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Chad Finn

If this is the last dance for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, enjoy every twist and turn

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will embark on their 19th training camp this week.file/Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

If this is the last time the band is back together, here’s to enjoying the music.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady commence their 19th training camp together this week, with Brady arriving Monday and the first public practice set for Thursday.

They arrive having won 15 AFC East titles together, including the last eight. They’ve reached 12 AFC Championship Games, including the last seven. They’ve made eight Super Bowls, including three of the last four. And they’ve won five Super Bowls, including two of the last four.

It is an unprecedented run of success in the NFL annals, a two-decade dynasty marked by multiple championships at the front and back ends. No team, including the second greatest dynasty, the 1980s-90s San Francisco 49ers, has had such a prolonged run of excellence, and no franchise has come close to doing it for so long with the same quarterback and coach. No one ever will, either. The NFL is designed for parity. The Patriots have been the exception of excellence.

I know that soliloquy on their staggering achievements probably isn’t necessary. You’ve got the championship DVDs as confirmation that all of it has been real, on the small chance the memories begin to fade. But I do believe a reminder of what the Patriots have had — and still have — is worthwhile coming off a tumultuous offseason in which an ugly end to these glory days often seemed to be percolating.


Finally, it can be about football again.

When the gates open Thursday and the diehards book it down the hill at the Patriots practice field in quest to get the best vantage point to watch practice, they won’t be thinking about Rob Gronkowski’s moronic motocross press conference or Tom Brady’s Bond-villain getup at the Met Gala or any of the other more serious strange things that suggested contentiousness threatened to carry into the new season.


They’re there to get reacquainted with their team, the get clues on who the sleepers might be and which familiar names may be in job battles.

They’re there to see if Derek Rivers, last year’s third-round pick who missed the entire season with a knee injury, can aid the pass rush.

They’re there to see if Jason McCourty can fill the void left by Malcolm Butler or whether he is actually in a battle to make the team on which his brother Devin is a seven-year captain.

They’re there to see if Cordarelle Patterson, one of the great kick returners in NFL history, will be a genuine weapon now that kickoff rules are revised yet again.

They’re there to see if Malcolm Mitchell, who has not played a real game since his crucial performance in Super Bowl LI, can overcome his knee problems, and to see if Jordan Matthews can thrive as suspended receiver Julian Edelman’s stand-in as a slot receiver.

They’re there to see if first-rounder Sony Michel can fairly replicate the contributions of dynamic Dion Lewis, and to see if Duke Dawson (and Cyrus Jones, too) can break the Ras-I Dowling curse of failed defensive backs drafted in the second round.

And they’re there, perhaps most of all, to see Tom Brady throw, Bill Belichick coach ‘em up, and to see the first steps in the hopeful journey toward playing a certain game in February in Atlanta.


Yes, it was a weird offseason, one sparked by the loss to the Eagles in the Super Bowl in which Belichick still inexplicably turned Butler into a bystander.

There’s no doubt there was and probably still is tension at the top in the Patriots hierarchy.

In a sense, it’s a wonder it’s taken this long.

But it also has little impact on whether Brady and Belichick can work together.

They have similar genius and the same fundamental quest: To win a sixth Super Bowl. There are no two people on the planet with better knowledge of how to go about that, even if there is some disagreement among them on the proper process and preparation.

They know the truth. Ultimately, their opponent is not each other. It’s time.

Brady is back. So is Belichick. And Gronk, and Josh McDaniels too. Edelman will join them soon enough.

The band may not be as tight behind the scenes as they once were, or as they were perceived to be. But do they ever know how to make beautiful music together, even after all these years. This week, the stage is theirs, finally.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.