyche, with Donte Stallworth saying “Most of the coaches in the NFL are coaching football. He’s coaching warfare.” We also get a look back at Belichick’s upbringing, largely to point out why he is the way he is.

— That’s followed by a cut to Belichick in a practice, asking someone “How f—–g stupid can you get?”

— Tedy Bruschi perfectly sums up the Belichick experience, and why it’s not for everyone, but if you are willing to be coached — even if it’s that hard — it can help you.

“It’s a hard life to live. It’s hard, man. Sometimes, the young guys, just don’t get it. I always tell players, you gotta be outside to look outside the box and realize why he’s doing it. Have you ever had a wet towel? A wet towel, and to wring it out, to get all of the water out of it until it’s dry. I’m the wet towel, and Bill’s the hands. I want you to wring the talent out of me anyway you possibly can. Do it! I’m gonna get upset, I’m gonna get pissed off, but I still know it’s the best for me, and I know it’s how we’re going to win and consistently win.”

— One nit to pick from the 2009 season retrospect is they don’t get into fourth-and-2 in Indianapolis. In fact, the only highlight from that game is Laurence Maroney fumbling at the goal line. The aforementioned “Football Life” doc covers the fourth-down decision, though.

— This episode is really just there to set up the Aaron Hernandez episode. As such, we get this from Ernie Adams at the end.

“The scribes, it was like announcing a funeral. The dynasty’s dead, buried, in the past. It was horrendous.

“Everbody understood we had to make some big changes. We gotta have a big draft because we need to get this thing going. We were looking for toughness and intensity in a football player. In the fourth round, we found this guy we liked. There were some off-the-field issues. We thought there’s a degree of risk here, but it makes sense to take it. Looking in hindsight, of course, we did not understand the full dimensions of what the problem was.”

That’s for sure.

“Cassel, I know you haven’t started a game since the f—–g seventh grade. you started one today.”
— Belichick giving Cassel the game ball after his first career start and win

“Compared to Tommy, that’s a gazelle back there running. They’re used to molasses coming out of the container. They’ve gotta gazelle back there now. They’ve gotta prepare for that.”
— Randy Moss on the sideline marveling at Cassel’s relative athleticism compared to Brady

Cassel? It’s hard to say. There were many unforgettable performances in this episode. We’ll give it to Cassel for his unique perspective, which included bringing back the Belichick letter story we’ve heard before.

This is easily the most skippable episode so far. Not a ton of new information, and its main purpose is to set the stage for what’s coming later. Hard meh.

Screenshots used with permission via AppleTV+

Featured image via "The Dynasty"/Apple TV+