At the end of the 20th century, the Patriots were seen as one of the little men of the NFL. They had never won the Super Bowl, having lost in their previous two outings in 1986 and 1997. Robert Kraft had been the owner since 1994, and despite some improvements, they were still looking to win that first ring.

The 20th century ticked over to the 21st, and everything changed overnight – 27 days into the new millennium the Patriots hired Bill Belichick, who would oversee the 2000 draft class. In that class was a man called Tom Brady, who would be passed over 198 times before the Belichick decided to make the call.

The 2000 season wouldn’t be a great one for the Patriots, as they went 5-11. The next season Brady took over as the quarterback. The rest, as they say, was history. That 2000 season would be the last with a losing record.

Since that time, the Patriots have won the AFC East 15 out of the last 17 years and reached the Super Bowl eight of those times. Brady and Belichick have manufactured a period of dominance never seen in the sport. The two of them together have now been to as many Super Bowls as any other team in history.

There is though, trouble on the horizon. Robert Kraft is 76, Belichick is 65 and Tom Brady is 40. It’s likely that all three will retire soon and when they do, it’ll be a huge test of the franchise. The first to leave could well be Brady. It’s hard to gauge exactly when he’ll retire, but surely he only has a few years left at the most. Belichick won when Brady was injured, but winning without him permanently will be a huge test. An even bigger test awaits when Belichick himself decides to call it a day.

The Patriots’ dominance is hated by pretty much every fan of every other team. It has been special and may never be seen again in the NFL. There is an end in sight, but there may still be a few more years of Brady and Belichick being at the top.

Surely the Patriots won’t be anywhere near the same when they are retired. What is clear though, is that they’re not finished just yet so get your Brady jersey before it doubles in price as it becomes an antique.

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