Greg Cote

Brady and the Patriots return to Super Bowl. Set aside envy and appreciate greatness

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, hugs coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, hugs coach Bill Belichick after the AFC championship game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. AP

This is when the undisguised national contempt for the New England Patriots rears its unseemly head. When fans of the 31 other NFL teams become so blinded by envy they cannot appreciate the living history playing out before them. So we complain how supposedly “boring” it is that the Pats are back in the Super Bowl. We haul out unsupported conspiracy theories about favoritism. Maybe dust off a Deflategate reference, just for fun. We do everything except what we should — which is genuflect to the greatest franchise in modern American sports.

Tom Brady, at age 40, with 12 stitches in his throwing hand, is better than your team’s quarterback. Also, better looking. With a supermodel wife.

Bill Belichick is better and smarter than your team’s head coach.

Robert Kraft out-owns your team’s owner.

The locomotive chugs on.

Deal with with it, America.

Why resent what you should be admiring? Appreciate an ongoing run of greatness and dominance the NFL might not see again for generations.

The Patriots beat Tennessee, Jacksonville, the law of averages and Father Time. Brady on Sunday could have played with a catcher’s mitt protecting his injured hand and still been better than Blake Bortles. The Pats are unstoppable. They are both really good and lucky. Now they get Philadelphia without Carson Wentz. No wonder New England opened as the biggest Super Bowl favorite (5 1/2 points) in nine years.

I laughed at the apocryphal recent ESPN story about the New England dynasty rending at the seams. How, supposedly, there is tension among Kraft, Belichick and Brady. Laughed because it rang so familiar. For at least the last five years in a row, Miami Dolphins fans and everybody else under Brady’s spell and thumb have been wishfully predicting his imminent decline, right? I mean he can’t be great forever! (Um ... can he?)

The Cinderella Jaguars winning would have been a great story in one region of extreme northeast Florida, but the rest of the country would rather root for — or more likely against — Brady and the dynastic Pats. NBC’s ideal matchup would have been Patriots-Vikings, with Minnesota angling for its first championship as the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium. But the Peacock gets a bigger market in Philly, and also the stark contrast of the Pats facing an Eagles team that has never won a Super Bowl. The Eagles last won a pre-SB title in 1960, and was so written off after Wentz’s injury that the team has adopted dog masks to represent their underdog role. (“Dogs Vs. Dynasty.” Has a ring to it).

One overzealous Eagles fan celebrated the Eagles' victory by driving a dune buggy up the 72 stone steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, otherwise known as the Rocky Steps.

Besides, how perfect it is, at the end of a season mired in controversy over players not standing for the national anthem, that this Super Bowl would feature one team nicknamed Patriots and the other represented by the majestic, soaring symbol of America.

With only two teams still standing, the rest of us must live vicariously, so we bring you notable Patriots or Eagles with South Florida ties:

▪ EAGLES: Running back Jay Ajayi, traded by Miami this midseason for a tackling sled (actually a fourth-round pick), had 73 yards on 18 carries and caught three passes Sunday and has averaged 5.7 yards per carry with Philly.

Coach Doug Pederson was a third-string Dolphins QB as an undrafted rookie in 1993 but had a historic distinction.

That Nov. 14 in Philadelphia, with Dan Marino lost for the year and Scott Mitchell injured that day, Pederson was called into emergency duty and finished the game that marked Don Shula’s record-setting 325th career victory.

Backup cornerback Patrick Robinson (born Miami; Gulliver Prep) had four interceptions during the season and a 50-yard pick-six score on Sunday.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (Dolphins, 2013-14) starts because of injuries to others but was himself injured and inactive Sunday.

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi spoke to the media after practice about how the level of interest for football continues to grow in his hometown of London.

Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland held the same role with Hurricanes in 2007-10. Punter Donnie Jones did the same for the Dolphins way back in 2005-06, under Nick Saban. And special teams coach Dave Fipp had the same role with the Dolphins in 2011-12.

▪ PATRIOTS: Backup running back James White (born Fort Lauderdale; St. Thomas Aquinas High) is deployed mostly as a pass-catcher. He caught 56 balls this season and has scored three touchdowns in postseason.

Backup receiver Phillip Dorsett (born Fort Lauderdale; St. Thomas Aquinas High), a former Miami Hurricane, caught only 12 passes during the season but had a 31-yard catch Sunday against the Jaguars. And defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (born Miami; Carol City High), is a reserve signed as a free agent at midseason.

A special note on Patriots receiver Chris Hogan, because it tells a little bit or maybe a lot about why that team is back in the Super Bowl — again — while the Dolphins keep wondering why they aren’t.

Hogan was with Miami in the 2011 and ’12 training camps. He was called “7-Eleven” because he was always open. The Dolphins cut him anyway. Twice.

Now, in two seasons with New England, the receiver who wasn’t good enough to make the Miami roster has caught 92 passes for 1,475 yards (a 16.0 average) and 12 TDs, continuing a Belichick tradition of spinning other teams’ garbage into gold.

It is one more reason to root against the Patriots, if you are so predisposed.

Or, if you allow yourself, it is one more reason to admire the unrelenting greatness.

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