clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Patriots Super Bowls: Re-reranking the Rings

It would appear these rankings are like electronics; obsolete after just a few years.

Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I seem to sense a pattern developing here.

In 2014, I decided to take on the unenviable task of ranking New England’s Super Bowl victories in order of impact, importance, and significance in a piece I oh-so-creatively titled Ranking the Rings. It took a lot of thought, and I spent a lot of time on it, but I think I ended up getting it right. However, just a few years later, the Patriots had the audacity to win another Super Bowl, forcing me to go back into the weeds and do it all over again for a piece even more creatively titled Re-Ranking the Rings. That 28-3 comeback threw a real monkey wrench in the operation, but I think I was, once more, finally able to get things sorted out. Good for me.

But now, the Pats have gone and done it again. With absolutely no regard for my time or personal sanity, the Patriots have added a sixth Lombardi Trophy to their display case over at 1 Patriot Place, and here I am holding the bag, back to being forced to figure out where this latest championship ranks against the previous five. So it looks like it’s back to the drawing board again for ol’ Alec as I try to make sense of what to do about this latest one.

You can read both of my previous attempts at ranking these Super Bowls by clicking on the respective links above, but in case you just want the meat and potatoes of the whole thing, here is how I had things shaking out as of February 2017:

5. Super Bowl XXXVIII, February 1, 2004. Patriots 32, Panthers 29

4. Super Bowl XXXIX, February 6, 2005. Patriots 24, Eagles 21.

3. Super Bowl XLIX, February 1, 2015. Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.

2. Super Bowl LI, February 5th, 2017. Patriots 34, Falcons 28.

1. Super Bowl XXXVI, February 3, 2002. Patriots 20, Rams 17.

Not a bad list if I do say so myself.

But where does Super Bowl LIII belong? How do you fully unpack and reconcile a game that wasn’t the most exciting, in which Brady wasn’t transcendent, but got him an NFL record six rings? The game just happened, so I don’t want to be a prisoner of the moment, but I also don’t want to discredit this contest just because it was a defensive slugfest.

So...where does it go?

Of course, this is just my own personal list, my opinion alone. You may disagree, and that’s fine; I would imagine that some of the younger Pats fans out there would switch 1 and 2 around, maybe even drop that first ring down into the 3 spot. The cool thing about these rankings is that there really isn’t a right answer, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to try.

In terms of my rankings as they currently stand, I feel very confident in saying that Number 1 and Number 2 are secure. Nothing is ever going to knock Super Bowl XXXVI out of that top spot for me no matter what transpires over the rest of my life; you can only win it for the first time once. And the Pats/Falcons Super Bowl was the perfect ending to an absolutely wild season that saw a suspension, a heated election, a comeback, and an overtime victory that ended any whispers of a conversation as to who the greatest quarterback of all time is. So those two are safe.

That leaves SB 49, capped off by Malcolm Butler’s interception to give the Patriots their fourth, next on the list. What a Super Bowl that was. With that win, the “no Super Bowls since SpyGate” nonsense went up in smoke, and the Patriots Dynasty 2.0 was launched. Two years of getting so close, but losing twice to the Giants, was finally avenged. Brady also had a masterful fourth quarter against one of the all-time great defenses, shutting down what was supposed to be the next NFL superpower in Seattle. I just can’t in good conscience take that out of the three spot, given the ripple effect it had on the league and the national conversation - there are probably some folks out there who think I have it ranked too low as it is.

What about Number Four? Pats over Eagles to make it 3 in four years and put the Patriots into a different stratosphere? And then that Panthers Super Bowl that was nothing but defense for three quarters and then an absolute explosion in the fourth at Number Five? Is SB 53 more worthy than those guys?

Just to be safe, I went back and watched extensive highlights of both games to make sure I wasn’t going to let recency bias win out. During that watch, Two things stood out to me about those contests:

  1. Man, what a defense the Patriots had in the early 2000s
  2. Some of the throws that Tom Brady made, even back then, were otherworldly.

Because of that, it isn’t hard for me to say that both SB 38 and SB 39 were objectively better games than SB 53. There was more action, more drama, better play all around, and a more interesting contest from both an offensive and defensive perspective. It’s very tempting, therefore, to keep them where they are as well and put championship number six at...well...Number Six.

And yet, I just can’t do it.

Yes, they were better games. And yes, they both had marked impacts on the narrative that is the Patriots of the 21st Century. But I think I’m still going to have to rank Super Bowl LIII higher than both of them at Number Four. And here’s why.

One, this last Super Bowl put the Patriots, and Tom Brady, in completely unprecedented territory. Tommy B not only got a ring at 41, the oldest to ever do it, and not only singlehandedly tied a record the Steelers needed 40 years to achieve, but he did it with what might still be the least talented roster (on paper, at least) that he has ever had. Of course the credit needs to be shared, but still, this was just such a remarkable accomplishment.

Two, this sixth ring had implications that rings two and three did not. If Brady had lost this game, he would have dropped to 5-4 and been the all-time losingest starting QB in Super Bowl history, alongside Jim Kelly. He would have had to justify himself once again to all the doubters and detractors. He would have possibly had to retire without that coveted next ring, loser of back-to-back Super Bowls. It wouldn’t have diminished his legacy, but it would have been a chapter in his life that was scrutinized regardless. But none of that happened, because when the Patriots needed a big drive, he engineered one, and now the Patriots are world champions yet again.

And three, if you think back to March and April, where the Patriots were hemorrhaging players and Brady and Belichick hated each other and Tommy B was skipping OTAs, and then you fast forward to losses to the Jags and Lions back-to-back in September and then losses to Miami and Pittsburgh back-to-back in December, there were just so many times where it became very easy to write this team off - I know I was guilty of it. But they banded together, knew who they were, and went all out as a team. This was just an incredible ending to an unlikely story. That makes the 2018 Patriots an amazing combination of the 2001 and 2016 squads, in a way - and if I have those two ranked One and Two respectively, how can I rank 2018 at the bottom?

So I think I’m going to place Super Bowl LIII at Number Four on this list. I think that it’s fair. Not the greatest Super Bowl ever, but still incredibly important and the one that may be remembered as the one that tipped things over the edge for just how absurd Tom Brady is.

Maybe I’m still too close to the game to really look at it objectively, and maybe I’ll want to come back and revisit this re-reranking over the summer. But I don’t know. This last win was pretty special. And that fact that a sixth Lombardi Trophy wouldn’t even medal if this were the Super Bowl Olympics goes a very, very long way towards highlighting just how incredible all of these games have been.

So, with that, the new rankings are:

6. Super Bowl XXXVIII, February 1, 2004. Patriots 32, Panthers 29

5. Super Bowl XXXIX, February 6, 2005. Patriots 24, Eagles 21.

4. Super Bowl LIII, February 3, 2019. Patriots 13, Rams 3.

3. Super Bowl XLIX, February 1, 2015. Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.

2. Super Bowl LI, February 5th, 2017. Patriots 34, Falcons 28.

1. Super Bowl XXXVI, February 3, 2002. Patriots 20, Rams 17.

They just better not win again and make me do another one of these. Nope. No way. You’d hate to see that.


Where would you rank Super Bowl LIII out of the six the Patriots have won?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    (39 votes)
  • 3%
    (50 votes)
  • 11%
    (172 votes)
  • 42%
    (638 votes)
  • 19%
    (289 votes)
  • 20%
    (305 votes)
1493 votes total Vote Now