Sports | September 1, 2020 8:15 am

“The Dynasty” Is an Unprecedented Peek Behind the Curtain of the Patriots’ Football Machine

Bestselling sportswriter Jeff Benedict takes us inside the most successful franchise of the 21st century

Tom Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick celebrate with the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2015
Tom Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick celebrate with the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2015
Tom Pennington/Getty

Since Tom Brady took over at quarterback for an injured Drew Bledsoe two weeks after the Twin Towers fell in 2001, Bill Belichick’s Patriots have made the playoffs 17 times, played for the AFC Championship 13 times and made nine appearances in the Super Bowl, winning six of them.

That means that over the course of those 19 seasons, there was a greater than 50 percent chance New England would at least play for the right to represent the AFC on the final Sunday of the NFL calendar and almost a one-in-three percent chance they’d win it.

In a league like the NFL that it is set up to create parity, it is a run of success that should not have been able to happen. With 43-year-old Brady now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s also a run of success that, for now at least, appears to have met its end point. While much has been written about the presumptive ending of the Patriots dynasty and the perceived deterioration of the relationship between Brady and Belichick over the second half of the last decade (a juicy topic to be sure), the story of how New England was able to sustain excellence for two decades in a league that is designed to prevent that is also a fascinating tale.

In his new book The Dynasty, bestselling sportswriter Jeff Benedict set out to tell it by conducting interviews with more than 200 Patriots insiders — including team executives, coaches, players, players’ wives, team doctors and lawyers — as well as delving into never-before-seen recordings, documents and electronic correspondence.

Benedict began working on the book in January of 2018, just before the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Eagles. His goal was to uncover how the Patriots were able to sustain their dynasty and have continued success when NFL predecessors like the Packers, Steelers and 49ers, all of whom had dynasties of sorts, couldn’t keep it up longer than a decade.

One of the factors? The Patriot Way.

“I think the Patriot Way is without question is a real thing,” Benedict tells InsideHook. “Everybody has their own definitions of what it is. I see it as excellence sustained over time. It’s an organization that has a tremendous ability to overcome adversity. There’s a persistence to them, a focus that remains on controlling the things you can control and ignoring the things you can’t. It sounds so simple. And yet most human beings and most organizations and corporations can’t do that. I think the reason the Patriot Way succeeded for so long is that the three men in the leadership posts — Robert Kraft as owner, Bill Belichick as head coach and Tom Brady as the quarterback — they possess those same traits I just described. In other words, the organization in the reflection of those three men and it’s a reflection of their approach.”

jeff benedict the dynasty
The cover of Jeff Benedict’s “The Dynasty”
Avid Reader/Simon & Schuster

While there are clearly differences in personality, status and life experience between the 79-year-old Massachusetts local Kraft, 68-year-old Nashville transplant Belichick and Bay Area-bred Brady, Benedict notes there is a common bond between the three men that helped them find success over two decades: a commitment to winning above all else.

“That’s the thing the three of them share the most. All three of them are unparalleled in terms of how competitive they are,” he says. “A lot of times when I was working on this book, I thought to myself it was actually unfair because it was like having the Beatles and knowing your third-string songwriter is George Harrison. In any other band, he would be the star. In that band, he was playing behind John Lennon and Paul McCartney. To me, that’s a good analogy for the Patriots. When you’re the owner and you have Belichick and Brady on your payroll for 20 years, it’s sort of unfair. But right at the core of their consistent winning is Kraft’s philosophy of consistency. When he finds talent and someone he knows can deliver excellence over a sustained time, he’s all about keeping them. That’s really at the core of the relationship between Belichick and Brady. Keeping them married for two decades is, to me, the secret sauce.”

And although he doesn’t get as much credit as Belichick and Brady for the 20 years of winning, that special sauce was consistently crafted in Kraft’s kitchen.

“You don’t have to have eyes to recognize Belichick’s role in the dynasty and you could say the same thing about Brady. It’s so obvious,” Benedict says. “The owner’s role is a lot less obvious because he’s in the background. He’s not on the field wearing a helmet. He’s not on the sideline wearing a headset. But the thing he did here that made New England what it is, he played the role of diplomat and kept the band together for so long. I think that’s a monumental achievement that is easily overlooked, but it’s really at the core of why they won for so long. Those second three Super Bowls would not have happened if not for the role of the owner.”

And unlike the Beatles, there’s no bad blood now that the band has broken up.

“I feel confident and comfortable saying this is a most unusual ending. It’s rare,” Benedict says. “It’s unheard of really to find amicable partings of stars that are this big. Usually when stars split apart, when partnerships break up, they tend to end badly or with animosity and accusations, finger-pointing. Both publicly and, then even more importantly, privately that wasn’t the case here. When you think about where Belichick and Brady have been in the last 20 years, they’ve been in the refiner’s fire, meaning they’ve been at the pinnacle of the most-watched sport in America. Football is like a religion in our country. Those two guys have been on center stage with the lights on them for 20 years together, joined at the hip. I can’t think of another example in sports where two stars that big, who shared the stage together for that long, and parted the way they did. To me, that’s really the story here. It’s easy to overlook it, but I think it really speaks to those two men. And it also says a lot about the owner.”