Fifteen years is in some ways a very long time ago. Fifteen years ago nobody had ever heard of Barack Obama, who was still a couple of years away from serving in the United States Senate. Fifteen years ago the U.S. real estate market was red hot and nobody worried much about sub-prime lending, much less a Great Recession. Fifteen years ago smart phones didn’t exist. Neither did Facebook or Twitter. For that matter social media wasn’t yet a thing, and if you used the term nobody would have any idea what you were talking about. There were no tablets, no YouTube, no consumer GPS software, no cloud computing and no Gang Green Nation, nor virtually any other sports blogs.
Fifteen years ago almost none of the current NFL players were in the league. A majority weren’t even in high school yet. Fifteen years ago the Rex Ryan era was still seven years away for the Jets, and Ryan was just beginning to make a name for himself as a defensive line coach with the Baltimore Ravens. Fifteen years ago Todd Bowles was a secondary coach for the Browns, Mike Maccagnan was helping to build an expansion Houston Texans team and Herm Edwards was the head coach of the New York Jets, just two months removed from his now infamous “You play to win the game” interview. And 15 years ago Tom Brady was a struggling quarterback for the New England Patriots following up a magical Super Bowl run the year before with a decidedly un-magical 9-7 record and a seat in the stands for the NFL playoffs. It would be the last time a Tom Brady led Patriots team ever missed the playoffs.
Fifteen years ago Tom Brady the GOAT was still far in the future. Brady was viewed as just a good game manager back then, carried by a superior Bill Belichick defense. Nobody thought of Brady as a future equal to Peyton Manning, who was already clearly destined for greatness. A good modern comparison might be Dak Prescott, who went on a magical run of his own his first season, only to struggle and finish out of the playoffs the next year. Besides missing the playoffs, something else happened in the 2002 season that hasn’t happened with Brady since, until now. On September 15, 2002, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots came into the Meadowlands and demolished the New York Jets 44-7. It was the second of three straight wins to open the season for the Patriots, who looked well on their way to defending the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl title. But something happened on the way to another Super Bowl run. Brady started to crumble just a bit, and the Patriots’ 3-0 start was followed up by a 6-7 finish, including a December rematch against the Jets which the Jets won handily, 30-17, in Foxboro. In the September 44-7 demolition, the Jets intercepted Brady for the first time in the 2002 season. This began a five week stretch in which Brady was intercepted at least once in every game.
That stretch of five straight weeks being intercepted was never duplicated by Tom Brady over the ensuing 15 years. Never, that is, until now. Tom Brady has been intercepted at least once in each of his last five games. To put into perspective just how out of character that has become for Brady, in the 23 games preceding the current streak Brady was intercepted a total of just four times. Now Tom Brady will face the New York Jets in the 2017 regular season finale. While the Patriots will be playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Jets have little left to play for other than pride. With some combination of Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg leading the Jets offense at quarterback the chances of a Jets victory seem remote. However, despite the overwhelming odds against a Jets victory, the Jets defense still has a chance to make a little history today in Foxboro. The Jets started Brady’s worst ever streak of consecutive games being intercepted fifteen long years ago. It might be nice, with just a touch of poetry, if the Jets put the finishing touches on Brady’s new worst consecutive games being intercepted streak. With little else to play for, making history at Tom Brady’s expense might be a nice way to end the season.