The Dynasty: New England Patriots Examine Legacy With Brady, Belichick

NFL Sunday Ticket subscriber Leo Tolstoy once wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That’s an apt summation of the New England Patriots during their championship run in the first two decades of this century. There were six Super Bowl wins, but everyone — particularly quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick — seemed to be on an endless deployment aboard the HMS Misery. Proud of their accomplishments? Absolutely. Enjoyed the ride? Not so much. Eventually, Brady jumped ship for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Apple TV+’s docuseries “Dynasty” has devoted 10 episodes to the Patriots of quarterback Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft. The series is a fascinating if overlong examination — an episode on temporary QB Matt Cassel feels like a preseason telecast — of the formidable business question: If an organization is questing for eternal excellence, does that mean its employees must always dread coming to the office? The setup of the doc is fascinating: Belichick sat for interviews with all the enthusiasm of his friend Donald Trump sitting through an E. Jean Carroll hearing. An excellent drinking game could be designed around Belichick’s variations on the “I’m not going to talk about the past” answer. This begs the question: OK, well then why are you here?

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Indeed, the coach’s demeanor gives credence to the view that working for him was about as enjoyable as a colonoscopy without anesthesia. The recipient of much of Belichick’s sadomasochism was Brady, who evolved from a skinny kid no one wanted to an NFL legend, perhaps the best there ever was, with a series of increasingly interesting rock-star haircuts. Imagine being that good at your job and your boss repeatedly telling you that you are a fuckup.

“Me and Coach Belichick, we did what we loved and competed for 20 years together,” says Brady in an upcoming episode. “Based on how things had gone, I wasn’t going to sign up for more of it.”

This seems reasonable.

“But did it have to be that way? Must life be grim to succeed? Variety talked with Matthew Hamachek, director and executive producer of “The Dynasty,” about the Patriot Way.

You have all these great interviews with Tom Brady, owner Bob Kraft and other players and coaches. But Bill Belichick looks like he’s at a deposition. How did you deal with that?

I talked with [Belichick confidant] Ernie Adams for 15 hours. After we talked about [convicted murderer and former Patriot] Aaron Hernandez, he said, “That was a tough one, but if you hadn’t asked me, you wouldn’t be doing your job.” I asked Bill the same exact questions. The reason my voice is in his interviews is because he didn’t elaborate. I want to hold on Bill so that the audience understands that there wasn’t more to this. There’s nothing on the cutting room floor. Sometimes, non-answers speak volumes.

Speaking of Hernandez, there’s a chilling moment of footage where he is at a rookie counseling camp and he tells ex-NFLer Cris Carter about how he wanted to get his life on track. How did you find that?

The Patriots had an in-house videography team that filmed that. They were one of the first teams to do a lot of filming particularly as the team won Super Bowls and they wanted a history of it. This was a continuous listening and watching process for our team. New material would constantly change the direction we were going in.

There are episodes devoted to Spygate [Belichick was fined $500,000 for spying on the New York Jets] and Deflategate [Brady was suspended for four games for allegedly deflating footballs to get a better grip]. But there’s no mention of Robert Kraft being cited for solicitation in a Florida massage parlor. [The charge was dropped after a judge ruled that surveillance video had been illegally obtained.] Why?

I didn’t cover in any way Tom and Gisele [Bündchen] meeting. I didn’t cover Kraft and his wife’s relationship. I didn’t cover Bill’s divorce. I didn’t cover Bill’s extramarital affairs. And I didn’t cover what happened with Robert Kraft, because I don’t think that those things had to do with my central question: what it takes to obtain greatness.

I was struck by the fact that not long after Belichick seemingly self-sabotaged one Super Bowl by keeping star cornerback Malcolm Butler on the bench, he manufactured a last one over the Rams with a brilliant defensive scheme. How do you square that?

He completely changed their defense on a dime. Steve Young put it best: “Bill Belichick has painted his Mona Lisa.” This is the unvarnished telling of the New England Patriots story. There are ups and downs, and there are good decisions, and there are bad decisions. [Belichick did not elaborate on why he didn’t play Butler.] Sometimes the things that make us great are also the things that get in the way.

Some Patriot fans, including The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, see “The Dynasty” as overly critical of Belichick.

There are these turf wars that have been fought for so many years, and you’re either a Kraft guy or a Belichick guy or a Tom Brady guy. I just came into this as a person who is trying to tell a story and answer the central question of what it takes to accomplish greatness.

So what was the secret?

Patriots player Tedy Bruschi said, “I’m the towel, and Belichick is the hands that are wringing me out.” But it’s not just about getting talent out of them. It’s about creating a culture. You realize that there is no star on this team. Everybody’s equal, and we all have one goal. And I think that the creation of that culture is a large part of Bill’s talent. It’s all about “What does it take, and are you willing to do it in order to accomplish greatness?”

Everybody is interested in the “why did it fall apart” part. But the infinitely more fascinating thing is how did this thing stay together so long? Belichick is on the cover of Time magazine, and Brady’s an international superstar. It could have fallen apart a hundred ways. I think it all gets back to the culture that these people created. And that starts with Belichick.

And then he was fired.

I always thought they’d figure out how to keep him there. It was shocking.

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