Patriots defensive mainstay and longtime captain Devin McCourty was the surprise story of Super Bowl 53 Opening Night. The veteran safety out of Rutgers has played all nine seasons of his NFL career under Bill Belichick and in a Patriots uniform, but he shocked fans and reporters Monday night by openly contemplating retirement if New England wins the Super Bowl.
“I don’t know for sure, man, but I do look at (retirement),” McCourty told the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders (and by extension, America, on live television). “If we can win this game, win it with my brother, I don’t know what else I could do that’ll top that. So I’m just trying to make sure I enjoy this season and enjoy these last couple days with these guys.”
Of all the Patriots featured on this list, McCourty’s comments are by far the most expressive and illuminating. They don’t necessarily represent a death knell for his playing time on the team – after all, what happens if the Patriots lose to the Rams on Sunday? – but they are certainly foreboding nonetheless. Just the three words: “last couple days” alone are enough to send shivers down the spine of any true-blue Pats fan.
Still, like Gronkowski, can anyone really blame McCourty for wanting to walk away a winner and a Super Bowl champion? Peyton Manning ended his Hall of Fame career on the highest note imaginable with a Lombardi Trophy and a ring. Most NFL players never have that same opportunity, so it’s hard to begrudge McCourty for imagining it.
And then there’s the matter of his twin brother, Jason, finally getting a crack at the playoffs, and now a Super Bowl, after so many lost seasons in Tennessee and Cleveland. The two brothers not only got the chance to play on the same team together this season – they now have a fairytale opportunity to win a championship together, too.
Anyone who witnessed their unbridled elation at the end of the AFC Championship Game understands what this moment means to both of them, as well as to their family. So as hard as it might be to think about a Patriots secondary without trusty No. 32 smack-dab in the center of it, fans should be thankful for all McCourty has brought to the table during his storied time in New England, while also preparing for the possibility of life without him.
Whatever he, Gronkowski, Belichick, and Brady decide to do after the confetti falls in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, one thing is abundantly clear: their impact on the New England Patriots – and on the NFL, in general – is as immeasurable as it is eternal. Each and every one of them has left their mark and their legacy on this great American sport.